Both Mom and I had ants in our pants to get out of our Stuck House, so once Mom finished working yesterday we got in the Covered Wagon and drove to a trail in Big Sir. We got to the bottom of the trail when it was dark and spooky, so we had no idea what it would look like when we woke up. The way it usually works is the hotter it gets at our Stuck House the colder it gets at the beach, so I hoped it would be nice and cool in the morning.
Mom messed up our early morning plan and slept until the sun had already been up for awhile. The problem is that when we’re in our Stuck House there are always people around making noise, and I need to bark at all of them, even if that means barking from bed in the middle of the night. And then Mom needs to bark at me to stop… Even though I don’t pay much attention, I think it makes her feel better. The result is that neither of us sleep very well in our Stuck House. But when we’re camping there isn’t usually anything for me to bark at unless Mom leaves food out, so we sleep like rocks.
“Mom! You’ve ruined it! We’re going to die now,” I said when I stepped out into the warm, sunny morning.
“It’s only 7am! It’s been this hot all night. Anyway, I kind of thought we would be near the ocean and it would be foggy…”
I looked around. All I could see were the kinds of plants that you get in hot places, and lots of brown grass. “You missed the ocean. By a lot,” I told her.
“Yeah, well… apparently Big Sur has an inland side. Who knew…?”
Mom packed lots of water into a packpack and we started hiking. I sprinted in loops through the foxtail and tick grass, but Mom would only run for a few seconds before starting to walk. “Come on!” I insisted. “We’ve got to hurry so that we can be done before the heat.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Mom said. “Maybe I have some sort of neurological disorder, or a nutrient deficiency, or maybe I’m aging at an accelerated rate… but my legs feel wobbly, and I feel terrible when I try to run. I wish that I could check with a doctor and find out what’s wrong with me.” She meant checking WebMD for the most dramatic and scary thing that she could find.
“Oh, I know what that is,” I said. “You’re just melting. Come on, it’s not permanent. You’ll be fine. I mean, not today, but when it cools down you’ll be fine.”
“Okay, but I’m still trading in some of our runs for yoga sessions. I mean it this time!” she said, and tottered on.
This trail was like nature’s storage room, where all the cool things to see were in one place, but all disordered and piled on top of each other in a way that made them hard to look at. There were big bits of sandstone sticking out of the ground that had holes scooped out like swiss cheese, and slabby bits of rock all fanned out like someone had knocked over a stack of pancakes, and little villages of boulders in shady glades that definitely had gnomes living behind them, and a tractor that had been used in the revolutionary war, and a patch of fuzzy white plants that looked like they were covered in frost as a fashion statement, and wildflowers in all the shades of grey, and as we got higher there were views of the mountains in every direction that you looked. We could even see off in the distance where the mountains fell into the ocean and the cool, grey fog clumped like a bad mood.
What made it hard to enjoy these things was that this trail also had every single kind of bug ever invented, and they were all obsessed with us. There were the bugs that buzz in your ears, and the bugs that dive for your eyes, and the bugs that crawl all over your skin, and the bugs that leave webs that stick to human sweat, and even at least one tick. Mom’s front paws were never still, all she did was alternate between swatting and trying to get the spider webs out of her goopy sweat. If we stopped to enjoy the scenery or take a picture, the bugs would descend on me like crazed fans. I couldn’t sit still for a picture because I needed to snap at flies constantly. Mom couldn’t take good pictures because her hand kept swatting at the critical moment, even when she didn’t mean to.
As we got higher up the trail, another infestation started on top of the bug problem: shrubs. The trail was so overgrown that we were almost constantly being scraped by leaves the shape of steak knives, poked by sharp sticks, or raked by branches reaching out into the path. At one point, Mom marched right off the trail and directly into the bushes.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“I think the trail’s this way.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. See? It thins out just right on the other side of these two bushes.” Mom tried to walk through the bush, but the branches were holding hands so thickly that she got stuck. They grabbed on to her shorts and the packpack straps and held her in place, while the steep, sandy ground slid backward every time she tried to take a step. Finally we both got through the bushes and stood in a clearing. We were surrounded by a wall of Oscar-high bushes that went all the way around us in a ring.
“This sucks,” Mom said. “Let’s go back.” It wasn’t until we’d pushed back through the bushes for about a hundred yards that we saw that the trail had turned where Mom had not. Since our excuse to turn around was gone, we kept fighting the bugs and bushes on the way to the top.
We were within a quarter mile of the tower on top of the mountain when we somehow got turned around again and found ourselves walking back down the trail the way we had come. “I’m not having much fun, are you?” Mom asked.
“No, [snap] not really [snap],” I said with my tongue hanging around my ankles.
“Screw it, this is good enough,” she said. But “screw it” doesn’t make you magically land at the bottom of the trail like Mom thought. We still had more than 5 miles to get back, and it was getting seriously hot.
I hoped that it would be easier hiking back down, but the bushes were just as grabby on the way down as they had been on the way up, and the ground was steep and sandy, with lots of loose rocks that rolled away like a conveyor belt under Mom’s feet as she lurched down the hill. So even though down is supposed to be faster, we were only averaging 2 miles per hour. I jogged from shady spot to shady spot while Mom marched resolutely on, not even bothering to wait for me. I looked forward to drinking from the little streams we had crossed on the way up, but they were all gone by the time we got back to them. You guys, I’m not exaggerating! It was so hot that entire streams had vaporized in a single morning. Mom kept pouring me water, but most of the time the bugs distracted me before I could drink it. In my thrashing, I threw the water on the ground more often than not, which made Mom stomp off in a huff.
It took us almost 5 hours to complete the 11 mile trail, and by the time we got back to the Covered Wagon, the temperature was over 90 degrees. The weather was all Mom’s fault, obviously. She offered me lunch to say sorry for cooking me, but I refused. All I wanted was to lay in the dust and melt while she took off every bit of clothing she was wearing right there in the parking lot so she could put on fresh clothes. Then we rode our un-air-conditioned Covered Wagon back home for hours through the world’s hottest afternoon. I have to admit, that it wasn’t a very fun adventure even though I got McRotguts for lunch and Mom got to eat ice cream as a meal (Mom couldn’t get out of the Wagon to get us lunch, or else I would be dead).
-Oscar the fly trap