Getting away

As I’m sure you know by now, I live with four girls. Life for me is pretty much what you’d imagine it to be. Like the Borg, my family has assimilated this once proud, testosterone pumping male into the collective; and like the Borg, resistance was futile.

I used to whizz outside, now I make sure the seat is back down before I leave the bathroom. I used to scrub engine grime off of my hands, now I scrub fingernail polish stains out of the carpet. I used to eat cereal over the sink. Last Tuesday I caught myself wondering if I was using the right fork for my salad. I used to wear boxer shorts around the house on lazy mornings. Now I wear sweats or pajama bottoms, so that I don’t hear “ewww, Daa-ad!!” every time I cross and uncross my legs.

I used to make beer runs. Now I make tampon runs. I shudder to think what life will be like when all four of them start cycling at the same time. I figure I’ll just hide in the bathroom, while they scrape their claws down the door and chant “daaaadeeeee….. coooommme oouuuttt….” like that chick from the Exorcist.

Most of my money goes to jeans and earrings and boy-band CDs. Most of my time goes to killing spiders.

Have you seen me?

I used to be comfortable being a little chilly. Now, I wage a battle with the girls over the thermostat. No matter what the actual temperature is, to a girl, it’s always too cold. Like guerillas, they lay in wait, biding their time, just waiting to pounce on the thermostat and jack the furnace up to 80 degrees. Sometimes they’ll get crafty, and outflank me on a distraction maneuver. “Keep him away from the thermostat for a minute. I don’t care how; cry or something.”

I once rushed the stage at a Cinderella concert. The last concert I went to was a piano recital. I was thinking about rushing the stage, but one look from my daughter told me, “do it, and I’ll cut you in your sleep.” And that was the middle child. The older one would have helped to get rid of the body.

So you can imagine how I jumped at the chance to go away for a weekend with the guys. The four of us - who I’ll call XOJoe, BackDoorBoy, CheeseStache, and yours truly, theMonkey (known to the guys as BigBoyBlue) - loaded up a truck and headed into Beverl - er, Appalachian country, specifically, the Monogahela National Forest in northeastern West Virginia.

Autumn in West Virginia.
Clicky for the big picture (2 MB) - you’ll get lost in an explosion of color.

You know you’re headed into the wild when one of the guys in the back says, “Crap! I forgot to bring my bear mace!!” Go figure. He’s worried about bears, I’m worried about coming across Lonny the Banjo kid.

Packing was light. Lots of firewood, white gas, adult beverages, and the poker chips.

And no girls.

Seneca Rocks - an outcropping of sandstone and sedimentary rock.
Clicky for large.

For four days, we slept in the woods. We ate deer meat, using only our fingers. We drank whisky. We let ourselves get really cold, then poured white gas directly onto the campfire. We passed gas, and the fire blazed even brighter. We hiked. One of our hikes was to the top of Spruce Knob, the highest point in the Chesapeake Watershed, about a mile in altitude.

Looking east from near the summit of Spruce Knob.
Clicky for large.

The only trees that can support the constant, strong gusts at the summit are red spruce. They wrap their bony roots around huge boulders of sandstone, anchoring themselves tightly. Over the decades, the branches get deformed by the strong winds, only growing on one side of the trunk.

Red spruce, deformed from the winds.
Clicky for large.

Back at camp, we lazed around, and talked about sports, cars, and whether to allow a four-flush to play in between one and two pairs. BackDoorBoy, the experienced hunter in our group, taught us how to recognize different animal trails. We slept when we felt like it, with nobody complaining about how cold or hot it was. Each was responsible for his own comfort. One evening, as he was digging through his pack, Cheesestache exclaimed, “Crap! I forgot to pack my gloves,” and the collective response from the other three was something along the lines of: “Doofus.”

During another hike, XOJoe and I ventured out onto the five-foot wide knife edge of sandstone that makes up Seneca Rocks, recklessly ignoring the sign at the end of the trail that said “DANGER!! You are responsible for your own safety!”

XOJoe not being safe or responsible from the 5-foot-wide knife edge of Seneca Rocks. He is standing at the highest point visible on the rocks seen in the image three pictures above. Clicky for large.

We returned home as a group of dirty, smelly guys, still a bit lightheaded from the altitude and alcohol, scratching our chins and necks from scruffy beards. We unpacked, shared a last beer, then headed back to reality with our families.

My girls rushed me at the door, but were stopped by the invisible wall of odor that enveloped my body. A comfortable cocoon of stink, as it were.

After the greetings, I took my boots off and checked the thermostat. Yep. 78 degrees. I dropped it to 68, then headed upstairs to scrub and shave the week away.

More pictures:
Spruce Knob Lake: (Med | Large - 2MB)
WV meadow: (Med | Large - 2MB)
Shadows play across moss and sandstone: (Med | Large - 2MB)
View from top of Seneca Rocks: (Med | Large - 2MB)
Panorama from the summit of Spruce Knob: (Large | Very large - 4MB)

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