It was beautiful, hiking along the Rogue. But some of the most fun came at a camping ground before the trailhead. Ever played Lava Monster? It’s awesome. I was the only girl on the trip, and that was okay with me. All of us ‘kids’ took over the playground equipment pretty easily. We dashed from one end of the equipment to the other, trying to avoid the lava monster below. By the next day, my left kneecap was one huge purple bruise from dashing through a slide made for seven-year-olds.
It was killer hot. The river looked terribly inviting, and we often wished to join the rafters and kayakers that glided past us, even if some of them were a bit eccentric. One rafter gave us advice about the bears. She told us it was best to just tie together all the coolers (which we didn’t have) to prevent our food supply from being eaten. I once saw a bear bounding up a mountain face like it was nothing. I don’t think a conglomerate of coolers would stop a critter like that. Bears… Sometimes we wondered if it would be smart to just sleep inside of the electric fences meant for our food.
I deeply regretted the lightweight boots I’d opted for on the backpack trip. I could feel every stone through them. And believe me, there were plenty. Often, the river ran through canyons of stone, and the trail was just as harsh. Sometimes I wonder if the harshness got to the brains of some of those who traveled it. We once met an elderly fellow in shorts, a button-up shirt, and a pith helmet, trailing a very colorful parrot kite. My brother did the best imitation of his cheery “Helloo!” as he energetically trotted down the trail and was lost to sight.
The naiad pools were the most beautiful of our stops. They were deep, deep pools in the cool shade of the forest. At the bottom of one, I spotted a pocket knife, and Andrew obligingly dove to fetch it to the surface. Places like that were paradise. Some were elusive, and a bit more exciting. A talkative hiker was the one to tell us about the natural water slide, though she didn’t say how far off the trail it was. We followed the stream far off the trail after setting up camp, leaping from one fallen tree to the next, and sometimes sloshing through shallow points.
Finally, we found it. A wide pool awaited us, and across it, against a cliff, waited a knotted rope. Climbing it was somewhat of a challenge, and I got pretty scraped up getting to the top. Once at the top, you had to lower yourself into the stream, keep a tight hold of yet another rope until you were partway down the slide, and then release. The hiker had warned us of the overhang. “Make sure you duck,” were her words of wisdom. Duck we did, and found ourselves shooting down the hollowed-out chute into the chilly waters below. It was quite the ride. I only went once.
My only other brush with death was at a toilet. It shouldn’t have even been on the map. The floor was rotted nearly completely through. Still, it was somewhat sheltered. Somewhat. And when you’re tending to feminine business, it’s nice to have some privacy. My dad was my guardian, keeping watch over the trail. I figured he could also be my rescuer if I fell through.
The award for the worst campsite was probably the one near the end of our trip. I wanted a shower. The map promised an “advanced camping ground,” or some such nonsense, and I had my hopes up. No such luck. The place was riddled with mosquitoes, and the nearest fresh water source was down a steep cliff. I didn’t get my shower until our final campsite–a campground.
Being deprived of female company, I ended up buying myself a mermaid doll to camp with me for the last night (camping by the ocean). Still, the extra space in the tent was nice for spreading out a bit. I’d packed a couple of books in the car, and I enjoyed staying up late reading. Being near the ocean was wonderful too. I loved the thin veil of fog spreading out over the sands as dusk deepened.
It was beautiful, every bit of it.