We choose this Wednesday to sleep in till 6am, like a bunch of loafers, but what I don’t know yet is Dad’s definition of a hike and that we would need the energy for the day of exploration ahead. I’ll try texting Caleb while also looking up trails in the area, though Dad had already decided on one before we got here.
I’ll choose to eat the lobby buffet breakfast, out of wrappers, while sitting on the bed and letting Dad write. We’re out of the hotel at 830am and it will take us two hours before we’re signing into the West Fork Rock Creek Trailhead. That time is spent driving slow on 13 miles, part dirt road to avoid throwing dust, unlike the trucks passing us, and so we can see yellow-bellied marmots and take their pictures as they pose on the roadside.
We wonder who the “No grazing in wilderness” sign is for so Dad eats his granola before the hike as a precaution (as we were unaware this trail is shared with horses) and that there would be an abundance of raspberries to pick along the way. We’ll make up an anti-bear song, “we’re not as tasty as we look…” in place of the other repellents that Dad forgot… or did he? Another hiker lets us know that we’ll be safe because there’s too many humans out today for the bears. Then you ask yourself if salmon think the same way.
The first hiker we passed said we were about halfway to a waterfall, shares a photo with Dad, and then tells us to take the unnoticed trail to get the best views. I think his advice only helped to slow us down more as we looked for multiple ways to access the river; though even if we had gotten in we wouldn’t be able to show or explain the way it felt to be out in the wilderness together, the essence of this place, but that didn’t stop us from trying.
We pass the Kent family from Idaho, all 14 in total, with kids who have great trail etiquette – they’re not loud and moved to the side as they announced us to the rest of their group. We’ll stop to talk with Amelia and David, parents who dropped their daughter off at a nearby one-week rock climbing camp after driving over from Ohio. David lived in Buffalo for seven years after college and asks if Dad has family there because of his last name; he was born there.
Next group on the trail is four guys and a dog coming from Montana, California, and Texas; then three guys with a kid who camped for five days and are ready to go back; a guy with his three daughters who were out for two days; and finally two guys with a bear cub of a dog. The trail seems quite busy as so many return from other hikes that branch from this one or campsites that go further than we plan to.
I’m carrying my camera in one hand, we’re taking turns carrying Dad’s extra lens, and have two (should’ve been four) liters of water on my back with no snacks. We get to the seven-mile marker at 230pm and turn around. Going downhill increases our speed but doesn’t keep us from seeing three snakes within 30 minutes in the land of burned trees and tiny raspberries. Two guys will follow us out from a distance for the last mile which we are surprised to see the cars again so quickly.
Along the way, we saw willowherb epilobeum, Mormon fritillary butterfly, Arctic aster, elderberry, white everlasting flowers, giant red Indian paintbrush, penny bun mushroom, trumpet cup lichen, Clodius parnassian butterfly, Sierra garter snake, Western terrestrial garter snake, and Trentepohlia algae.
It took us three hours to hike the seven miles back. We’re a bit dehydrated and sunburned but find a liter of water in the cooler that we finish on the way to dinner; a second night at Piccola Cucina Ox Pasture. One of our waiters, as the staff seems to rotate so we can meet them all, went to ASU and shares the love Dad does for Andreoli’s Italian Grocer where the bread, pasta, cheese, and chocolates are made on-site.
The bread smells sweet and is the perfect mix of soft and crispy. Dinner is delicious, again, but tonight we’re saving room for dessert – tiramisu made table side and an espresso so we can make it back to the hotel. What a fantastic meal. A walk after dinner has us stumble upon a Shakespeare in the Parks show that’s over in minutes but seems to have attracted a crowd of 300 for the two hour event.
Caleb and I had a good day, interesting in their own ways. I’ll air my feet out as we finish our call before joining Dad in the room where he’s editing pictures. We lay down after 11pm, caffeine coursing through our veins, and I think about how all things take time as we search for our own waterfall or meadow. I’m glad to be in a good mental space where I can learn more from Dad and appreciate the knowledge he’s gaining from growing older. As soon as we acknowledge that we can’t sleep, we’re out.