Our Spring Break trip was jinxed from the start.
The downward spiral started one hour into the drive when we hit stand-still traffic. Power lines had fallen across the highway so it was closed in both directions. People got out of their cars to stand in the road and stare angrily at the stopped traffic in front of them. This turned our 5.5 hour trip to Arkansas into an 8 hour drive. The rain found us not long after the traffic jam and followed us for 2 straight days. Fog joined the party as we drove up the mountain and we were soon socked in like a creepy Stephen King story. My Dad came to meet us but the fog was so thick, my husband had to usher him into our driveway with an iPhone flashlight.
We had rented the house on top of Petit Jean Mountain because of the sweeping views it promised. This is what we saw for 2 days.
We kept to our plans and went hiking anyway. We sought out Petit Jean’s grave at the top of the mountain and listened to the cows mooing in the valley below. We could hear them but we couldn’t see a thing. My daughters tormented me by dancing along the rocky cliffs, completely unaware of the terrible drops they were courting.
We tried fishing the next day but temperatures had dropped. The wind picked up as well and blew stinging rain into our faces as we squished worms onto hooks. Then something incredible happened.
My family showed up.
Aunts, Uncles and Cousins all drove up the mountain to find us and the fog briefly lifted. They directed us to a beautiful waterfall and the rain even stopped. We went back to our rental and could finally enjoy the views we’d read about on VRBO. Beer was iced down and hot dogs grilled and suddenly it was like a family gathering from my childhood.
I was laughing in the kitchen with my Aunt Margaret when she said, “With all the fog and skeletal remains, I guess you won’t be coming back anytime soon!”
“Yeah, didn’t you hear about the bones they found up here the other day? Hikers discovered a human skull by the trail.”
Oddly enough, I HAD heard the story but didn’t realize the body was found on that very mountain.
It was getting late and the last day of our vacation so we decided to try one more hike. Most of my family chose to stay back with the beer but we loaded up two cars and set out. We were looking for a bear cave that contained Native American pictographs but the gate to that area was closed. The road next to it was partially blocked by a handmade sign that read “DO NOT ENTER! VIOLATORS WILL BE ARRESTED,” but my cousin sped down the road anyhow. My husband followed him and we all assumed that he knew of a secret, separate cave entrance.
Moments later though my husband said, “Wait, that’s not your cousin.”
The car we were following had pulled up to a ramshackle house and the driver was stomping our way. My husband rolled down the window and offered a friendly “Hi there!”
This however, was NOT a friendly dude.
“ARE YOU TRYING TO GET ARRESTED?”
“DIDN’T YOU SEE THE SIGN? DO NOT ENTER! HE’S CALLING THE STATE TROOPER NOW!”
The man gestured to a person none of us could see.
“ARE YOU TRYING TO SEE THE BODY?”
The car went silent.
“THERE ARE HUMAN REMAINS SCATTERED ALL OVER THE PLACE BACK THERE!”
This is when I yelled out, “Hey, we’ve got kids in the car!”
I thought he might be scaring the little ones in the backseat but truth-be-told, they were loving the show.
There was more crazy sputtering and screaming but my husband had thrown it in reverse and we were gone. We drove back to the rental in the fog and rain and in a fit of giggles.
We awoke the next morning to crystal-clear skies and enjoyed them for a brief hour before departing.
“I think Petit Jean is happy we’re leaving,” my youngest said as we packed the car. I’d thought the same thing when I saw the birds and squirrels frolicking in the yard.
We had fun in spite of Petit Jean though (Who might have been the very first Stalker. You can read about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_Jean_State_Park). Neither the rain nor fog, not even the human remains could ruin our Spring Break because we had each other and that’s all we really need.
We gave good-bye hugs to my Dad and started home, but as we drove down the mountain, a small voice came from the backseat,
“Before we leave…since it’s so nice outside…can we go look for the body?”