Books were read, games were played, old episodes of Star Trek were watched.
Day 3 of Spring Break found us at the head of the Never Neverland mountain biking and hiking trail in DeSoto State Park.
The previous day, my son had shown up on the cabin porch in water-soaked blue jeans, and by way of explanation had said simply, “There was a ditch. And there was me.”
It was foreshadowing.
Along the Never Neverland, the redbuds were blooming, but most of the trees were just beginning to green up. (In contrast to back here at home, where giant pollen bombs apparently exploded in our absence.)
The boy was forced to leave his iPod in the car. “But she’s taking electronics into the woods!” he protested. “That’s a camera! That’s different.”
Wildlife was scarce, except for a few butterflies. Once, we heard something big crashing through the brush ahead of us. We assumed it was a deer. We make so much noise when we go hiking in the woods, any wildlife scatters before we can get close. If we were a pioneer family, we’d be vegetarians.
The trail crossed a creek, emerging from underneath a jumble of rocks. There was a short wooden bridge, just big enough for two people to stand and play Poohsticks.
The trail crossed the creek again, a little lower down.
It crossed the creek a third time, no bridge this time, just stepping stones. The creek had broadened and slowed down, weaving its way through slabs of rock, water pooling in hollows and crevices.
Across the creek, we hiked up to the crest of a hill, before turning around and retracing our steps.
The complaining started about then. “It’s hot.” “I’m tired.” “I want to go home.”
We splayed out on the warm rocks besides the burbling water. Except for the boy, who waded right in, shoes and blue jeans and all, because, well, there was a creek. And there was him.
We all wound up wading in the creek, but the rest of us took our shoes and socks off first.
We spotted a blue crawfish.
And then it was time to head back.
I volunteered to carry the boy’s wet socks. On family hikes, I am the designated packhorse. My pockets get filled with cool rocks, bits of woods and granola bar wrappers.
My husband and daughter usually head up the line (they’re too competitive to walk behind anybody else), while my son and I bring up the rear. The boy and I tend to dawdle. I make him stop and look at rock formations, or different kinds of moss or animal tracks.
When my son and husband pair up for a hike in the woods, they dawdle in a different way. They stop to throw big rocks down the side of the mountain, or kick over dead trees. Once they tried to turn a small forked tree beside the trail into a giant slingshot.
By the end of our hike on the Never Neverland trail, my son had collected three walking sticks. He carried one in each hand, and tucked the third one into his belt.
I had to keep my distance when I was hiking behind him. He was twirling the two longest walking sticks like a pair of ninja swords.