I was on top of a mountain.
In the rain.
This wasn't a gentle rain, a nice refreshing sprinkle that would taper off, lowering the temperature. This was a gushing deluge, complete with with lightning and thunder rattling the sides of the mountain.
Of course, I had the children with me. Where else would they be, but in danger of getting fried with a gazillion kilowatts of electricity?
Also, the Long Suffering Husband was there. Suffering.
This was not my fault. It was the fault of my father, Grampy Grumpy.
I mean, a hike may have been my idea. And I may have been aware that a storm was approaching. And I may have overestimated the children's and my abilities to go on a "moderate" hike of five miles.
But, still! - totally not my fault.
To begin with, I chose a shorter hike, rated easy. I imagined our extended family - including Fatty Lumpkins with his little legs - taking a nice mile round-trip stroll and doing a little nature photography. There were supposed to be waterfalls! Picnic areas! Historic log cabins!
However, despite telling Grampy Grumpy exactly where this perfect hiking trail was, he got us lost on some bizarre backroad entirely made up of switch-backs and hair-pin turns. I clutched the door handle and prayed while the children threw their hands up in the air and screamed "whee!"
"We're going the wrong direction," I told the LSH.
"My dad does this every time we go on vacation."
I called my mother. "Where are we?"
"He doesn't know where we are, does he?"
"And you can't say anything, because he's getting grumpy?"
Eventually, we arrived at one of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's historic villages. The one we meant to visit was ... on the other side of the park. We began traversing the one-way loop that circled all the way around the village, eventually, at one point, passing the trail head my father swore was the right one.
It was like being in a caravan in hell. Half of the people visiting were from the Great Plains, judging by their license plates, and they were clearly terrified of driving in the mountains. The kids were getting bored; there's nothing so deadly to familial peace as bored children on a long car ride.
Then my father - along with my mother, sister and nephews - bailed. They were low on gas, and, in the creeping traffic, my dad worried they might run out. My fantasy hike was crumbling, but determined to salvage what I could, I urged the LSH to continue to the trail head.
We arrived and were greeted by a friendly park ranger, who pointed out the darkening clouds. However, they were on the far edge of the horizon, and I was certain we could walk five miles in two or three hours. I had come all this way; I wasn't going to be deterred by a few clouds.
I may be guilty of severely misjudging of what a "moderate" hike consisted. I imagined it would be hilly, perhaps. I didn't think the "trail" would, at points, consist entirely of rock outcroppings and tree roots and, in some parts, shrink down so narrow we had to hike single file. I was not under the impression a moderate trail would require the use of hands and feet alike nor did I foresee the "bridges," which consisted of a single log and a steel cable handrail.
It sucked. A lot.
And, when we were on the return leg, at the highest point of the trail, it began to rain.
"We need to hurry," said the LSH. "The kids are going to get all wet."
"Leave me here to die! Go on without me! Save yourselves!"
He may have rolled his eyes, but I wasn't sure - the torrential downpour made things even a few feet away blurry and indistinct. Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains gets 85 inches of rain a year?
It took a long time to get back to the trail head; longer than it had taken to hike out in the first place. We were all wet - shoes soaked, clothes soaked, hair soaked. And the low-lying areas of the trail became a giant, continuous, ankle-deep mud puddle through which we were forced to wade.
But we finally forged our way through the flood waters to the trail head and the relative shelter of the car - just as the storm broke.
I turned to the children. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
They did not agree.
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)