Monday, September 7, 2009

Team Stimey and Water: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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.

Except for the fact that Alex sat down on our towels near our friends and I spent the next hour and a half solo-watching my kids, surrounded by nearly every anxiety trigger I have:

• 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.

And here is Quinn, about a half hour into the hike. Is his mouth open? I'm guessing yes, because he didn't stop talking the whole time.

You may also notice that we are wearing our most durable hiking shoes. If you see Crocs and flip flops, you probably also think the emperor was naked.

We did find this rock.

This is what Alex and I saw in the rock:

(It's a lion.)

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.

It was far less impressive than I'd hoped. And it was covered with people climbing on it. But still, a waterfall!

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 forced my kids to walk down, and two of them complied. Three guesses which one didn't, first two don't count.

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.

The awesome thing after all of that was the warning sign that was at the top of the other trail, but not the one we hiked. Nice.

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:

What do you think? Christmas card?

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.

Alex went first and I made merciless fun of him when he hesitated for a moment. I may have called him a wuss.

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.


  1. Glad to know that other people bicker with their spouses. Good validation.

  2. Awesome! We have had an eerily similar experience in that very same location. Except ours involved a stroller. Now we know how to get to the handicapped accessible parking lot and hike the .02 mile from there to the falls. (We may not have a hangtag on our car, but as hikers, we are completely disabled!)

  3. Oh, honey, you so totally gave Alex the wrong reply about the stick. You should've said, "Gladly! And when i do, I will use it to beat the living snot out of you, darling!" ;-)

    Sounds kind of like some outings we've been on with Nik...only without the extra kids. Definitely with the solo-parenting and bickering, though. Isn't it nice to know there are actually some things we all do just like "normal" families? LOL

  4. Boy, I was a little jealous about your super fun trip, but now I know I would have been miserable. Also, isn't that kind of alot of people to be in nature with? It looks a little like nature city.

  5. posts like these always reassure me and also make me laugh my ass off. because it's funnier when this stuff happens to someone else.

  6. i dearly love you, especially for the bickering with alex part. i may have to use that stick line one day.

  7. That picture up by the falls with all the kids around looks like parent hell to me. Something the kids think is fabulous and the parents get to stand around and make sure nobody kills themselves!

  8. That reminds me of one of the swimming lakes near where I grew up. Kids near water always freaks me out. Your john madden photo illustrations always make me laugh.

  9. Clearly our family outings aren't nearly as adventurous as yours and we obviously need to tag along on your family's field trips!

    I love Niksmom's response to Alex and your photoshopped pics are priceless!

  10. Sweet. I think there may be some room for your family's activities in the healthcare debate. Let me explain...

    Exhibit A: all those whose lives you make better with your shenanigans and spousal "discussions". Without your experiences, we may be inclined to take children and other loved ones on similar outings, therefore putting ourselves, others, and the surrounding ecology at severe risk. Not to mention that it is proven that laughter (especially that sadistic, mocking type that only comes from others' misfortunes) clearly benefits our long term well being.

    Therefore, I make the case that your family adventures should be subsidized by the government in order that we all may be better off and live happier, healthier lives.

    Naturally, there are side effects - as with any medication. In this case, many folks may experience some kind of ass-related injury, either from laughing them off or from trying Alex's stick scenario on a loved one. Either way, we're all winners...except for Alex. That was cold.

  11. FIRST of all, that is not a lion, that is a dog.

    Second, I always think your photoshopping makes things funny x 8.

    Third of all, your reply to Alex's comment was so funny I had to leave for a pee break.

  12. I love how Jack is using gravity and his body to delay the inevitable as Alex hauls him out of the water.

  13. Your response to Alex's comment was hilarious. Great end to your summer escapades!

  14. Girl, you know how to tell a story! LOL
    Kind of like traveling with the Griswolds...

  15. Hiking with kids is always an adventure! And I often count my husband as one of the kids ;)

  16. My god, how I laughed! Love your stimey moments and also that no one drowned :)

  17. This is Sofa King hilarious. BTW, i KNOW cunningham falls! ive swam in that rivery thing and i THINK ive even seen that very same lion rock!

  18. First off, yes.. that's your Xmas card picture for sure. Your adventure sounded uhm, fun. I get stressed out by nature so I would have had the entire forest up my ass. Wait, that didn't come out right. It looks like a fun time was (mostly) had by all. At least by the kids.

  19. i laughed all the way through this post! i've so been there. :)

  20. My heart is actually racing after reading this post. I don't think I could have done the hiking with the kids. I'm not sure I could let them swim in the lake, because you know, fish may bite them, or an undercurrent might tow them away, or, or, or...

    I'm with you on the anxiety triggers!


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