On our family trips to the NC mountains, we always enjoy hiking along a creek or river. A few years ago, we were staying at a campsite near Bat Cave, NC (awesome name, right?) along a swift moving stream. My girls and I dressed in old shoes or sandals and bathing suits. We knew the water would be cold, but we wanted to splish and splash to our hearts content as we meandered up stream for a half mile or so and back down. My wife decided she would wear regular clothes and shoes and carry our water and first aid kit in her backpack. She took her cell phone in a plastic sandwich bag and a few snacks as well. With kids, you never know when someone might be hungry or get hurt. The sharp wet rocks and briers growing on the bank increased that risk ten-fold. Besides, my wife is a mountain girl, and she likes the challenge of jumping rocks across the creek without getting her feet wet. My wife danced around the edge of the creek and hopped across the rocks just as gingerly as a little frog.
Our adventure started out with all the usual exclamations about our surroundings: “Oh, my feet are frozen!” or “Look, Daddy! I found a crawdad under the rock!” and “Is this gold?” We stay together as a group for the most part, but everyone is able to explore as we go. My youngest, Lydia, was the first to get soaked. She intentionally sat down in a shallow pool to “swim.” Emma cut her toe on a rock after shucking her wet tennis shoes. It only bleed for a few seconds so we weren’t too worried. Mary Anne kept collecting pretty rocks that she wanted to put in my wife’s backpack. “Wait a minute, I don’t want to carry around too many rocks,” Denita said after about the 4th time Mary Anne unzipped the little pocket on the front of the bag and added another handful of quarts and mica. That lead to a discussion about going to the Hiddenite Mines in Alexander County, NC. My wife grew up close to Hiddenite, and remembered a school field trip to the place. Her dad had taken her back another time, and she found an emerald big enough to make a beautiful ring for her mother. We planned to go to the mine on our way home. I’m fairly certain Mary Anne snuck another handful of “precious gems” into the bag when Denita took it off during a water break, but Mary Anne denies all knowledge of such an action. I offered to carry the backpack, but Denita knew I would eventually get into a water fight with the girls and preferred to keep the bag dry.
Right about that time, I heard Denita suck in a huge mouthful of air behind me. Her and her mom try to suck all the air out of the sky when they are startled. It sounds like the mix between a massive vacuum cleaner and a scream. I turned just in time to see her topple off a loose stone right down into an eddy where a mini 2-foot waterfall was gushing over the rocks. It appeared to happen in slow motion. She fell down off the rock she had perched on and landed on her feet in the water. They slid right out from under her, probably due to the backpack throwing off her balance. Then, Denita landed hard on her rear, and her whole body slid under the water with the cascade from the waterfall pouring down over her head. Her hat was wrenched off, and it floated downstream faster than we would have imagined. She spluttered and flailed around and tried to get up, but the water just kept coming. I high-tailed it over to her and reached her right about the time she managed to use her arms to sit up enough for her head to escape the waterfall. Gasping with the shock of the cold water, I helped her to her feet. I asked if she was ok. Poor thing was hatless and looked like a drenched cat. She didn’t hiss, however. Instead she cried, “Ow! That hurt!” and promptly started laughing so hard she almost fell back into the water. “I was the one person who wasn’t supposed to get soaked, and, now, look at me!” she said. She had had a thorough dunking. The backpack was sopping wet, and her clothes clung to her like saggy elephant skin. I laughed with her a little while I helped her make it to the bank of the creek to examine the damage. She didn’t bother jumping rocks anymore; her shoes were already doomed. Bog of eternal stench? You bet.
As it turned out, Denita had hurt her wrists and right ankle, but it wasn’t horrible. The pack filled with rocks and water bottles would dry eventually. Luckily, Emma hurried downstream to catch the lost hat before it could escape. The first aid kit was a bit of a loss with soggy band-aids, but it wasn’t a big deal. Thank heavens Denita had put her cell phone in a plastic bag! Word to the wise: Always protect electronics around water.
Denita limped back to camp with all of us hovering around her talking about what had happened. The girls had been frightened at first, but they saw the humor in the situation once they knew their mommy would be fine. I figured Denita deserved a cup of hot chocolate so I started another camp fire while she changed clothes. The ordeal was soon on the back burner as steaming cups of chocolaty liquid joy were passed around and the remains of the first aid kit sat drying in the sun on the picnic table. S’mores anyone?