I think I may have been 4 or 5 years old the time my dad and I got lost together. Apparently my father had the distractability of a five-year-old, even back then. So we can’t blame it on the alzheimers.
Back when we lived in Black Mountain, NC my family loved to take picnics up to LookOut Mountain. We ususally went with another family of kids. There were three of them and two of us and our ages and interests blended perfectly. The two families did everything together. By the way, I think every state with any mountains at all must have one peak named “lookout mountain” but for me, the one just outside of Montreat, NC is THE REAL LookOut Mountain.
It is not too hard a mountain to climb. I remember it being just a hard enough climb to keep my small, energetic four-year-old body interested but not daunted, so it couldn’t have been all that bad. At the time, I thought it was rugged and wonderful. There was even a perfect “canyon” to climb through for the final ascent. It had really steep sides that went up “really high” on each side and I remember that there were berries hanging over the edge. Of course the edge couldn’t have been too high, because I also recall my dad taking off his hat, picking the berries and putting them in his hat to carry to the top. Once there he would rinse them in a little brook and we would eat them with lunch.
Then on the way back down he would pick more and take them home where we would talk my mom into making fresh vanilla ice cream to put the berries in.
But that was all on the main trail. Once you got to the top you could find all kinds of other trails down. Most came out on the logging road that went around the mountain at about the halfway level. Some just went no-where, some went in a loop and would come back out on the top of the mountain. Us kids played in the shorter loops while the adults sat looking out at the view and chatting. The whole top of the mountain was covered in rhododendron bushes, so from our height perspective we had a canopy and lots of cave-like rooms to explore. And everything was lit in a leaf-green twilight.
One day my daddy and I went off exploring. I guess, looking back, he must not have told anybody we were wandering off. We just….well….wandered off.
From my perspective we were exploring. We were adventuring, climbing under trees and over rocks and around small outcroppings. Were we following a trail? maybe, I really don’t recall. We had a blast. I chattered constantly. We looked at rocks and bugs (this was back before I developed a terror of spiders and other creepy crawlies) and watching for small animals. We kept this up for hours and hours. Eventually we came to a place where daddy could see down a long avenue under the rhododendron bushes to where the logging road cut across the mountain. (looking back, I know now that we were already lost. Had been lost, probably for at least an hour or two. Daddy spent a long time looking for the trail down before we found our toboggan run. But never once did he let me know that he was lost.)
At this point he proposed that I sit on his lap and we would toboggan down the slope to the road. Would I like to do that? YES! I get to ride my daddy like he’s a sled! Of COURSE I would love this. How fun!
So we did. My daddy sat down in the wet leaves, put his tiny five-year-old on his lap and pushed off. Down the mountain we flew! zipping past bush after bush, all the time covered by a canopy of rhododendrons. It was gorgeous. and I’ll never forget it.
When we got to the logging road, I wanted to do it all over again. But of course we couldn’t. We had come a long way down the mountain and now we were on the boring old logging road. I was a bit nonplussed by that as I recall. And for the first time I realized I was tired. Yes dear readers, I’m afraid I got a bit cranky at this point. Nay, even bratty. Daddy eventually let me crawl up on his back and he set off walking along the road.
Eventually we met the search party…or rather ONE of the search parties.
Apparently my mother had freaked out when she realized Daddy and I were gone (this was before the cell phone era) and she had called out the police force and park ranger types to help find us. She was very angry with me for wandering off and she has never let my daddy forget that he “endangered” me.
But honestly, that is one of my favorite memories of my daddy.