The Long Haul. With Kids.

This past weekend, while on a hike, Ali and I were talking about our Hiking Club Summer Bucket List. I told her I’d asked the other moms what they’d wanted to do this summer, and asked her what she wanted to do.

She lit up.

“I want to hike farther than I’ve ever hiked. I want to hike ten miles.”

“Okay! We can do that sometime this summer.”

“Actually I want to do it as soon as possible.”

It was supposed to be a pretty week and I’m a total enabler when it comes to a gorgeous hike, so I checked with our hiking club, warned that this was going to be the most we’d ever done and please only consider your oldest children for the hike, and began gathering supplies.

(A ten mile hike is no joke – especially when you’re going somewhat slow. You’re talking hours on the trail, and it requires water and snacks and provisions and probably a few band-aids.)

But somehow we got it all together AND convinced a few friends that this was a good idea in less than 48 hours, and on Monday morning, we met at Oak Mountain ready for the hike.

Five Moms. Four walking kids. Two riding babies.

We can do this.

I mean, maybe. Who knows.

No, we can do this.

We started out from the top of the ridge so that we didn’t have to climb any serious mountains, and gazed down from the cliffs at Peavine Falls, the bottom of which would be our glorious ending point.

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The first few miles were lovely and uneventful – the white trail at Oak Mountain is one of my favorites, as it is full of wildflowers and also runs by a stream. The peacefulness is on point.

When we got to our first trail crossing at 3ish miles, we decided it was time for snack. And also there was a good rock and fence post for a group photo – I could put my camera on the post, control it with my phone, and actually be in a photo. I didn’t know Noah dabbed right out the top of the photo, and I also wasn’t doing a good job hiding my phone. But it’s as good as a trail group photo gets.

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We took five photos.

This is the last photo.

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Notice Noah’s dab has morphed into a point-and-scream. But the rest of us haven’t changed a bit. Because his screams of “SNAKE!!!!” and pointing at our feet hasn’t made it to any of our brains yet.

(I don’t know how dabbing helped Noah see this unbelievably camouflage snake, but I will never complain about dabbing my pictures up ever again.)

A baby timber rattlesnake was somewhat perturbed at our rowdying up its rock, and had crawled out in a huff, then a minute later curled up in a ball and had his head up showing his decisively bad mood.

(I took pictures, of course, but as many people do not appreciate my snake photography, if you specifically want to see our one-rattle baby friend, you can click here.)

(You’re welcome, rest of y’all.)

We moved on quickly. We weren’t sure where his family lived, and since he was already so extremely irritable at such a young age, we could only imagine how special his mother’s moods must be.

Our next finds were much more amenable to our attention and presence. Or at least they didn’t have man-killing venom waiting to share, so we enjoyed their company a little bit more.

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In total, we found six toads (and only two peed on us), and this lovely dragon-esque Fence Lizard – note how his belly glows blue.

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He definitely had some leftover prehistoric fire and scales.

We kept moving, through the reeds, enjoying all of the vastly differing views of Oak Mountain. We took a couple wrong turns – one that was clearly the map’s fault, and the rest were most likely my fault.

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…And I did a hiking club first and fed a baby a bottle while walking through the woods.

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(For the record I was never a chill enough baby mama to hike with a baby. I am constantly amazed that Sarah is totally that person.)

We finally got back around to the Peavine Falls area. The original plan was to hike an extra half mile to come into the gorge from the side we were familiar with, and that was slightly less steep. But everyone was tired, we were already at 10 miles, and a shortcut is a shortcut is a shortcut even if it leads out with a sign like this.

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We followed the path down, but it looked just a bit off from what I thought should be there. We reached what should have been Peavine Falls, but instead it was a chute – a gorgeous, flowery, chute of water that was dying to be intertubed down, if we were slightly more daring than we actually are, and also had an intertube.

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I made the executive decision that the kids should play in the water while I tried to figure out where the crap we were. I didn’t know if we were upstream, downstream, around a bend, or exactly what from Peavine Falls, and I needed a minute.

The kids were happy to oblige.

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With some frantic texts to Chris and the studying of my exercise map on MapMyRun, I finally reached the conclusion that we were just *barely* downstream of Peavine Falls, and clearly I’d singlehandedly discovered Peavine Chute, which wasn’t so bad.

