wrong turns, rattle snakes and happy father’s day

I nearly got us killed but it was a fantastic Father’s Day nonetheless.

We set out into the mountains to fish with my dad first thing in the morning, which was a big deal for me as hanging out with my parents is a fairly recent development since the covid slump; I’d been looking forward to it all week. We were able to fish for all of five minutes before concluding that untangling lines in torrential, arctic, lake wind was no fun. The drive was at least scenic as we looped back to town in order to satiate our fishing desires at Lucky Pond.

We were skunked, as per usual, which is alright. The point is to appreciate the pointless I think and this was certainly accomplished.

Next on the agenda was our Father’s Day picture.

This is a tradition going a decade strong now. Someday, I hope to create something very special from all of these photos.

The day was still young and so I suggested that we go explore the trails at Johnny Behind The Rocks. Hiking trails is a newfound passion of mine. As a young man, “JBR” was just the place to party. Then I became a father and have basically had a baby for ten years. Our youngest is now nearly five and so our family unit has no excuse to not do all of the things that we want to. Seeking adventure in all of it’s forms is at the top of that list and we just happen to live in an area that offers some of the most amazing, outdoor adventures around.

We set forth under cloudy skies with a faint, misty rain; myself, my wife, my three boys and our three dogs. It was perfect.

My ultimate goal was to show them the sweet, rock, “amphitheater” where I used to party as a kid. Beyond my own, debauchery laced association, the area is truly magnificent. As it turns out, the trail we were on goes above and around the amphitheater. We continued on for a couple of miles not knowing when it would loop around before deciding to just turn around and head back.

This is where I nearly got us killed.

One would think that walking back on the trail that you had literally just hiked would be among the simplest of tasks. Well, one would be wrong.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened but we obviously took a wrong turn. I had two of my dogs on leash while our old girl, Bella ran free. At one point, I was kind of following my oldest boy who I guess was following Bella. I was vaguely aware that it didn’t seem as though we had crossed such rough terrain on the way in but by this point the clouds had cleared, the sun came out and our brains were being cooked. So we just sort of forged ahead.

It was like putting on a pair of pants that were obviously too small but you insist that they are the right size. We were obstinately and uncomfortably determined to march forth.

Suddenly, we were at a dead end atop some ridge with no trail in sight. The slope on either side was a precarious 45 degree angle of loose rock and cactus and none of us could fathom how we possibly made it here, much less where the actual trail was. We could see the parking lot where our truck was parked but we would have to negotiate the steepness of the ridge and then bush whack to get back. Oh yeah, and this is snake country.

We were out of water and shedding layers. I had to give my hat to my youngest who I’d been carrying on my shoulders for the last 20 minutes. The thought of turning around and finding the trail seemed insurmountable.

So I decided that we would descend the ridge and B-line through the Bush towards our truck. I dont know what those bugs are that sound like rattle snakes but they were sure making a lot of noise. It was almost deafening. I could just barely register my wife’s voice saying something about a rattle snake when through that ghostly, bug buzz I heard it too.

To my left and to my right.

The evil bastards had come out to bask in the glory of the sun that was slowly killing my poor, ginger family. I turned around and told everyone to immediately go back as well. They scurried like the lizards we failed to catch before our casual hike had turned into this incomprehensible disaster.

So there we we were, stranded atop death mountain, surrounded by rattle snakes, dying of thirst and without a drop of SPF 50 which is generally essential to the survival of my people.

Everyone is crying. My oldest son is hyperventilating and moaning about how he doesn’t want to die. My wife, my kids and my dogs are looking towards me for answers about how we shall be delivered from this pickle that we have found ourselves in.

And I just start laughing.

I do this when I should be afraid. I suppose that it is some kind of self defense mechanism but it surely aggravated my family. Nonetheless, my job at this point was to calm them down, hatch a plan and then execute it.

We could see another trail on the other side of the ridge and so I said that we would go down that side, away from the rattle snakes and buswack back to trail. The kids were trepidatious but agreeable.

My wife chimed in halfway down, insisting that snakes are afraid of noise and so we should sing. I’m pretty sure that’s bears, but regardless we sang. The first song that came to mind was jingle bells.

So there we were… five, sweaty and sunburnt redheads marching three lethargic dogs through the brush while panickedly singing/screaming jingle bells in order to ward off snakes.

It was perfect.

We found the trail safely. We made it to the truck. We drove home.

My kids insist that they are done hiking with me but I know that they are more proud than dismayed.

Adventure is sometimes scary and learning is something that never stops. Besides, I’m the boss and we have another day off tomorrow. For now, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a father. My day was perfect, setbacks and all. It was a Happy Father’s Day indeed.