From Chapter One - Family Getaway
“Oh, kids, I’m so glad to finally be on vacation. I have such a good feeling about this trip. I think we are going to have a wonderful adventure,” Mom says in a day-dreamy voice.
You’re not going to have an adventure by standing around all day, I think. “Let’s go!”
My bark pulls Mom out of her reverie, “Okay, Toby. Let’s get hiking.”
We follow the trail over an old footbridge that crosses a bubbling brook. The water swirls around the rocks as it rushes past. I keep my nose as close to the old wooden boards as possible, to see if I can catch a glimpse of a fish swimming in the gurgling water. I am ready to jump over the side if I see one. What a great first meal in the woods that would be!
The trail is narrow and rugged immediately after the small bridge, with no room to walk side by side. I get stuck walking behind Mom. She walks so slowly. The back of her legs bump my nose with each step. I figure that if she feels me right on her heels, she will pick up the pace. No such luck.
The tall grasses and weeds edge the trail, and the rocks jab through and poke up randomly. Every couple of steps, I hear one of the family stub a toe and stumble. People with their two legs make me laugh. They always have such a hard time keeping their balance.
I smell him in the air before I hear him speak. He blends in with the woods, and I know that he is from around here. “Good morning,” he says, as we approach.
Before I poke my head around Mom’s leg to see who has spoken, she whips out the leash with astounding speed and expertly latches my collar. She is like a rodeo cowboy who stealthily strips a bull’s freedom away with a slip of the rope. I had no idea she could move that fast!
I guess the man works for the park, and she does not want to get caught with me off leash. I should have seen it coming.
“Good morning,” Derek replies. “Mighty fine day, isn’t it?”
“Quite so,” the man responds. The tan cargo shorts and the Killarney Park T-shirt confirm my guess. He is one of the park rangers. “May I see your permit, please?”
Derek searches through his front pants pockets, then the back ones, then through the side pockets. He pulls out paper and maps and his wallet and a bunch of odds and ends. He looks perplexed at not finding the permit. Just as he is about to give up and return to the car to look for it, Mom calmly hands a small paper past Derek to the ranger. “Here it is.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” he replies politely.
The ranger examines the permit carefully. His eyebrows crease and he looks serious. “I see that you are heading in for a five-night stay. That’s a fair hike you have planned, and quite aggressive for the young ones. You’re sure the children are up for a trip like that?”
“You bet your bottom dollar, they are. They are fine athletes and well-oiled machines,” Mom chuckles. Grinning, she adds, “It’s me you should be worried about.”
Shifting his weight nervously from one leg to the other, the ranger advises, “I must let you know that there has been some bear trouble in the interior. We’re keeping watch. Nothing too alarming, mind you, but you should keep your eyes open.”
“What should we look out for?” Derek inquires.
“Any sign of a bear—scat, footprints, claw marks, a visual, anything. Be alert. The season has not been particularly good to them this year, and they are hungry. They are quick to learn that campers are a fairly easy source of food. So please take precautions.”