Today I found a piece of white quartz as big as my head, in the middle of a pile of scree otherwise flat gray and streaked with rust brown and covered in lichens. For about 20 seconds I did think about putting it in my backpack to carry it home, and then I realized how stupid that would be. Not only would no one else ever have the pleasure of discovering it, but my hike back down the mountain would have been very, very crappy with a 25 pound rock in my backpack.
We followed a trail near the camp to get to this pile of scree, which was not specifically our destination. It was just where we ended up, and we didn't know where the trail would take us. The trailhead is very distinct and well marked, with a significant parking lot and informational signs at the beginning of the trail, but there are also two signs specifically warning you that the trail is not maintained. Lots of people had been dismissive of the trail earlier in the week. "Oh Speculator," they said, "that one just sort of peters out." We figured we'd try it anyway. If nothing else, we knew no one would be on the trail, and that was most certainly true.
As it turns out, the trail is just fine. If you follow the cairns through the meadow, you wind up in the forest and the trail from that point on is perfectly distinct, taking you up up up and over the shoulder of the mountain and down into a valley next to the rushing creek for which the trail is named. There are some excellent views of distant peaks and plenty of impressive boulders along the way.
There was some deadfall on the trail, but nothing we couldn't just step over or limbo under. Next to the creek, things got a little bit more swampy and the fallen logs were much bigger--in short, the going was rougher and the trail got harder to follow. This was after almost two hours of hiking, though. So the pile of scree became our stopping point. We found a big table of a rock and ate our lunch on it.
It's so easy to feel good while you're hiking up a hill.
We missed all the bad weather while we were hiking. Once we got back to camp, though, there were a few lightweight rumbles of thunder and steady showers until dinner, the first real rain of the week. We hung out on the porch with Willa and my sister and brother in law for awhile, and then got under a sleeping bag and snoozed the afternoon away. When the rain let up, after supper, some of the clouds detached themselves and settled right in the valley, drifting down into the trees and billowing up over the river like smoke. The sky opened up and lit the peaks in time for sunset, and we walked up the road to the beachlet and I picked rocks. I found what I think is petrified wood, and then I just filled my pockets with a bunch of other stones. I pick up rocks wherever I go. There's probably still a box of them in my parents' attic.
Willa has been off the chain today. She says "hi" very distinctly, and at the appropriate moments. She sings ba ba ba and trills her lips and basically just has her own walking music, except that instead of walking she is doing that exact loopy crawl that Henry had, one leg folded under so as to come easily to a sitting position and the other one loping along straight up like it would rather be walking. I said "getchu" once in casual conversation and she squealed and started hustling away. Today she bit her own foot hard enough to make herself cry. When her dad peeled off her Robeez, there was an imprint on her toe.
The boys, meanwhile, have basically been feral this week. It's nice for them to be able to get up in the morning, go outside, and essentially be safe anywhere they go on the grounds. They've got freedom here that they don't have at home. Tonight after dinner they actually smeared themselves with mud, head to toe. It was the fourth grade girl's idea. She must be enjoying her power.
Last night was the variety show and I belted my way through a song from Carousel, picked out of an aged and crumbling pile of sheet music from the compound up the road. A woman I remember babysitting played the piano for me. My bro in law wrote and read a lovely poem, and Henry told jokes, and Jude did his song (easily the tightest act in the whole show), and the traditional choral stuff got trotted out and there were some other acts. There was nothing *truly* embarrassing in the whole show, which was both a relief and a disappointment. The Brit managed to get through it all right, which is saying something. He even sang with the men's group. My dad emceed in his kilt.
Today was our last full day. Tomorrow is breakfast, then checkout, then the long drive home, never as fun as the drive to your destination, especially when you are driving across the relentless plains. We toyed with going through SoDak for a change of pace, but fear that Sturgis will mean not only wacky traffic but also no open motel rooms along the way. So I think we're pointing Golden Large (my car) toward Bismarck, where I may start, at long last, deploying these belated vacation posts.