We slowly made our way up the trail to the falls, at which point all of us mothers were thrown back at once by a smell.

An overpowering, thick, we’re-about-to-step-in-something smell.

“Is that a skunk??”

“That sure smells like a skunk!!”

I looked around frantically. And then I saw it.

A group of hammocks, some wandering-slowly people…a zombie-ish look to the place.

“That’s not skunk. That’s weed.”

I scouted ahead to check it out.

It was, it seemed, a portable artist enclave. There were painters. There were aerial ropes with people hanging upside down. There were emotionless men with Hawaiian shirts hanging open. And there was a LOT of smoke.

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We wandered carefully into the falls area, completely killing their buzz, while they did likewise for us.

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That Peavine Chute had been a gift of quiet serenity just for us. But we managed to get in the falls and stake our claim, having a little fun before we hiked up and out.

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Our last find of the day happened nearly at the parking lot, and Noah was the spotter once more.

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A massively huge Luna Moth, who was more than happy to let us observe her from all of her magnificent angles.

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Our final mileage was 11.2 miles. It took 6 hours. And these four kids never once whined. They even THANKED me for the hike.

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It was all a true hiking miracle.

Ali logged our hike as she went along in her Trail Notes book, and this was her summary page of the day. IMG_1481

Yup, I think she covered everything.

The Laundry Basket From Above.

I live near a lot of fancy suburbs. I do not live *in* any of them. In fitting with my renegade style of life, I live in the unincorporated county, where no one can tell me what to do and I am endlessly confused as to what should technically go on the third line of my mailing address.

But these fancy suburbs provide me endless entertainment.

One such fancy suburb is a rather hilly city, and they found the most glorious way to combine these two characteristics (fancy + hills) into the perfect official city slogan.

“A Life Above.”

That’s right. They actually went there. They want to make sure that I am completely aware that they are currently looking down their perfectly sculpted noses at me who is, clearly, living a life below.

If you can even call it a life. More like An Existence Below.

It goes without saying that when, perchance, I see something that doesn’t quite meet the qualifications of The Above Life going down in their perfect enclave of humanity, I notice.

(And point and laugh. But that’s beside the point.)

One such item was The Laundry Basket Above.

On a particularly rainy Saturday, we were passing through The Life Above to go to Ali’s basketball game. It was dreary. Muddy waterfalls were blighting their roads. The world was ugly no matter how above you lived.

At a busy intersection, the type that’s so busy it requires a triangular cement divider in the middle of the road, I first noticed it.

There was a laundry basket, full of clothes and soaked all the way below its nasty nasty core.

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Clothes were spilling out. There was a brown towel. A green pair of underwear. Very yanky looking sheets.

It was the most un-above thing I’d ever encountered in the wild.

So naturally I took a picture and sent it to all my friends who live The Life Above.

(Thankfully they all have good senses of humor. Or they wouldn’t be my friends.)

I also couldn’t help but wonder.

What would make someone abandon their laundry in the middle of the intersection? Were they on their way to the laundromat (which of course doesn’t exist in A Life Above) and just happen to see their favorite ex sitting at the traffic light? And they squealed, dropped the laundry, and jumped into his (or her) Trans-Am?

The next morning, we were headed to church. We have to go through this particular intersection to get there, so we eagerly craned our necks to check on the fate of The Most Above Laundry Basket That Ever Existed.

It was still there, but now a good deal more strewn, and still quite moist.

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Clearly someone or something had been rooting around in there.

Which is when we began to make up stories.

Perhaps An Opossum Above had taken up residence. Which, considering Opossum track records in busy intersections, was either the smartest or stupidest thing an Opossum had ever done.

Or maybe someone simply needed a fresh pair of green underpants. Although fresh is definitely the wrong adjective…

The next Saturday, we began the Day Count.

The Laundry Basket Above was now on Day Eight.

Whose responsibility is it to clean up discarded laundry baskets? Is it the same guy who has to clean up roadkill? Why hasn’t he been around yet? There aren’t THAT many raccoons lying about…

The Laundry Basket Above made it to Day Ten.

