This past weekend was another wonderful example for me, just why being a Dad is simply awesome. I got to go and spend a couple of nights in the woods, rain (& lots o’ mud) with my boys, and the rest of the Scouts & leaders who were there at our Spring Camporee. I had such a great time. They had such a great time. And to top it all off, Harrison, my eldest, was added to the roll of the Order of the Arrow (OA) which is the National Honor Society for the Boy Scouts. I was so very proud to be able to be there to witness his being “called out” and celebrate with him afterwards. The election took place back on February 8th (the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th Anniversary) and he was so hoping he’d be elected this time around, especially considering the special significance of that date. So was I. But they don’t tell anyone in advance the results of the election until the Callout ceremony during the Spring Camporee. I was on pins and needles when they were working their way through the J’s & K’s… then the L’s, and sure enough, they called his name. I was so very proud!
For those of you who don’t have sons old enough to participate in the program, or weren’t Scouts yourself (as I wasn’t – I was a Cub Scout, but never a Boy Scout), the OA is a special honor for those young men who are a part of it. They have to first achieve the rank of First Class, meet various requirements, and then be elected by their peers. Not everyone makes it, so it’s pretty cool that he did. THEN, after they are called out, they have to go through their “Ordeal” – which is a special weekend event just for the newest O.A. members. I’m not an adult member of the OA yet (I fell short of the required camping nights by 3 – but there’s always next year), so I can’t go to the Ordeal myself, but I’m very, very excited for him.
The theme for the Camporee was a medieval one, so Harrison’s Patrol called themselves the “Monks of Arimathea” and Matthew’s Patrol called themselves the “Black Knights”. Monty Python flies again! The Monks then went around camp between activities whacking themselves on the forehead with their wooden boards chanting “Pie Jesu domine, dona eis requiem” – they had so many of the adults just cracking up! It was awesome!
After our gourmet meal, it was time to hit Skyline Drive. While the total length of the drive in the park is around 100 miles, we would only be doing about 70 or so. The trees were just beginning to sprout buds, so we didn’t get to see as much color as we were hoping–much of the forest still looked dormant. On the plus side, this meant we’d be getting more views of the Shenandoah Valley than normal.
The road is a 2-lane road that winds up and down mountainsides, with pull-offs every so often affording scenic views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Appalachian Mountains to the west, and the Virginia lowlands to the east. Being a road engineer, I enjoyed seeing how they built the road into the sides of the slopes, trying to give maximum views while impacting the forest as little as possible. I couldn’t quite figure out the guardrail criteria, though. They would have miles of rock wall running parallel to the road, and then hit a sharp curve right around a steep drop-off, with no barrier whatsoever. Maybe this is the National Park Service’s version of a thrill ride.
Max speed was about 35 mph (oddly about the same as the Washington Beltway), so we wound slowly through the park for a couple of hours, stopping every so often for pictures. Right about the time the kids started asking if we were there yet, we pulled into the parking lot for the hike to Dark Hollow Falls.
The guidebooks listed this as a “moderate” 1.5-mile hike that followed a stream to the falls, which drop about 75′ and Thomas Jefferson himself once made the trip to view. What we got was a hike that was nearly as steep as the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, just with more water nearby. Maybe I’m just out of shape (likely), but this trail was “moderate” in the same way the electric chair is a “moderate” punishment. The problem we faced was the same: what goes down must eventually come back up. Still, we wanted to see the waterfall.
About 2/3 of the way down, we stopped by a little pool where the stream was wider and flatter. An Asian family stopped here as well. They were chattering away in their native language and didn’t appear to speak much English. I knelt down with Sarah and we started picking out smooth, flat stones. I started teaching her how to skip them across the water. I looked over, and the other dad was doing the same with his son. I guess some things are universal.
After a brief rest, we continued down the way and found the falls.
No doubt about it, the falls were worth the hike. With this being the beginning of spring, the snow-melt runoff was at its peak, and the water was gushing. Great spot to sit, rest, and enjoy creation.
After taking several dozen pictures, we started the hike back up. Scotty took about 3 steps and then declared he was too tired, and needed to be carried. I responded with loving, encouraging tones that, roughly translated, meant, “Suck it up, kid.” Naturally, whining eventually won out and I picked him up to carry him up the steeper parts of the trail. I made him walk on the flatter parts, which he wasn’t happy about. But this was hard work. It would have been hard enough hiking up by myself, but this kid was adding 40 lbs. of dead weight. I don’t know if you can tell from the pictures, but his head is huge. It’s off the growth charts in the doctor’s office. It’s like a bowling ball attached at the neck. Try hiking uphill with that sometime.
Thankfully, the other two kids didn’t complain (much), and after frequent breaks, we finally reached the parking lot. Extra cheese balls for everybody!
We made one more stop at the visitor center to stamp our National Park Passport (sort of like the Epcot passports). Then, we continued on, enjoying the drives and the views. Not so much the kids’ antics. Dave began messing around with a bottle of red Gatorade, figuring out how to blow into it to make noise. Eventually, this resulted in him dumping Gatorade all over the floor of the back seat. We stopped at the next pull-off and frantically began wiping everything with a paper towel. Dave thought this would be a good time to start climbing into the back of the van and sit on our luggage. With Dave, you don’t always ask “Why?”, you just kind of shake your head in bewilderment and move on.
We pulled into my relatives’ driveway around 7:30 that evening and were treated to pizza and ice cream (hey, we earned it with that hike). This was topped off with a dip in their hot tub, and the following brief conversation with Big Dave:
“You like the hot tub, Dave?”
“Oh, yeah. It’s the best part of the vacation.”
Great. Glad we spent so much time at the other places. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Coming Up Next: I gloss over 2 days of mostly driving where not much of interest happened. You won’t want to miss it!
After gaining some experience last week moving my wife’s law office to Google For Your Domain for her Email and Calendaring, I think it might be really useful here too. It has some benefits and some drawbacks – I’m going to try and lay them out as best I can here. Please add your comments below. I’ll make a decision about using Google For Your Domain here based on those comments.
Better Email management for disdads.com Email addresses. People would have control over setting their own passwords. I’m not particularly comfortable being the keeper of others’ Email passwords, but there’s no way to automate this using the current system.
Shared and Public Calendars – this would give us an easy way to share scheduled trips, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
Google Docs – would give us a place to share planning spreadsheets and other documents that currently get passed around via PM/Email
Limited to 50 accounts in the free version. We have over 400 DISDads, but accomodating everyone would force us from the free plan and into the paid plan, which even for a non-profit group would be over $1,200/year.
The few who already have DISDads Email accounts may have a day or so of inconvenience, while we wait for the switchover to GFYD to propagate across DNS
I don’t want to create any kind of sense of “tiered” membership. We’re ALL DISDads, and I don’t want to create conflict by being unable to accomodate everyone.
This week’s poll asks where you prefer to stay when visiting Walt Disney World. Obviously, the King Kamehameha suite would be awesome, but once you consider the cost, it’s probably not a realistic preference. So what kind of WDW accommodations do you prefer, and why?