Important note: No one drowned. All is well.
A few weeks ago some friends of ours told us that they were having a potluck at a place called Cunningham Falls on September 5th and that they would be sending us an evite. When September 4th came and almost went without the promised evite, I started to think we had been issued an unvitation. Fortunately they pulled through at the last moment and remembered to invite us.
Cunningham Falls is a state park with a swimming lake and a playground and hiking trails and so much more. We were there mostly for the swimming lake. And we were kind of excited to see the waterfall. We were promised waterfall! Even if only implicitly.
We had our usual bumblefuck of a time getting to our destination, which was a little over an hour away. Or, if you’re Team Stimey, a little under an hour and half if you add in our wrong direction, end up driving over a one-lane bridge, missed turn route.
But once we got there it was worth it. The water was warm, the kids were delighted. All was well.
• All three kids in a crowded place? Check!
• Enticing locations for kids to wander off toward? Check!
• Risk of drowning? Check!
• My sensory hatred of water and sand? Check!
• Fear of dropping my camera into a lake? Check!
Finally Alex wandered over to chat and tell me we were going to eat lunch and summarily had his head bitten off.
At lunch we asked our friends where the falls were, because at the lake? No falls. My friend told me that you hike to the falls and the trail head is just across the parking lot. I asked how long of a hike it was. “Oh, less than a mile,” she answered. She may have also mentioned something about uphill, but in my excitement over a short jaunt to a waterfall (which in my mind was a scenic waterfall cascading into a clear swimming lake), I may have glossed over that part in my head.
We walked up to the start of the trail and were confronted by two trails. One pointed to the falls, was wide and gradual, was smoothly covered in gravel, and said “0.5 mile.” One pointed to the falls, was twisty and steep, was spotted with rocks and twigs and logs, and said “4/5 mile.”
Guess which one my kids were intrigued by?
But 4/5 of a mile doesn’t sound like much, right? It pretty much sounds like about a half hour of hiking with a bunch of small kids, right? When Alex asked if I really thought we were making the right decision, in my excitement over an energetic rock climb (which in my mind was quick and easy and ended with that scenic waterfall), I may have glossed over that question in my head.
So we started up the steep route. And it was steep. And you know what? It turns out that I am incredibly out of shape. And it turns out that three smallish children need fewer rest stops than you think they would. It also turns out that the sign that said “4/5 mile” was a big fat Lying Liarson, because that hike was at least 16 miles.
Here is a photo of my kids running up one of the smoother slopes.
We did find this rock.
We also saw a deer, which was cool. The hike was fun, and I was impressed that my kids didn’t complain at all. (Alex might have done some complaining.) But I steadfastly believe that the 4/5 mile sign was talking about distance in terms of how the bird flies. Because we went up and down and back and forth and over and under. And there was a little bushwhacking too when we accidentally wandered off the trail for a couple minutes.
Twice Quinn somersaulted off of rocks, narrowly escaping devastating spinal and head injuries. Thank goodness small children are so pliable and floppy.
We finally got to the falls, which hikers walking down assured us were “totally worth it.” I took a photo. You can’t actually see the falls in the photo, so I’ve helped you through the magic of Photoshop.
I had a little conversation with myself in my head about how the munchkins were going to want to climb up there, and how I didn’t want to go, and how I was going to make Alex go with them while I sat at the bottom, and how this was totally fair because I’d watched the kids for an hour and a half in the water at the beginning of the day.
Here’s how that went for me:
I didn’t show you photos of us getting up the rocks because most of those prominently feature my ass in the middle of the frame as I shoved my kids up the rocks. I told them we weren’t going up any farther, but they mutinied and insisted on touching the water. So we climbed up even farther on the steep, smooth rock.
Hey! I just found a new anxiety trigger!
We fought our way through the crowds and the munchkins touched the water. The whole time I was imagining one of my kids (three guesses which one—his name ends in “ACK!”) using the waterfall as a slide.
I did some yelling about, “Quinn! Stop right there. Sam! Stand with Quinn! Don’t let him move! Jack! Jack! Jack! Come back! JACK!” And then I ran after Jack and wrestled him back to the group.
Alex, contentedly sitting on a rock at the bottom of the waterfall, took this photo, which I was prepared for.
But before we found that trail and that sign, we had to actually locate the trail. And Alex, given a choice between believing me when I said the trail was over there, and Sam, who said the trail was over here, believed Sam.
We should have known we were on the wrong trail based on the fact that it was covered in smooth boards. Turns out that we were on the disabled trail that led from the disabled parking lot to the falls. Of course, us being us, we didn’t figure that out until we walked all the way to the parking lot and back.
I did get this photo though:
The downside about being on the disabled pathway is that it had railings and no real way to get off of it and over to the trail that led to our parking lot. (Without a lot of backtracking on our part, and we were getting tired.)
So we decided to jump.
And then I got up there and freaked out. It was way higher than it looked from the pathway. Kettle? Meet pot.
We took the easy path down and it was non-eventful with the exception of some bickering between Alex and I:
Him: “See that stick Quinn is carrying? Why don’t you pull the one like that out of your ass?”
Me: “You said something very rude to me and you used visual aids, and that was hurtful.”
Two hours after we set out on our 45-minute hike, we were back at the lake.
I forced Alex to be in charge of the little dudes while they took a last swim. I very happily sat on a towel and chatted with my friends. At some point, I could see that Alex was trying to corral them in order to leave. Alex was standing on the beach. Quinn was compliant. Jack was not. Sam was trying to drag Jack in. Jack was having a grand ol’ time.
I knew Jack was in trouble when I saw Alex taking off his sneakers and wading in.
You can’t quite see Alex’s facial expression in the following photo, but it was a good one.
And there you have our day-long Stimey Moment. It’s never quiet when you’re around us, and there may be some dirty looks and sarcasm, but we almost always make the most of what we have.