Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I forgot to bring fresh batteries, and that’s okay.

Concerning our camping trip to Mount Pigah, NC, blueberries, unbending rangers, and why writing can be superior to photography.

We went up to Mt Pisgah campground last Friday with fear and trembling. The weather did not look great, but Dad and my little sister had driven up from Florida and I'd already paid for the sites. "Not look great" in this case means clouds with little lightning icons on the hour-by-hour weather report until 9am on Saturday.

I called to see if we could switch nights, but no luck. The reservation system has been centralized, which means that the rules are the same for every person across this country, which is great, but they do not allow employees to touch scissors, because they might accidently cut the red tape. As a bonus, because we were inside the four day window from the date we wanted, they had no access to reservation information, so we couldn't even just skip Friday night and pay additional money for Saturday. Very cunning. (I'm excited about the whole health care shebang that's headed this way.)

We got there in time on Friday to put up Dad's monster tent (12'x20') by flashlight. There was lightning, but not too close. Clouds rested below us, then swept up the mountain as night fell. It was very exciting (and damp) for the kids to sleep in a cloud.

On Saturday, we saw the waterfalls and Sliding Rock (Emma went down four times, Isaac and Eli once, me twice, Nathan three times—it was extremely very very cold). Saturday night, which was supposed to be clear-ish, fell apart around seven. We'd finished our charred foil pack dinners and the kids and I were headed to listen to the rangers go on about birds when it start drizzling.

I wasn't sure if it was an open air or covered pavilion, and we all had on jackets, so we kept going. But the drizzle turned to tiny, unencapsulated water balloons, and I ran with the kids to a "comfort station", where everybody took some porcelain comfort and, in chatting with some ladies, I found out that the bird campfire program was cancelled. Hubby and Dad were supposed to catch up to us after getting dinner cleaned up, but I hadn't seen them, and decided to get the kids back to the tent. So we ran back—only no Dad and hubby waited for us. They had taken the car to find us and returned after 10 minutes.

Hanging out in a tent with hours to go before bedtime and four rowdy kids and a tween could have been a lot of fun, but we piled into the car and headed to the Mt. Pisgah Inn. I ordered the Big Fat Chocolate cake, and it was. Big. Fat. Chocolate. So rich, I shared more than the obligatory bite swap with hubby. Everyone at the table got a few bites. And the corn fritters and fried green tomatoes were also good.

Next day, we waited for the law enforcement ranger to come by and write us a ticket for not setting up on the tent pad, which we couldn't do since the tent was too large. (A regular ranger had given us a written warning, which we ignored, and a verbal reprimand which hubby good-naturedly rebuffed. "Sure, I'd like to talk to the law enforcement ranger. Noone told us that our tents had to be within a size…" blah blah blah. She was not used to people trying to have things make sense-the tent was still in the gravel area but she was arguing about environmental impact.)Really, we wolfed down our s'mores for breakfast and got out of there before the ranger could appear.

A fellow camper had tipped us that it was blueberry season, and we drove to mile marker 420, Black Balsam Peak, and walked from the trail head about a mile along an old logging road to a meadow full of blueberries and blackberries. And we didn't have a camera. Drat. Kindof.

I wanted to take pictures of the kids with blue smears across their faces and Jonas asking before each and every berry went in his mouth "dat good Daddy?" "Just the blue ones." The ferny moss that pads the marshy flow of water down the mountain slope. The way hikers and berry pickers seem all have dogs (except us), and Isaac asking every dog owner if their dog is friendly about a half-second before he starts petting them, just assuming they are. The treasure of finding a branch with seven or eight ripe berries clumped together so that you can just hold your bucket up and pull them from the stem and let them drop.

Eli asking me over and over if he's a good blueberry hunter and giving me high-fives. Isaac dumping his cup into my bucket, but making sure I notice how well he's done first, and calling me to come over and see what a great thicket he found. Emma with her little snort-laugh (it's cute, I promise) when Hubby asks her if she'll carry him back.

I don't need to cry over these pictures we never took because I'm writing it down now. And I'm writing down Jonas' secret code- "Do it again Daddy" means drive through a tunnel, and "Daddy, don't do dat" means don't drive off the mountain. How could a picture tell me that?

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