Tuesday started with some biscuit making while listening to the Avett brothers. I've never seen them live but I'd certainly like to. I cut the biscuit recipe in half because having twelve hot biscuits come out of the oven for the three of us is just way too dangerous. So there were six. Hot and ready to be smothered in a number of different ways. For him, butter and maple syrup. For her, molasses and raspberry jam. For me, a bit of everything in varying amounts, spread out between the golden nooks and crannies of my two biscuits. I am an indecisive libra, after all.
After breakfast, it was time for some planning and packing. I've been wanting to take her on her first backpacking trip, and it was go-time. The weather looked like it was going to cooperate, which has been the limiting factor for camping trips this summer, and so off I went to gather things like instant oatmeal, sleeping pads, and our camp stove. It had been a while since I'd packed for a backpacking trip, even a short one. I had fun packing things away into ziplocs and cramming a larger than pre-child tent and three sleeping bags into my pack.
Baby Broccoli made the cut at the last minute. Mike carried Claire when she needed to be carried (which quickly became clear was much more often than really necessary when there's a papa with a fun pack on his back- one designed to carry you...), along with one sleeping pad, the water filter, one small water bottle, first aid kit, stove and pots, and a couple snacks. Yes, I strategically packed it that way so that if we were separated (on this brief, not that far away from others trip) they'd have all those life-saving necessities. I had all the rest. Tent, sleeping bags, other sleeping pads, a change of clothes, food. But considering it was just food for two meals plus snacks, and just over a half gallon of water, it wasn't too bad.
Off we set from the Black Balsam parking area off the Blue Ridge Parkway, onto the Flat Laurel Creek trail. We passed many many teasingly unripe wild blueberry bushes, crossed creeks, and wondered if the strange grunting noise we heard was a bear or maybe, perhaps, just a loud car starting up in the distance? We also passed several campsites along the way, all taken by similar dark green tarps. Eventually we came to another and met a woman who informed us that she was with Outward Bound, and that their students were doing their solo trips. Which explained all of the somewhat identically spoken for sites. Likely they assumed, as we had, that a trip in the middle of the week would ensure no crowds. We backtracked and papa went down a small side trail that ended up leading to a lovely little unclaimed site. We set up the tent near laurels and rhododendron, and sat on the large stones around the fire pit (creatively placed by previous campsite inhabitants so as to resemble two lounge chairs), listening to the creek just yards away. We struggled with wet sticks to start a fire, and eventually succeeded in getting an often-in-need-of-tending little blaze going.
The rain threatened on and off, sending little halfhearted showers down on us. After dinner and dessert we packed into the tent just as the sun was going down and called it a night. Mike and I each noted how the waterproofness of our borrowed tent seemed to have worn away over the years and, I think, silently prepared ourselves for a possible 3am hike back to the car should the rain grow heavy and everything become soaked through. I told the clouds that I should be most respectfully grateful if they could perhaps just keep on moving. I tossed and turned a bit, always having a hard time sleeping the first night out. Thankfully, the night remained mostly clear and we woke to birds singing and blue skies.
Breakfast, instant oatmeal. We filled a water bottle from the stream, using the filter for the first time in many years. She pretended she was Laura (Ingalls) and was helping Ma and Pa get water from the well. She likes pretending she is Laura these days. She threshed and collected a lot of wheat (unidentified taller grasses along the trail) as we hiked.
We stashed my pack in the bushes at the base of Sam Knob and hiked up, up, up to the top. Where we sat for a while and enjoyed the amazing views. I could sit on top of a mountain listening to the lullaby sounds of wind in leaves and birds for hours.
We noticed the very clearly marked and quite striking curving line of red spruce along the western slope of Little Sam Knob, by whose base we had camped on the creek the night before.
And then we took our leave, hiking down through a forest of birches and maples with ferns underfoot, then through a beautiful meadow full of grasses, clover, queen anne's lace, bergamot, yarrow, fleabane and daisies. And lastly over a small knoll with a mix of spruces, hardwoods, and wildflowers.
Home by 3pm, we thought we heard crowing from the backyard but have still not yet identified which younger 'hen' made the call. Guess we'll see about that.
Later, it was a yoga class for me, and I picked up pizza and beer on the way home. I commented that we were becoming a family for which one pizza is not enough. Mike scoffed and said "Amanda, one pizza has never been enough." Guess I'll get two next time.