Sunday, August 24, 2008


We just spent the last three days and two nights camping up in the mountains by a river. The first night we were one of only two families in the entire place and it was heaven.

There were several handfuls of cicada to keep the trees buzzing during the day, but as soon as the sun set out came the bell crickets. Gorgeous. If I didn't have a rock under my ass I'd have slept like a princess.

J took his most favorite of all best friends Y. Y moved away four years ago, but the two still keep in touch (mostly by letters that consist of cutting out strange pictures from magazines, gluing them to paper and adorning them with funny captions). At 13-years of age they were real troopers. After we got the tents set up they scampered around plucking enormous stag beetles from the trees and carrying them deeper into the forest to protect them from the nets and curious hands of the younger campers across the way. They shooed away snakes and used the bathroom without so much as a nod at the spiders, moths, and other creepy crawlies that lived alongside the lights.

And then came the inchworm.

"Fear ME!"

Day two's morning was spent hiking over a suspension bridge and carefully carrying fallen chestnuts back to camp ("I'll roast or boil or fry them. With this much protection they gotta taste good."). We enjoyed a lunch of stir fried vegetables and thinly sliced pork before we headed out to the river where we spent three hours throwing rocks, swimming, sunning, reading.

Tired and warm we reached camp and had an hour or two before dinner preparations so the kids decided to retire to their tent and laze around for a bit. I could hear them catching up on a year's worth of gossip while I dug into my new Tobias Wolff book.

Then it happened.

I heard a gasp, a squeal, another squeal followed by screams of terror and almost immediately the sound of two tough teens shrieking like little girls as they tried their damnedest to unzip and flee a tent as quickly as possible.

"You didn't see it?" Y is panting, jumping up and down, and running his hands frantically up and down his body.

"No, how big was it?" J says mimicking the universal bug-removal dance.

"It was on your hand. How could you not see it?" Y removes his shirt starts shaking it.

"Was it huge? What color was it?" J is examining his hand for signs of damage, feeling his pockets just in case it decided to slip in there.

"HUGE! With red and white and bluish-green stripes!"

"What was it?" I get up from my chair to see if they are okay, but I don't get too know, just in case whatever it was could leap great distances and squirt poison from its fangs.

"An inchworm!"

I laughed. They were not amused.

The next hour was spent removing everything from the tent piece by piece and performing a thorough Inchworm Check.


They weren't satisfied, so I volunteered to go in and look around. Nothing. They sat and went over the story again and again. I couldn't help but notice the bug kept getting bigger and bigger with added colors with each retelling. Another search was performed and then it was deemed too dark to be pulling sleeping bags out and shaking them....lest the intruder's family gain entry.

For the rest of the evening the two sat making sudden wiping motions when a leaf blew across a forearm or a long piece of grass grazed a shin. Occasionally, one would stand and ask, Is it on my back?

I kept asking why an inchworm was scary when bigger, more evil looking insects were okay. The answer was proximity and awareness. As long as you know where a bug is everything is peachy keen but have one of those things take a stroll down your forearm without your consent...

I had to agree.

Eventually they recovered though and we had a lovely dinner of burgers, hot dogs and roasted potatoes (those chestnuts never did get cooked or eaten).

The second night we had something much worse than inchworms...a man who spent half the night lecturing his son and the other half, snoring, talking in his sleep and farting. All of which echoed so nicely off the mountains.

Oh, and I found this in the riverbed: a rock shaped like a peace symbol. Like a sign from the universe why can't we just all get along? Cool.