Getaway 2010!

And the Lord said unto Kate, “Go forth into the world as a badass amongst squares.”

“How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof!  In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make – leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone – we all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the firmament for its roof – and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.” ~John Muir  

John Muir, the renowned naturalist and founding father of America’s National Parks never had to worry about his three-year-old offspring licking an electrical outlet post on the outskirts of his campsite.  Nor was he subjected to “You’re Going To Ruin My Bad Reputation”  pumping out of a rebel-flag festooned RV while he attempted to commune with the breeze in the trees.  I mention this not to discredit Muir (I mean, he discovered Yosemite, what did I ever do? )but to point out this “house of one room” is getting smaller and smaller every year.

But nonetheless, it’s far bigger than the 2 bedroom 2 flat Kate and I share with our daughter Mabel, and it renders the dimensions of the cubicle I otherwise occupy 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, to horrifyingly iron-maiden-like proportions.  So every year, the three of us pack up the S-Cargo-topped Civic and flee the suburbs like Muir on fire.  This year we opted for Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana as our destination.  We’d heard the hiking was nothing short of phenomenal from some very reliable sources, and that was pretty much good enough for us.

The following is culled from 5 days of notes written like Muir by the fire.

  • Make no mistake: when you set up a tent with the one you love, you are actually undergoing a test of your couplehood.  Do you communicate effectively both in the verbal and non-verbal sense?  When presented with a shared goal, do you work together or do you jockey for dominance?  Do you realize how easily those aluminum tent poles can be broken down into nunchucks?  After 5 years of setting up camp together, Kate has learned to sigh heavily instead of “orchestrate” my sometimes knuckle-headed activities and I’ve learned to think of nunchucks not as a weapon, but as an amusing ballet between Chuck Norris and Mother Theresa.  The tent goes up with a minimum of swears.  We have grown.  We have grown.
  • The Turkey Run campground was continually orbited by 2 teenaged girls riding double on a scooter.   Their approach was heralded by the embittered bronx cheer of their engine and from their departure flared out an audio comet tail of pop music in their wake.  They passed our campsite twice an hour.  With their pink hair and their faces graven shields of stone-cold resentment, they are clearly too cool for this stupid campground.  Around and around they buzzed like a bumblebee trapped in a jar.  Together, they were the Satellite of Surly.
  • The state of Indiana wastes no time in reminding its visitors that The Rebel Without A Cause is its native son.  Within a few miles of the state line we were greeted with Dean’s gigantic likeness: “Indiana: The Birthplace of Cool”, the billboard trumpeted.  This oversized boast proved invaluable scoff-fodder for hours on end.  “Look!  A covered bridge!  It’s not quaint, it’s cool.  Just like James Dean.”  “Check out that cool-ass purveyor of country crafts and home-cuteners!  How James-freakin’-DEAN, man!”  I have no doubt that the spirit of James Dean rode with the Satellite of Surly.  As I’ll later tell, I found it elsewhere as well.
  • Fun Fact: Mabel has a long, grinding, high-pitched whine.  Blue jays respond to it like retirees to a Neil Diamond concert.
  • I believe Muir would approve of Turkey Run’s trails.  They are wild and rambling, rocky and unpredictable, following the contours carved by glacial destiny, not man’s recreational whim.  Each step requires complete engagement of mind and body.  The terrain tells you where to go.  This is not the toothless boardwalk/stair/overlook brand of hiking you encounter at places like Starved Rock.  The trail is as wide as your bravery, as high as your chutzpah.  This is hiking for risk-takers.  So I was not altogether surprised when I saw the spirit of James Dean thunder past us in the form of a pack of grinning youth group campers, pausing only to issue a high-five blessing to Mabel.
  • On the third night, I dreamt the now-defunct “newgrass” trio Nickel Creek had reunited to launch a restaurant within the depths of Turkey Run.  Carved within the contours of the canyon in a manner that suggested a respect for natural beauty as well as a perversion of it, the Li’l Nickel Creek Café was all warm, warpy wood cubbyholes and polished rock surfaces.  It looked like an Ikea-outfitted pit stop for weary Hobbits.  Chris Thile himself had lured me into the Li’l Nickel Creek Café, showed me to my seat, and regaled me of the sad tale of the LNCC.  Apparently, business was not what one would expect for a celebrity-owned, Swedish-designed, Middle-Earthian bistro at the bottom of a canyon in the heart of John Cougar country.  I felt sorry for Thile the entrepreneur whose profits could not sustain the weird, unwieldy weight of his vision.  I felt indebted to Thile the musician whose uncanny musical talent had given me years of slack-jawed amazement.  I felt a little freaked out when I realized that my seat was more than merely comfortable; it had somehow been carved out of some advance anticipation of the exact proportions of my ass.  Before I could extract myself from the ass-grabber and bolt out of the Li’l Nickel Creek Café, Chris Thile smiled at me and handed me a menu.  It was part Swedish fairy tale, part advent calendar.  Some of the offerings were not food at all, but rather tiny trinkets.  I ordered the pickled lingonberry paella and hoped for the best.
  • At every third campsite, there is a boy named Braden.  He is very bad and is always doing something he shouldn’t do, somewhere where he shouldn’t be.  Don’t believe Jimi Hendrix when he says “the wind cries Mary.”  At Turkey Run, the wind cries Braden.
  • Mabel proved to be a brave little hiker.  She took every step that Kate and I took, only with legs much smaller than ours.  If someone were to apply that same “if ants were human sized” equation on Mabel, I’m pretty sure the final outcome would reveal that my child basically did the Bataan Death March without breaking a sweat.  This makes me very proud of her and ashamed of myself at the same time.
  • This just in: Cornhole is dead, long live Ladderball.  As much as I’d looked forward to this day, I must say I’m bitterly disappointed.  My camp neighbors continue to engage in mindless plunkery while I’m robbed of the opportunity to make derogatory comments like “Looks like we’ve got ourselves some hot and heavy Cornhole action over in lot 122”.  So unfair.
  • There are a lot of smokers in Indiana.  I blame the Spirit of James Dean.
  • The canyons are chiaroscuro cathedrals.  The silence within can be inhaled.  The quiet cools your lungs and quiets your mind.  Within those prehistoric corridors we were were like Millhauserian minions, compelled to seek our silent selves within the shadows of a mysterious nether-world.  When we emerged, we could hear every bird sing.

