A Day Of Family Fun With Hiking, Waterfalls And Caves

My plans never go as I would like them to, but this time – even though I nearly broke down because of the extreme change in my intentions for the day that I made concrete in my head – an wonderful time was had by all.

We have a toddler so there were obviously fits thrown, but they were not as bad as they could’ve been (until the end). The good times pretty much overshadowed the times where I had to fight not to wrap my hands around my – never mind.

I won’t bore you with what my plan was versus how the day actually went, so I will just get straight to what made the day wonderful and the points that I am trying hard to forget (I don’t really want to forget any of the day).

I got up at four-fifteen when my daughter started to fuss. I should have let her go as she probably would’ve gone back to sleep, but I was too freaking excited about the day ahead of me (I slept about as well as a rabid raccoon insomniac). I brought my sleepy smurf to bed with me and hoped that she would lay down for a bit while I ran over my plan in my head for an hour. That way I would be sure to have a breakdown if any little thing was to go wrong. She did.

At six-thirty or so the roused rug-rat let me know she was awake by sitting on mommy’s head who promptly yelled at me for bringing her into the bed in the first place (perfectly poignant point). I got up, with the baby, and got both of us ready. My plan (okay I might sprinkle my plan here and there) was to leave no later than 8:30 am. I was informed the night before that my father-in-law was concerned about us taking our car (which is almost two decades old) on a five hour (round)trip. Since he had a perfectly valid point and was actually being quite nice by allowing us to use his car, I took the change in direction relatively (relatively) well, but my leave time needed to be adjusted.

It takes 12.16 – 13.42 minutes (I have timed it 7 times) to get to my in-laws house from our apartment so, using the ‘worst case scenario’ logic, That moved our leave time to 8:17 am. It would take five minutes to transfer the kid’s seat (or so my wife said) so, 8:12 am. We never leave my in-laws house in less than 20 minutes so we are down to 7:48 am. My father-in-law is neurotic so he would have to explain everything about his car to me so another 25 minutes and we end up with a leave time of 7:23 am. My wife hates it when I am so precise, so 7:15 am. My wife gets out of bed at 7:40. We left at a quarter till 8 (I take longer to put a shirt on).

I freak out on the drive over, taking deep breaths and turning the music up to drown out all the noises (including my wife’s voice yelling at me to turn the music down) and by the time we get there I am (almost) fine.

Everything that I expect to happen happens and they thought they would throw in one more thing just to piss me the hell off. They tried to feed us. I nearly got down on my knees and kissed my wife’s feet when she politely refused the offer. I sighed audibly and got the evil eye. I kept m mouth shut about the annoyances when we left (I’m learning – even a stubborn mule can be taught to shuffle) and we hit a McDonalds drive-thru scoring sausage McGriddles and a sausage burrito for the chitlin’. The sodas and juices would keep is out of our cooler for most of the drive as well.

The drive up, which was supposed to be a 2 1/2 hour drive but turned into a 3 1/4 hour drive, was really good. Our daughter slept for most of it, which was nice, and we listened to our music (I hateVeggieTales) up until the time that we turned the radio off so that we could focus on finding the portion of the national forest that I wanted to visit first.

The weather (that morning) indicated that the low would be 45°F and the high would be 57°F – good weather for hiking. I wanted (more of that plan I said I wouldn’t bore you with) to hike a half mile and one place and then connect to another trail that would be another half mile which would put us at our second destination and the whole reason for our trip up.

We pulled into the parking lot and up to a picnic bench with a charcoal grill at my indicated destination and were disappointed by the extremely overcast skies. We got out of the car and got right back in. My wife and I grabbed our sweatshirts and she looked to me with a pissed off look.

I thought it was supposed to be mostly sunny and not cold!

My phone had no reception so I didn’t know the exact temperature, but my breath was forming steam in the air. I am no science nut so I don’t know what temp range that put us in but it was a cold one. I hadn’t packed cold for any of us, including the two-year old. My wife was ready to pack it in and drive back home (probably in silence other than Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber from VeggieTales singing the water buffalo song). She took a deep breath and suggested we give it a go and see how it went. I was shocked. It seemed like I couldn’t apologize enough for not packing appropriately. She understood. She saw the weather as well. She was just as baffled. I was happy that the day wasn’t over before it started.

I got out of the car and set up the grill as we were to eat an early lunch before setting out for the day (as per that plan that I had) and my perfectly (out of character) patient partner got the kid in layers of clothes that were suited for early spring and not late fall. I tossed the size 3 soccer ball out into the grass and when my daughter was put down she ran after it. My wife helped me get the items I needed to assemble lunch out of the car and then went to play with our daughter while I lit the charcoal.

Once the Big Red Smokies were black, brown and red we gathered at the damp picnic table and ate our lunch. As we were eating we looked over at the little one and watched as she shivered. Her hands were blue and her lips were losing color. She was literally freezing. We packed it in and I was ready to scratch it all and head home.

My wife surprised me again.

