(continued from Part 5)
(click pic to enlarge)
“That’s fine, Benjamin, you go ahead. Scare off the bears for the rest of us,” I joked. He was only seven, but big enough to tide a bear over until the rest of us got away.
He turned off the main trail and started up a short stretch of large rocks arranged like stairs. They led to the mouth of a small caved formed by an overhang.
Just a few steps up, he screamed a scream that echoed off the distant hillside. He was terrified and in pain. We rushed to him.
“It got me! It got me!” he yelled and cried.
“What did?” we all said.
But I knew. Based on his recent near-phobic reactions to and run-ins with flying, stinging insects, I knew. Something had stung him.
“It’s back here! It’s back here!” he yelled, pointing to the back of his upper right thigh.
“I think some briers or something like that poked him up through the leg of his shorts,” my dad said. It was possible, but I knew that despite his irrational fear, he would not react that strongly to a prick from a plant.
Benjamin’s cousin, also seven, started screaming. “It got me, too!” he shouted. I looked at him and saw a yellow-black blur on his left hand. My brother reached out and swatted it away.
My dad called out, “I think Ben stepped on a nest. Come on, get up here,” he said as he started back on the main trail.
We rushed the boys up to a crude bench beside the trail, while my brother explored a bit. Still crying, Benjamin sat gently, careful not to put weight on his right side. My dad and Shannon worked to slip off his shorts and make sure nothing else was inside them.
Just inches below his right buttock was a red welt around a tiny hole, but no stinger. “Must have been a yellowjacket,” I said. “They can get you more than once.”
Benjamin gathered himself and we helped wipe his tears. Just this summer he was stung by a bee while standing at the top of a poolside slide. This latest incident was not going to help allay his fears of any and all flying things smaller than birds.
Nevertheless, he dutifully posed with Shannon in one of my favorite formations in Alum Cove, and then perched next to his cousin on the low-hanging trailside bluff line. We aimed our cameras, but neither of the boys was in a mood to smile.
“Say ‘cheese,'” my wife suggested.
“Say… ‘butt sting!'” my brother said.
Uproarious laughter. For the next minute, neither boy could stop smiling and laughing, and I captured a nice series.
The two primary attractions at Alum Cove — the natural bridge and the uniquely carved bluffline, were as expected based on my previous trips there. The hike, sadly, was quite another story. Hundreds of trees had fallen in the huge ice storm in winter 2008-2009, and although volunteer crews had cleared the trail, the scene was bleak. We carefully skirted huge sinkholes in the trail left when trees uprooted themselves under the ice’s weight.
Plants bearing tiny purple flowers lined the trail, but drooped just enough to swipe my calves as I walked. This was something new thanks to the additional sunlight allowed through after the ice damage thinned out the forest’s canopy. It’s amazing how such an event can change the landscape.
After saying our goodbyes in the parking lot, we made a wrong turn, but it allowed us to see something we had missed the previous day — and more.
(Note: Anyone going to Alum Cove should know that as of 10/24/2010, the RAILING on top of the natural bridge WAS UNSAFE. At one spot the broken top rail did not connect to the post at all, and the whole thing was rickety. That said, you should NEVER LEAN against railing if its failure could mean injury or death.)
(to be continued)