11 Responses to “Getaway 2010!”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Yes! The return of my favorite blog! Huzzah!

    OMG any kid’s name ending in “aden” puts my teeth on edge. I can’t say why, as there are so many annoying nonsense names out there, but if one more Caden or (and this is a real name one of my FB sorta-acquaintances gave her own son) DADEN is named I will go down the stony end, and I never wanted to go down the stony end.

    I was going to apologize to all of your readers who have named their children -aden, but no. No I do not. What’s the matter with you people?

    Great as always. *Snerk* @ coolness, nuchucks, ants and cornhole. Please write more! You have been missed.

  2. Mrs Meat Says:

    Yeah, Yeah, YEAH! I have been eagerly awaiting blog musings from the Goddess of Gaytheist.

    You make camping sound like so much fun when in reality I know communing with nature generally requires truckloads of insect repellent and untold rummaging around in the boot of the car for the fucking matches!

    Note to self: Do not ever call a child Braden – he will be a right shit.

  3. Larsy Says:

    Yay! You’re back!!! Awesome freakin’ post as always. Girl can WRITE, ya’ll! I think my favorite was the description of the girls buzzing your campsite. Awesome, awesome, post. Also, so sad that camping just ain’t what it used to be.

  4. Lesley Says:

    I have to totally agree with Kelly on the whole names ending in “aden” thing. Can’t people name their kids anything else! It’s too much.

  5. hellraisin Says:

    We accidentally stumbled upon a memorial to the forebear to all “aden”ly-named children while having pie and coffee at a greasy spoon not far from Turkey Run. Our booth bore a framed photo of a pissed-off-looking old man under which hung a bronze plaque that read “Uncle Aden’s Booth.”

  6. Kelly Says:

    “I saved Latin [significant pause]. What did you ever do?” Don’t you just love being able to embed stuff like this?

  7. hellraisin Says:

    I do. And Rushmore is my Rushmore.

  8. Rose Says:

    I’ve got a slow clap with your name on it. Welcome back!

  9. Balonicus Says:

    Great post, Melinda! Back in my Chambana days I spent many weekends camping and hiking at Turkey Run. I miss it (the park, not the camping). You’re right – the trails are terrific. Doesn’t sound like you canoed Sugar Creek, but that’s also fun if if the water’s up. Which reminds me, I DVRd Deliverance this weekend. Wooo-eeee!

    • hellraisin Says:

      Every time we crossed the river, we saw someone floating downstream, clinging to an overturned canoe. So we took a pass because that was clearly much more fun than we could handle.

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