You planned a wonderful day for the family and I don’t want the weather to ruin it. Let’s find a pair of gloves for (my daughter) and then try to see if it get a bit warmer at a higher elevation where the waterfall is.

I had to force myself to clench my teeth so my jaw wouldn’t hit the steering column. My smile could be seen from space (even though I was inside a moving car). We search for a store on the GPS and found a general store that was only 8 miles away. I doubted they would have gloves, especially kid gloves, but it was worth a try as the next store was 26 miles away.

I sat in the car with the wee one as my spouse headed in the backwater ‘general store’. After 15 minutes and 4 VeggieTales songs, my wife climbed into the passenger seat with an ice cream sundae and an energy drink for me. Something had to be wrong because she hates when I drink the energy drinks. The trip had to be over. She sat the sundae on the dash and looked to me. There came the talk. Instead she pulled out a pair of purple fuzzy gloves. They were big for my daughter, but they looked like they could be shoved on her hands and rolled at the cuff so that they kinda fit. I, again, nearly pooped myself.

She encouraged me to head to the trail-head that would lead to the waterfall that I had told my daughter about. She had been asking about the waterfall since we had got in the car. I was ecstatic.

When we pulled into the lot, it was packed. That was a good and bad sign. Good that it was drawing a crowd that was convinced the weather wasn’t bad enough to warrant them not come, but bad in that my daughter and I hated crowds (read: people). My darling dear ran for the hole in the ground in a brick box they called a bathroom at parks and I tried the gloves on my baby.

When I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was it was about 15 degrees warmer. I slipped off my sweatshirt only to put it back on. It wasn’t that warm. The gloves were a pain in the behind to put on, but they did kinda fit with a balled up cuff. My daughter was thrilled that she was wearing ‘mommy’s’ purple fuzzy gloves. My wife came back from the potty and commented on the weather. She was happy with it and we were (finally) going hiking. Yeah!

We started off down the trail all walking. A long set of stone steps approached and my wife scooped up our daughter who wanted to do it myself. She would’ve taken a full minute on each stair and their were somewhere near sixty stairs. We were not interested in taking an hour to traverse a tenth of the trail. Little fussing ensued, but ten minutes or so went by and she was back on the ground begging mommy to pick her up.

We got to a bridge that went over a stream that was fed by the two waterfalls and the little on decided that she was done. We coaxed her onto the bridge (her first bridge) and, once she realized that she wasn’t going to fall in the running water, she refused to get off the thing. Other visitors had to maneuverer around her to cross and there was virtually nothing we could do. She was so happy I just couldn’t bring myself to rip her away from her fun.

When she finally got bored with the bridge she carefully got off of it and walked down the trail. The first waterfall came into view and she went nuts. She was absolutely amazed and I was so happy. Until a group of boy scouts came and ruined the serenity of the situation. We let them pass and, after scooping up the people hating princess, we went to the main attraction. When we got there we saw another boy scout troop, several naturist groups, a wedding party, another wedding in progress, frat boys running through the pool that was off limits, elderly couples complaining about the frat boys, newlyweds fawning over the wedding festivities and generally just a lot of people.

We all but ran away down the trail that continued past, that was virtually vacant, and stopped at a rock formation that overlooked another waterfall. We sat there and took pictures of each other and the kid. We wasted a lot of time. Eventually we decided to head back to the car.

When we got back to the big waterfall it had cleared out. Instead of nearly 60 people, there seemed to be only a handful. We got pictures of the falls and pictures of us in front of the them. In retrospect we should have gotten one of the elderly couples to take a picture of all of us, but -

Wasting more time there since the little lady was no longer scowling at every person that was within eyesight, we eventually ended up back at the car. The weather was continuing to warm up and once again my wife wanted to continue our outing. She refused to go back to the cave we started at as the low altitude was still not going to be warm enough, but there was another cave. A better cave.

The rock formation that was known as the Rock House (a clue as to where I am) entranced my precious for over an hour. Ninety pictures on the cell phone and camera later and we finally drug her away from her new favorite place.

We were finally done (My wife’s knee had had enough, my back was breaking, and the kid was starting to whine).

Getting dinner on the way back was the worst part of the trip. We ordered our food and my child turned into a demon. The waitress got punched, kicked, and hit with flying objects (including liquid filled ones). My special someone got firm voices and when I was about ready to … I took her out to the car, moved the cooler and put her in time out for three minutes. She screamed and screamed and threw herself out of the car. I caught her and started the timer over for four minutes. After 6 minutes (a total of 18), she was being strapped back into her car seat and was strangely docile. I thought she would fall asleep, but instead she just sat there and talked to Monkey.

The drive home was uneventful and at 7:45 pm we got home. Bedtime for Bonzo is 8 and bedtime for mommy and daddy was 8:30. The unpacking and exchanging of cars was left for the next day.

Overall a wonderful day with only a few slip-ups and a meltdown that would not mar the day. I would do it again a hundred times. Now my wife is almost convinced to let my drag her and the toddler camping this summer, almost.

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