It was amazing. This grounding effect that nature has on children and I just wanted to sit back and observe. But when two hours switched to three, I had parents who came up for the day wondering what we were going to do next. I had been looking out for my assistant Cubmaster and wondering why she was late. Was I botching this camping trip too for not being loud and boisterous and completely prepared with Scout inspired games and such.
So when I told everyone to grab their water bottles and their hats so we could go on a hike. I didn't think to measure the miles or the time. I didn't think that maybe taking my over filled backpack was a bad idea or that maybe I should have brought extra water.. we just headed out.
The start of the Orchard trail was right at the foot of the long drive of our site. From where I stood with 8 children gathering around me in a semi circle, I couldn't really see what lay ahead. I gave them a few trail tips and made them pick buddies and after a bit gave them things to look for along the way. Frogs and chipmunks and the bear we all kind of wanted to see but really hoped we didn't. Through the white blazed trail we hiked and it curved into a single file walk that wasn't really maintained and overgrown in many places.
We paused at a tree that had been hit by lightening and I reminded them of the weather safety precautions for thunder. We walked on and at this point still fresh we discuss some of the large moss covered boulders and I got a chance to talk about something that is a passion of mine: rocks! We lost one family, who headed back before we skipped over the last leg of the first trail. Sometimes that happens and good thing too, because the next leg of our adventure would be one that not only built memories but possible helped build muscles and made us all lose weight both in and out.
Turquoise, bright and clear and with that eerie and exciting name of Ghost Lake appears. It is wide and worn and used quite often. The pines stretch up high and the maples and oaks hang in a heavy canopy that further along will hold of the start of a slow rain. We walk on. Our children’s voices echoing back as they look about without actually looking. Focused solely on making it to the end, until I tell them to pause to really look about themselves. We discover a whole new world of glacier rock formations and small crevices they swear bears live in. We are watched by tiny chipmunks that play peek-a-boo over the tops of moss covered boulders the kids quickly decide are mountains because they have never seen anything so large.
We stop along the path as a monster of a rock appears as if dropped there by a giant, or as one scout proudly proclaims that it is Dinosaur poop! We pause before it, examining where it split off from another large portion of 61 million year old rocks just like it when it was still only part of a greater whole.
As we travel along we find ourselves taken back in time to wonders that now have taken on a whole different image, as clustered of green things grow with abandon and for boys make amazing places to climb and explore. Their minds are filled with wonder of an experience they may never have gotten if I hadn't played campground roulette when booking this trip.
We paused to look out over a view of mountain ranges that were probably even more majestic on a bright and sunny day or in deep fall when the surrounding forest was awash of brilliant red and orange hues and we take it in. A mere breath in the moment of this incredible adventure. The trail is long and as we almost reach our destination I have children ready to turn back to stop, their feet are crying and they are whining but they push on. They search for sticks that will work well on the return hike, they find rocks that they keep kicking along the path. They spy a tiny frog hopping upon the leaves that coat the floor beneath the giant trees. They lead the way. The way to Ghost Lake.
We are almost there. The path is steeper, I can see the brilliant green of the lily pads reflecting through the trees and the gray of the afternoon.
There is a beauty here. It is soft and quiet and unmistakable. We sit along a split between two lakes, both overgrown with water weeds and soft beneath our sore bodies. We hear croaking and the whisper of bird song. The sound of children laughing and making up stories as we rest for a bit. The trek was long and we have to head back the way we came, this time climbing up steep rocky, natural stone staircases and over uneven paths. Back to where we started. Some are fast on their feet and ready to do the 5 miles back. Others are not and their voices echo loudly up the trail.
Sometimes it feels like the trails will never end. And sometimes, you can trip and stumble on memories and moments you really wish never would.