When I think of Summer vacation places, there's only one away-from-home place that really comes to mind: the Allegheny Mountains, where my family has spent a week every year for the last six (or possibly more) years. It's a beautiful area, probably my favorite place in the world after my own home. I'm not an outdoorsy, camping-type girl; I don't like dirt or bugs, and "going outside" usually means "going out to sit and read on my back deck in the sunshine." But up in the mountains, well, I make exceptions . . .
Hiking trails criss-cross half the forest up there, ranging from easy and flat to impossibly steep. Some are so short you can walk them in an hour and then go look for something else to fill the rest of your morning. Some seem to go on and on, seemingly unending, though you know, logically, that you have to end sometime. And some go up and up until you wonder if you'll reach the clouds, even though you've hiked other trails on this mountains and you know they don't go that high.
Some are green with new life, and ferns and grass and branches half-conceal the path and leave your pants and shirt wet when you push past them. And some are brown and ancient, seemingly as old as the world itself.
But the best trails, the ones you know you have to do again next year, are the ones that wake your Tookish side and make you feel as if you're on a quest, not just a hike. The ones that make you wish you had a sword at your side rather than a camera, and where you half-expect to find hidden doors in trees and strange creatures 'round the next turn. These may look different from year to year; it's all in what catches your imagination's fancy. But you know you'll try them again the next year if you can, because the feeling of being on an adventure for a little while is a beautiful one, and you want to feel it again . . .
And even when it's hot, you don't mind especially, because it's five times more interesting than the range at home- after all, targets at that range don't move when you hit them; they just get full of holes. And there's something new every year to shoot at, from golf balls (hard to hit, but they swing around wonderfully) to old bowling pins (nearly impossible to damage) to that giant container of old, partially used crayons (best shot with a pellet rifle and a scope) that you'll never use up by normal means because you and your sister have grown out of coloring and you like colored pencils better anyway. And your tastes shift from the first day, when you want to try everything to mid-week when you have bottles and cans filled with ice, which are even more interesting than the empty ones, to the end of the week when you pick whatever will give you the most interesting reaction and you can usually hit without too much trouble.
And in the evenings you go back to the cabin for dinner, which is unfailingly something on the grill. And while dinner's cooking, your dad and sister and sometimes your grandpa shoot more, now with BB and pellet guns at cans hung in trees. Sometimes you go and join them, but usually you don't, because you're tired and half the evenings you're caught up in a book anyway and you want to finish. Or, if you're not, you're far more interested in playing cards with your grandpa and pretending you have more than a snowball's chance in a blazing wildfire at winning.
And after dinner, there's usually more of the same- except on the night when you go out driving on the back roads in search of deer. Then you creep along at ten miles an hour or less, and at first you think "Hey, I like this. If all the driving I had to do was like this, I'd enjoy it a lot more." But darkness slowly closes in, and your mind turns from deer to other dangers, and you're split between keeping your eyes on the patch of road illuminated by your headlights and silently praying because this feels like the start of a horror movie and certain people won't stop talking about the almost-cliff to your right. Eventually, though, you do get home, and you're so relieved you almost don't have words for it.
Of course, some nights after dinner there's a campfire. Sometimes it's not a proper campfire, just a little blaze or heap of glowing coals in your grandpa's charcoal grill, but that's fine with you, because the marshmallows taste just the same. Other times, it's a real fire out in the firepit just within the woods behind the cabin, and that's better, because it feels a bit like an adventure, and because it makes toasting the marshmallows more fun. But before long, just like when you were driving, the shadows fall, and you can only eat so many marshmallows to help you forget that fact. And as the night grows more absolute, every rustle in the woods sounds like a bear or a mountain lion, and the monsters in the books you've been reading seem more and more real even though you know they're not. So you make an excuse about needing to get a shower before bed and run back to the cabin where it's safe and warm and light.
And you tell yourself each time you climb into bed that you'll sleep in the next morning because you've stayed up late every night this week. Six-thirty the next morning, though, finds you awake and getting ready for the day, because you have at least an hour before your family gets up, there are books and audiobooks and notebooks in your backpack, and the porch swing and the morning breeze are calling your name. It's cold out there, yes, but it's nothing long sleeves and a hot mug of tea can't solve. So you lose yourself in a story until your family calls you in for breakfast.
And another day's begun.
What are your favorite vacation places? Please tell me in the comments or make your own Random Fridays post!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)