The Little Kid and I went hiking the other day. Officially, she’s my granddaughter, 13 this year, and for the past 11 has enriched my life on many levels. (Her grandma and I went on our first date on The Little Kid’s second birthday.)
We did not get as far as we’d hoped. I’ve been wanting to see Cunningham Falls in, of all places, Cunningham Falls State Park, in Thurmont, Md. It’s only a few miles south of where I’ve lived more than a decade, but I had never been there.
I still haven’t.
I read online that pets are allowed. I didn’t read far enough. The sign at the gate proclaimed in big letters, “No Pets Allowed In Beach / Picnic Area or on Trails to Falls.” Grady, the Golden Retriever, is the other member of my regular hiking and canoeing team.
It turned out I should have read to the end of the Pet Policy paragraphs on the park’s website. Pets are allowed from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The state giveth and, in the same paragraph, the state taketh away.
But all was not lost. We stopped across the road at the Catoctin Mountain National Park office, where park rangers said Grady was welcome year round. It was too late in the afternoon for us to hike from there up to the falls, so we picked our way down Hunting Creek – which turned out to be a long pile of rocks and boulders with water running through it.
“Can I climb out on the big one?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Can you?”
She did, and punctuated the event with a big double fist-bump in the air.
“I made it!”
Yes, ma’am, and I’ve got the video to prove it.
On the way back to the Jeep I asked the Little Kid whether she’d seen anything in the water.
“Water Striders,” she said.
The reason for mentioning all this is two-fold:
First, read the entire paragraph, especially if it’s written by the state or a banker.
Second, it’s really great getting a little kid into the woods. It is a whole ‘nother world out there. This young lady seems to enjoy it, most of the time, anyway. She’s into fashion now, and balks some at the notion of wearing anything besides flip flops, but she does understand the need for something more substantial in the woods.
She tries hard to pretend she’s not paying attention when I point out the many shapes of leaves, and the way the mountain curled up like a marbled pile of meringue when New York and Pennsylvania got into a shoving match with Ireland and France several million years ago.
But she’s the one who mentioned Pangea one night while we were watching television. That, for anyone not around then, was when New York and Pennsylvania were part of Ireland and France and the seven continents were one.
We have been on many trails, and one day made our own when, with her cousin, we found where a local stream began as a trickle seeping out of mini-swamp partway up South Mountain. She was pretty good at disguising her interest one day up in the Marcellus Shale drilling fields, until, on the way down one dirt road, she remarked, “They could have filmed ‘Twilight’ here.”
Right now she’s caught in No Girl’s Land, somewhere between a bicycle and her mom’s commuter car, between screaming at people to watch out for the dinosaurs coming after them in “Jurassic Park,” and searching for her own monsters when she becomes a marine biologist.
I’m guessing there are a few hikes left between No Girl’s Land and marine biology. And I’m glad she knows where the water comes from, and that she really can get out onto that big rock.
Photo by John Messeder
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