a record-breaking slug on the big creek trail
Papa, I have a little crab! And it’s biting my arm! Those curiously confused, gleeful words were uttered by Oliver Fern on Monday afternoon as we prepared to board the ferry in Bremerton to come home after spending a couple days on The Great Bend of Hood Canal in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. My sinking feeling regarding a “little crab” was confirmed but luckily there was medical-grade forceps available (a wilderness first aid kit unopened since 1993) and I carefully removed the tick from Oliver’s forearm and it appeared not to have initiated the blood-sucking sequence (if a tick has already engorged itself, removal is a risky proposition……leaving broken-off mouth parts in you is extremely bad news). Nevertheless, a call was placed to pediatrics first thing Tuesday morning and the rest of the family continues to suffer from a bad case of creepy crawlies- we check our beds daily like a cheap motel.
The portrait below is from last Sunday afternoon’s stroll with the boys above Lake Cushman on the Big Creek trail, a path we chose for its relative proximity to Hoodsport but also the chance for a little elbow room (holiday crowds unanimously prefer destinations such as the more spectacular Staircase at the end of the road). Our strategy was successful and we shared the trail with a relative intimate variety of oddballs and misfits and I’m not only talking about the freakishly huge Gastropoda. As for Adam, he was an excellent advance scout on this 4.5 mile walk, pointing out a handful of marvels and peculiarities including the mangy trolls hiding out under the bridge at Skinwood Creek. It’s hard to believe the rest of us trip-trappers nearly overlooked them but we were: 1. Shuffling from the opposite direction, and 2. Engaged at the time in a monumental battle of wills with Oliver who had to do a certain something very badly but could not be convinced to execute the deed and continue merrily on his way since he also sorta had to do another thing and he was insistent the two things be kept together and then in the midst of tense negotiations, Adam inadvertently broke little brother’s prized walking stick and the other thing started really hitting the fan. Things had settled down a tad (figuratively and literally-speaking) as our loop pointed downhill through even prettier woods and out of the fog when Adam spotted an enormous slug which had stationed itself atop a throne-like, splintered tree stump.
While the boys walked ahead with their mother, I did my best to come up with an interesting capture of this majestically turd-like creature and as I twisted myself into various myofascial-friendly angles on the ground, a middle-aged man and woman sporting matching fanny packs, camouflage henleys and enormous handguns holstered to their sides, came sauntering down the path with a strange, misplaced authority which may have had something to do with the ape-like man contorting weirdly on the narrow path before them (Margaret, just take a deep breath and remember everything I ever told you at the shooting range……). In light of the presence of guns, the bewilderment on their faces felt like bad news to me so I explained as lightheartedly as possible my recently-acquired fascination with the challenge of recording the activities of various Gastropoda and unsurprising to me the creepy couple answered by cooly describing how they skewered slugs or snails found in their vicinity and furthermore enjoyed tossing the critters in the campfire to listen to the crackle of slime. For a moment I considered pulling out all the stops with my always-disarming Mr. Snuffleupagus impression but I did not deign to partake in further discourse with these charming Idahoans on holiday and bid them a good afternoon lest I be subjected to further insights they might offer about the sanctity of life. As for my photo session which was cut short, I managed a keeper or two. It took some coaxing to get sluggo to show off at least a couple sensory organs. I’d bided my time for a minute or two, varying the cast of my shadow (in order to lessen the ominousness of my towering presence to this little light-sensing critter), sang songs and gave it tummy rubs.
The rest of the walk down to Big Creek Campground was lovely though tiring at times as each member of the family played their part in providing inspirational speeches from the heart to Oliver Fern about how wonderful life can seem after peeing on the bushes with fresh air on your tush but our efforts were for naught until we arrived back to the campground where I squirted two bottles of hand sanitizer and draped approximately thirty-five rolls of toilet paper over the pit toilet seat and issued a grave command in the style of Governor Tarkin that if he did not sit for business there would be no pool time upon our return to the hotel on Hood Canal and there commenced the longest continuous pee since Adam barely made it to the restroom in 2012 at Safeco Field in the seventh inning (I believe the San Francisco Giants were in town).
Tonight after dinner at Burgermaster (to my everlasting chagrin, the boys’ hands-down favorite Friday night spot), Oliver Fern, Adam and I detoured most of the way home by foot to get some fresh air. We shortcut through the Union Bay Natural Area where we admired some baby Canadian Geese who were on the verge of losing their cute, downy coats and maturing into fully-functioning pooping machines and then we moseyed past the various University of Washington intercollegiate sports facilities. En route, I showed the boys the baseball stadium’s bullpen where we spied two balls abandoned at the base of an iron beam which serves as a pillar for the overhang that keeps bored relief pitchers out of the sun. The baseballs were separated from us only by the bottom edge of a cyclone fence. Practically hidden from view as they were, I morally assessed they were acceptable freebies and explained to Adam that since the groundskeepers would never find the baseballs it was okay for us to take them but then he took so long poking and fishing at the balls with an itty-bitty stick while I struggled to hold the bottom edge of the fence up for him, it started to feel like grand larceny and slowly it dawned on me a video camera was probably recording us and I was going to get the Bad Father of the Year award so I told Adam to hurry up and we got the hell out of there (as we were walking away I pondered to myself that since the school continues to send me wasteful piles of glossy alumni magazines and requests for donations year-after-year despite my having filled every opt-out box imaginable including special notes explaining I’m chronically unemployed and living with my mother so the University of Washington can take a flipping hike, the baseballs seemed okay). Under the gargantuan, overhanging concourses of the football stadium I told the boys the story about how their uncle and I snuck into the place years ago on a rainy day and ran around the field like yahoos (obviously, video cameras weren’t around back then) and then the boys marveled at the detailed bronze sculpture of old-time Husky football coach Jim Owens who was a bigoted jerk to some of his players back in the day. The boys were particularly impressed by the football cleats of the sculpture and the larger-than-life indentation of Coach Owens’ buttocks, which they thoughtfully caressed like a couple of New York Times art critics. I wanted to get off campus as quickly as possible before we ran into any other sculptures so we hurried down the escalators across from the stadium and caught the next train up to Capitol Hill.
Sunday Night Postscript: I wrote everything you just read on late Friday night as the house cooled down. Yesterday was another scorcher and we headed to Mt. Rainier, where the boys soaked in Deer Creek into the evening while eating cookies. Today was even hotter, Seattle felt like Death Valley with leaves. We spent the afternoon on Alki Beach but it was barely cooler than back at the house and laughably crowded to boot, I felt like I was in a Macklemore music video. Adam finished Ender’s Game, tonight. I told him to do his best to not ever tell any of his friends how the story ends.