On Friday we packed up the trailer and headed out north for the long weekend. Our destination was the Coulee region. It is an area that we have never been and so we aimed to explore.
We pulled in early evening to our campspot.
AB and I rolled our eyes a little. Yes, I told them the trailer was 26' long - actually I fibbed and said 30', because I wanted to make sure there was extra room. But we were alloted a narrow sliver for our trailer, a picnic table and a firepit. No more. And strict dog rules. Sigh.
I told AB we wouldn't be there much - we planned to be out exploring!
Our first evening there we got to know our neighbors across the way. The brought over shots of Jagermeister for AB and I - which I hadn't done since college. We talked trailers, we talked fish and when they were up yapping and partying till midnight, I can't say I was as irritated as if we hadn't gotten to know them a bit. Super nice people.
We got up Saturday morning and headed to the Grand Coulee Dam. AB and I were thrilled to finally see the monstrosity and the kids just were along for the ride. We arrived, joined a tour and I saw a different side of my kids, particularly Leif.
He was enthralled, in rapture, completely devoted to learning the details of the dam and doing math in his head to figure out the numbers that our (drama major failure - according to AB) tour guide was spewing. He took it all in. Eyes were wide.
By the end of the tour I am pretty sure Leif knew more about it then I did since I spent so much of the time amazed with his need for information.
We picnicked and then headed back to the campground intent on a few diversions on the way back. Dry Falls - where my miniature scholar read every single panel describing the lava flows, ice age floods and the animals that perished as a result (favorites being the wooley mammoth and the saber tooth cat skull at the visitor center).
We contemplated doing something else that late afternoon, but decided to have a leisurely afternoon back at the trailer, mostly thanks to the kid's request.
We got back and noted a bunch of "kids" (ok - probably 20-somethings) now in the other spots on the other side of us. I was sure they were up to no good - then I admired their very organized camping methods with Rubbermaid bins, I felt for the woman with the about 4 month old (I remember camping with Skadi at four months - that was my last time in a tent.)
Then our kids did something unlike them. They wandered off.
In little time Leif had joined a badmitton game with other 1st and 2nd graders. Skadi had found two girls and was requesting her swim suit and life jacket.
And AB and I were left sitting by ourselves.
Of course, I picked up my Kindle and went to the "swim beach" to sit and watch Skadi in the water. AB chatted with the neighbors, he wandered the campground and finally ended up at the swim beach with me.
Leif met another boy his age named Jonathen from Seattle and they became inseperable. The boys came to the trailer with Leif requesting his fishing pole and the two spent hours over the weekend standing on the docks fishing together, helping each other get knots out, casting to the exact preferred spots and discussing the merits of each of their techniques.
I don't know what happened this week, but my view of my son? Completely changed. He is a kid who can pick up his fishing pole, wander off, check in when he is supposed to and be his own kid. He is... ummm... Independent?
(Nope, he never caught anything, the lake we were camped on was not stocked that spring due to budget cuts.)
So I mentioned rattlesnake in the title, didn't I?
Despite AB's and my desire to get away from the clogged in, packed in like sardines campground we were at, we didn't get out much. The kids had made friends and were seeking to maximize that time with their new buddies.
We did make it out to fish a stocked lake and catch and cook one trout - which Leif declared as the best tasting fish EVER. Then on Monday, we got up and started packing up while the kids (looking like complete ragamuffins) ran off to be with their friends.
Once we had everything packed up and had decided on the Gingko Petrified Forest for a drive home attraction, we begged the kids to return to us.
Leif returned with tears about departing from his new friend Jonathen. I scribbled a note out and sent Leif back with it detailing our e-mail address and he returned with a similar note in response. And no more tears.
We got in the car, noisy neighbors helped guide us out - because men and trailers... well suffice to say I could sit comfortably in the car while Hans was effectively steered out by loads of testosterone.
Oh, I didn't say, but the young kids I expected to party all night? Yeah, no, I was wrong. Way wrong. In bed early and then distributed their load of split firewood to any and all who were staying beyond Monday. Yes, my lesson learned - looks can be deceiving.
We drove finally to the Petrified Forest. For years I had been wanting to go there. Yes, I am an amateur rock hound and love anything of ancient times.
We walked along with the dogs looking down into rock cairns with steel grates covering the petrified woods. I longed for my chunk of petrified wood lost when I was 13 due to a rock collection mishap (ok, the rock collection fell out of my closet and onto the head of the woman who was helping my mom pack the house up - and my mom tossed the collection in its entirety. I still haven't recovered.)
We had been talking about snakes all along because Freya was obsessed with them and while fishing the day before had cornered a number of bull snakes and according to the kids was bitten once.
Leif and Winny were leading the way.
They passed a rock cairn and I was directly behind on the very narrow path. I stopped dead when I heard the rattle. Leif stopped as did Winny. I couldn't see where Leif was and I yelled at him to walk forward, quickly. He did, exactly as ordered, looking back and saying, "mom, it's a rattlesnake, a big one, right there."
I edged forward and peeked over the cairn and saw it. I put it at 3' long with a solid 1.75" diameter. One foot - at most from the trail.
AB and I calmly and rationally thought about this.
Ok, I can't lie. I freaked.
I grew up in rattlesnake country and remember when my dad would bring home rattles from working in the mines. Or being out camping and finding a rattlesnake and someone dropping a rock on its head. It wasn't uncommon.
But my son! My son was within a foot of at least the tail!
Another couple came along and confirmed for my husband that I was not just a completely crazed lunatic. Confirmed that yes, the snake was there, though now, coiled up and about 3' off the narrow trail.
They helped us forge a trail down and around the snake, giving it a wide berth and joining our son on the other side.
"You know it's tail Leif?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"How many buttons did it have?" I asked.
"12-15," he said.
He vividly described the diamondback pattern, said his heart was pounding and talked about little else the whole way home.
And that... is the rattlesnake story.