Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Camping Trip, Day Three (Hiking and Other Adventures)

Day Three dawned with a communal breakfast. I provided eggs and we also had sausage and bacon and it was very nice. I got myself a french press so that I could have good coffee but I didn't quite get it down. Still, it was caffeine and I wasn't in the mood to be picky.

A group headed off on a hike around noon. Greg and Ruth were among them. Gage and I hung out in camp and chatted with others who stayed behind. Finally, I sat down to get some studying done. But, with impecable timing, the alarm I set went off and it was time to go get the hikers. They had hiked nearly 4 miles uphill to the Visitor's Center. Gage and I headed off in the truck and we found them with almost no difficulty. We visited the Visitors Center. Gage's favorite thing was a box that said, "Caution, Baby Rattler Inside." Of course, when you open it, a baby rattle is shaking like crazy. He was pretty disappointed that it wasn't a baby snake, I'll tell you. I got to spend time with E (the 10 year old girl) looking at butterflies. We identified the beautiful white butterflies that we had seen around camp as being Pine Butterflies [click]. They were very friendly butterflies and often landed on us. We also watched a slide show/movie about the history of the park. The kids seemed to enjoy it. While we were walking on one of the trails, we heard a talk by some volunteers. While they were talking, I saw a Brown Creeper [click] in one of the trees.

Back at camp, I continued relaxing. Greg and some others went down to check out the river. Ruthie curled up in our bed in the 5th wheel reading -- it had been a long hike. When everyone got back from the river, we loaded up into cars again and headed off to Mercer's Caverns [click]. We took M and E in our truck with us. Mercer's Caverns is a beautiful cavern in the gold country that was discovered by a Mr Mercer while he was prospecting for gold. It is unlike other caverns we've been to in the past in that it is almost completely vertical. You go down 16 stories underground. Now, I didn't think about this too much. I figured I could handle it. The kids were pretty excited. Ruthie ran ahead with B and C and never really looked back. Gage, on the other hand, had a REALLY hard time. He didn't like the stairs at all. Now, neither did I -- I have a pretty good fear of heights and we've figured out that Gage does too. This was hard on both of us. Greg left Ruthie being watched by the other parents and came back to help me with Gage. He went behind and I went in front and Gage felt much safer. Some of the stairs were little more than ladders. It was rough but damned if he didn't do it. He was super proud of himself but at the end, when we say the daylight, he said, "I hate this cave. I never want to do this again. It was cool but it was scary!" Well said, little man, well said! I don't think I can adequately describe how scared he was -- he was whimpering and I gather that the look on his face would have sent me straight into tears. I kept waiting for it to level out into a big cavern but it didn't -- it was basically spelunking by ladder. Cool cave and I'm glad I did it but WOW it was rough on all of us.

We rewarded his bravery with a toy at the gift shop -- of course Ruthie got one too. We also got cool drinks because despite the 55 degree constant temperature in the cavern, all that climbing out meant that we were hot and sweaty when we hit the 90 degree air outside. While we were waiting, I saw an Anna's Hummingbird [click] sipping from their feeder.

Dinner that night was another communal effort. My part in it was the appetizers. Every family brought their own meat. We had skirt steak that had been marinating in Soy Vay [click] since Wednesday night. I brought chicken strips for the kids. We do them on the grill and then they eat which is always a nice change. The steak was delicious. Other offerings were a baked potato bar, cesear's salad, chili, and delicious desserts.

We again played games by the fire and drank too much red wine! Good times!

More Photos [click]

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