Maybe the Laundry Opossum is an endangered species. I bet they have to build a picket fence around The Laundry Basket Above and leave it there forever. There will definitely be a plaque. He will become The Official Mascot of A Life Above. Everyone will bless the ground that is walked on by whoever discarded their full load of laundry. THEY ARE A POSSUM LIFESAVER.

THE LAUNDRY BASKET ABOVE ON DAY THIRTEEN.

Is mold growing in that laundry basket yet? Will it hurt the Laundry Opossum? I bet flies are laying their maggot babies in it. That thing is going to be An Ecosystem Above of its very own.

And then, it was gone.

Either The Roadkill Scraping Guy finally got around to the bottom of his checklist (right underneath “Small decapitated chipmunk on Altavista” was listed “Burgeoning laundry basket on Columbiana.”), or someone said “SCORE!! FREE TOWELS AND UNDERWEAR!” And happily scooped up the laundry basket and its Opossum home.

But whatever happened, it was no longer there, and I mourned its loss.

That laundry basket and I had become close. I looked forward to our bi-weekly visits. I pined to know its secrets. All of its stories of past, happier days.

Whose back did you dry, brown towel? Whose butt did you cover, green underpants?

But now I would never know.

A week later, as we passed through the intersection and I braced myself for my period of mourning, we saw it.

Right where the laundry basket had been, there was a dead animal.

“Is that a raccoon??”

”It looks like a small fox!!”

“Go around again! We need to know!!”

“It’s a bobcat!?!”

“OH MY GOSH THAT’S A GIANT HOUSE CAT.”

Apparently it was never an Opossum Home. It was a Cat House. And when that cat returned from a chasing unincorporated mice, to cozy up into its comfortable bed of browns and greens, it discovered that its home had been stolen RIGHT OFF THE FOUNDATION, and it immediately died of shock and sadness.

A true Shakespearean tale of tragic woe and fitted sheets.

Why Me.

Dear Instagram, I know you listen to my conversations and feed me ads accordingly. I can even tell that you’re having Google read my emails and feed me ads that fit into that.

But whatever you read or heard that made you think I am the type of person to buy leggings based on how they look when I sit on the toilet – that was bad information. Very bad.

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And also – I’ve never – not once – emailed or discussed boiling my family for a delicious Spring Stew.

IMG_4EF9BDB3AF33-1The wine glasses are a nice touch. Stew is always better when steeped in wine. But why are there two wine glasses and a beer bottle for one mother and two small children? If in fact this isn’t just a slow cooker advertisement?

I don’t know which is more offensive – the fact that Barnes and Noble wants my baby to get to coding, or that Amazon thinks I care about my Cat’s IQ. And also I’m pretty sure all cat’s IQs are high enough to fake the test altogether so good luck getting the accurate number you so desire.

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And there’s nothing quite like looking up a recipe and getting an ad for toe mushrooms underneath it.

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But let’s move onto other sightings.

I spotted this reusable bag the other day, if someone forgot to bring one.

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Noah’s school books are constantly testing my ability to keep my serious teacher face on and not laugh like a Junior High boy. I’m pretty sure it’s planned that way to test my holiness.

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In a related section…

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And then there’s Fran and her impressively sized..wishes.

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Can we please leave the bear fat-shaming out of the first grade?

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Noah never catches the same things I do.

But this time, he had his own conclusions of what they were going for. He added a tiny protrusion to the drawing, then informed me that the page was wrong because “pooping” doesn’t begin or end with the ch blend.

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I get it, Noah. I get it. What kid would assume that bear was supposed to represent crouch.

And finally, we have an issue of local politics we need to discuss.

I don’t know why I follow the city council on Instagram, but I do.

And because of this, I now do indeed know.

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Yelling loudly in public.

Is illegal.

Now. I’m as much against loud noises as the next guy. Probs way more. But what happened to living in a free country?

And if  I see that you’re about to get run over by a car, can I get a one-time permit to be able to yell loudly at you?

And where would I obtain said permit?

Because if it’s at the DMV, you’re definitely dead.

But I will say that this revelation definitely brightened up our family downtown walk on Saturday.

“And this, kids, is the County Jail. It’s where we’ll come visit you if you ever yell loudly in public again.”