The Ramblings of a Semi-Native West Virginian

By Richie Ellison

It has been a while since I recorded my exploits. I am sure that has been disappointing to all three of you who read this. I have been out and about as usual, but for the past month most activities have been child related; as I have a gaggle of three. I wanted to hit some of the high points.

For those of you who do not have children, you should know a few things. First of all, you are not a parent until you are outnumbered! (Not really, just checking to see if you're awake.) Now that I have your full attention, with kids you no longer "just go" anywhere. It takes an act of God to get my kids up, dressed and loaded during the regular work week. During a "stay home day," as Shep calls them, forget it.

There will definitely be a protest. It seems that staying home makes sense, right? Gives the kids time to play and rest. It is easier on the parent. NOT EVEN CLOSE. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is a constant, at least in the Ellison house. I find it is way easier to load up and go have adventures. At least one co-worker has picked up on this and asks me weekly where we went.

There are some undeniable truths in this world. As a Mobilian who knows nothing about Mobile, Alabama, but much about the Mountain State, it seems fairly common that people just do not care much about where they live. There are exceptions, but for the most part I have found this to be true. I am always surprised when I talk about going to Cass, the River trail, or the Wildlife Center and people have never been there. Denver nailed it when he sang "Almost Heaven," even if he did not write it.

Early in May, the family loaded up and went to Hawks' Nest. It is nestled in the mountains of Fayette County near Fayetteville (and more importantly Pies and Pints, the best pizza shop ever invented), for those who are not familiar. I recently purchased a backpack carrier for Lucie (who is almost two). Shepherd is four and full of energy. Georgia is 10 and capable of walking, although she gripes more than the little ones. In a rare turn of events, my beautiful wife Rosslyn was off work, so she too was there.

We walked the Hawks' Nest Trail. It is about two miles each way and mostly flat. It is beautiful.

The hike starts by crossing a bridge over a beautiful creek. It may be a river, please pardon my ignorance. I will say, however, some of what you Mountaineers call a river looks a lot like the creeks back home, but I digress. The weather was overcast, but otherwise pleasant. We got some awesome pictures and continued on the trail.

I have a hat. Not just any hat. It is a super awesome, full brimmed, Indiana Jones style hat. It has been on countless hikes, float trips, fishing trips, deer and turkey hunts; you get the idea. I was wearing the hat on this hike, but Shep looked great in it, so I allowed him to wear it. I had Lucie on my back, anyway.

We had gone maybe 1/4 of a mile when he decided to release the hat into the wild. That's right, it tumbled about 50 feet straight down an escarpment. My wife looked on in total shock, and then said something reasonable like, "Guess we will have to buy you another hat."

Not on this day and not with this hat! I chose to retrieve it. I should point out a few things here. I am wearing sandals and shorts. I have zero experience rock climbing. I am generally accident prone. Nevertheless, I descended.

It only took a few feet to realize I had bitten off more than I could chew. No turning back now. Man points were at stake and my family was watching. I wish I had a good picture of it. Roz could have taken one, but was too busy checking for cell service, so she could call 911. She did not realize there wasn't any, or that I had the keys to the van in my pocket.

Miraculously, I made it down without injury. It took a few minutes to locate the hat, probably because the root I had a death grip on kept shifting. Luckily, I saw it. I managed to shimmy over to it; even more luck. In addition to climbing down 50 feet, I also had to go laterally about the same. This meant my trip back up was going to be different than the descent. I was pleasantly surprised thus far.

I started up. The first root snapped. I caught myself, hugged a rock and said a prayer. God listened and blessed me with a solid footing. I am not exaggerating when I say I was grabbing fistfuls of earth and kicking my legs like a newborn to make it up the side of this mountain. I did make it!

Side note: even though I rolled across tons of poison ivy, I never broke out. Even though I reached blindly around many rocks, I was never bitten. Thank you, Dad, I know that was you.

When I flopped back on the trail my crew was in disbelief of what they just watched. I wish this were true, because I looked so cool, but most likely it was the guttural sounds I made while climbing.

We continued on the trail to the New River. It was beautiful, for about a second. Then, it started pouring rain. Therefore, we hiked two miles back soaking wet, with the small kids screaming. It was stressful at the time. I have had a couple of weeks to reflect on our trip, though, and I have realized a few things.

1. Shep has to get his own hat.

2. Children will always have a moment in a day, sometimes several, where they totally lose it. Accept it and move on.

3. West Virginia is beautiful, but family is what makes the trips we take truly awesome.

4. The unexpected things that change the trips are usually what end up making them.

When Shepherd tossed my hat I was upset. Looking back, retrieving that hat created an awesome memory, the kind I believe will last the rest of my life. As you go through your week, try to appreciate the unexpected things that happen, because never deviating from the path is boring. It is those unexpected things that make life rich. Until next time, Y'all take care.

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Copyright 2017 by Richie Ellison. All rights reserved.