The kids helped me pack supplies for the day: water, gummies, pop tarts, a Harry Potter book, hand warmers, a loupe, bandaids. My son threw in his fire-starter knife, you know, just incase. Not my standard backpack-o-survival but it would surely get us through the day. Our friend, Erin, met us in Broadway and we headed to Skyline Drive via 211/Luray. The Whiteoak trail was solid ice at first. My daughter hit the deck after three steps…but we laughed it off and kept moving, staying in the brush and stepping toward exposed earth. My son, on the other hand, charged forward. Slipping, sliding, hurdling, clanking sticks, climbing to the tallest points…my little goat…setting my stomach into fits of somersaults. Boys…middle school boys. Lord help ’em. We noticed some large tracks on the trail. And now that I review the photos, maybe they are a bit larger in my head than in real life. I tend to lean toward exaggeration…it’s more fun. That day though, I was thankful I didn’t have cell service. I would’ve googled the paw prints and convinced myself they were the print of a timber wolf…and that’s pretty unlikely. Right? …right?! Ella declared herself “Detective Cheetah” and inspected the prints with the loupe she brought along. Her prediction: a ghost cat. The paw prints led to some interesting conversations about ghost cats, ghost catnaps, animal use of man-made trails, animal communication and relationships compared to that of humans. The mountain is a great place to ask such questions and not expect answers. So we did a lot of that. Just as the kids started getting a little antsy…we could hear the roar of the falls. I’ll never forget my son’s face when he stood on the rock and looked out at Whiteoak Canyon. For a split second, he was all kid again. In awe of nature. Stoked. I can’t bottle that pure emotion but I aim to keep setting up moments like that for my children. We didn’t want to leave but the sun would be getting low soon. We finished our snacks and retraced our steps, content with new memories in our bank.
These protein balls are the perfect hike snack. They’re super easy and delish. Here’s the recipe.
And the tree was happy.