This time last year I finally convinced my folks to take a hike... with me. I told them I would carry almost all the pack weight, all they had to do was walk the trail. I enlisted Greg's help to lighten my load a little. So with great anticipation we headed down the trail to the Three Forks Junction.
Everyone had a great time. So great a time that my parents were ready and anxious to get out there again. This time my mom was excited to bring along my brother JR and his two kids: Dayton (5) and Slade (2). JR wasn't completely convinced, but nonetheless he agreed to go. It should be noted that on our last hike out, we had to pull Momma's reins back a little bit when it came to the packing. She just kept trying to add more and more stuff. Well, on this trip there was a new challenge. Laura, being 9 months pregnant and all, couldn't carry a pack. And the kids couldn't carry packs either. So that left only me and JR to carry Laura's pack, the kids' packs, and any excess not able to fit into Mom and Dad's packs. I made the executive decision to do something drastic. Even though I hate seeing it on the trail, I decided to get a wagon. Yep, one of those red wagons with the big wheels on them. There would be rough spots on the trail, but for the most part we could get it down it. With the two kids' and Laura's packs, not to mention Mom and Dad's extras, me and JR just had no other way to get the gear to the campsite. Normally I would say no way, but I really wanted the kids to experience their first camping trip. Of course, with this new bit of news about the wagon, Momma's face was shining, it meant she could add more stuff. So with all our gear AND our wagon, we headed up to North Georgia to the trailhead.
Ridiculous isn't it?
With much anticipation we were finally on the trail. JR and I swapped out hauling the wagon. Hiking with him was an eerie reminder of hiking with Greg, all go - no slow. I found myself giving that same shpiel (shpeal, shpeel, shpele... I don't know) about enjoying the trail and taking your time. So with that, we let him push on ahead and I fell back to see how the kids were doing. Little did I know, Dayton was hopping right along and wanted to stay with his daddy. Slade was back with Momma getting a bigtime kick out of all the puddles.
So far everyone was be-bopping along great, except maybe Daddy, but we all expected that. Before we knew it we were there, ready to cross the river. It had a few scary spots, but nothing life-threatening. We all managed to cross safely and now it was time to start setting up our camp. JR wasted no time starting a fire (it would become a theme for the trip for him). Momma took the kids and the toys (that's right, she packed up toys) and found a spot to play in the dirt. The toys ended up being useless, the kids' favorite game was throwing rocks into the river. I have about 100 pictures of them getting a big hoot out of just throwing rocks.
We spent the evening hanging out around JR's campfire. We cooked up a little supper and got ready to hit the hay. So far it been a great trip. We had a great hike in, a great first day, now it was time for a good night's rest. The kids conked straight out. There was no peep from Momma and Daddy's tent. I noticed JR hanging out solo around the fire. He said it was his quiet time. He probably stayed up for another hour or so. Then it was all quiet in camp. The next morning everyone rolled out of their sacks slowly. We had some hot oatmeal for breakfast and the kids didn't waste any time getting back near the water to play. We spent the day hopping on boulders and, of course, throwing rocks. I pulled JR away from his duty as fire builder (self-appointed by the way) long enough to climb the Big Creek waterfall.
After climbing the waterfall, it was a quick break, then we packed up. This was the portion we had been hoping to somehow avoid. We got the wagon loaded down, the tents were packed up, we crossed the river and started climbing. The kids had been real troopers the whole trip. Dayton never had to be carried. He loved running along the trail. We carried Slade from time to time, but only to keep him from stopping at every puddle.
With a little help from Slade we got the wagon and all members of our party back to the trailhead in one piece. JR swore he would never be a pack mule again. He said next time he goes he is carrying only his stuff. That made me happy because it meant he might get back on the trail! The kids loved it. Hopefully they will remember this and it will be a jump start to a future in the great outdoors for both them. Momma and Daddy had the same great time they did last year. Laura and I had a great time too. We made a lot of memories with our nephews that we don't get to see too often. It gave us a little taste of what it might be like for us in a few years when Gabriel is hopping around the campsite in Huggies! It was a trip we'll all remember for a long time!