This past weekend we decided to take off. We needed to get away from our self-made daily stresses and enjoy some fall feeling to the air. We packed up our travel trailer, hooked it up to our diesel and death-fumes-emitting Excursion to haul it, pointed the nose north and headed up to apple country for Tradd’s 4 days off. As with everything we do, there’s always the opportunity to learn, even when it’s not officially a “school day.” Often times, it’s the non-school lessons that are the most important ones in life. This trip was no different.
The first day we went to an orchard to hand-pick apples ourselves. Of course, we weren’t alone. There were tons of people there doing the same thing, but we enjoyed it anyways. We sampled different flavors, discussed the qualities of each type of apple, and noted how harvest times varied according to apple type and why that would be. Real life has a funny way of teaching us more than we ever set out to learn though.
While at the orchard, we crossed paths with an elderly woman who nearly passed out on the path back to the barn to pay for her apples. The girls and I watched our firefighter-paramedic gently assist another gentleman in guiding the woman back up the long hill to safety. The girls asked me a ton of questions and had noted in the few seconds we saw her, that her breathing was ragged and shallow. She was wheezing some. She appeared confused and she looked like all she wanted to do was lie down on the road and sleep. Observant children! When Tradd returned to us, he had a full run-down of the woman’s medical issues that caused her the problems and he explained how each medical problem related to the various signs the girls had noticed.
The next day, we sought out a trail for hiking. As luck would have it, nature struck again! Except this time it was in the form of a yellow jacket. Yikes! As we hiked, we stepped over a yellow jacket nest at the base of a tree, but none of us noticed it. That is, until my 7-year-old got a little ways down the path, grabbed her pants leg at the knee, and started screaming, “Ouch! It’s stinging me! It’s stinging ME!!!!” Tradd and my oldest daughter instantly thought it was a snake, so they started scanning the ground with their eyes.
I was directly behind my little one and had been watching her step carefully over some rocks and I knew I hadn’t seen a snake, so I thought spider or ant. Since she’s kind of a tough nut though, I knew it had to be bad. After finishing our quick, few-second eye scans of the area and seeing no immediate dangers, my older girls took off their sweatshirts and circled around my youngest and me as she balanced in her socked-feet on my shoes and we whipped off her pants to inspect the sting and make sure nothing was still crawling around in her pants. The threat was definitely gone, but she had two large welts forming: one on her knee and one on her hand from grabbing it through her pants leg after the first sting. As we did this, my FF backtracked up the trail just a bit and found where the yellow jackets were zooming into and out of their underground nest, buried at the base of a tree.
We learned a few lessons from this incident:
- Yellow jackets nest underground and usually you only identify their nest location if you notice them flying in and out, or if you make them mad with your close proximity and they attack. (For anyone who thinks, “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you,” we are a family of beekeepers and know that this holds true for honey bees. But yellow jackets are a different and much angrier breed of insect.)
- Our attempts to train the girls to act rather than react in painful or panic situations must have sunk in some! They pulled together well. They scanned for immediate threats. They quickly analyzed what the possibilities were and eliminated them as they gathered information from their senses. They did this all in just a few seconds, while shedding their own sweatshirts and circling their vulnerable and half-naked sister to ease her pain and embarrassment however they could. I love these girls!
- The fact that we chose a hiking trail that was along the path of a bicycle-hiking tour wasn’t a bad thing after all. While we usually try to be prepared for things, I had forgotten to take my backpack on the weekend trip. It usually holds water, snacks, and basic first-aid stuff if we hike. Since I forgot the pack, all first-aid supplies were back in our truck at the trail head. But, the nice group of bicyclists from Illinois who hiked past with their bikes, were kind as could be and willing to stop for a few minutes to let us borrow some Sting-Away and a Benadryl just in case. Yay, for the prepared bicyclists! Boo, for the poorly-prepared Mommy and Firefighter.
- Even though a hike may start out with a yellow jacket nest and sting identification lesson, the adrenaline rush of the stung child is enough to power her through the rest of the hike just fine.
We saw some beautiful waterfalls, took pictures at them, and learned that those falls were featured in several movies, including Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games. Beauty abounds, even after a beastly beginning for the day.
Storm also found a perfect doormat in the town of Chimney Rock; one of our favorite little towns ever!
Kacy found a hat she just loved, too! Can't you tell?
We finished the trip with a hike across Chimney Rock and Lake Lure's Flowering Bridge. It was a lovely joint effort of the entire community's pride and passion for their little community.
We need these! The honeybees love them. Mexican Sage and Pineapple Sage.