Saturday morning we packed the van and went to beautiful Mt. Charleston, just a little northwest of the valley. Settling into the Kyle Canyon campground, we knew we’d gotten lucky: it was perfect. After setting up the tent and unpacking our basic provisions, we enjoyed a a lunch of hot dogs grilled on the barbecue. It was still warm enough for only a light sweater. When lunch was done, we started gathering firewood, the kids hunting all around the mountainside for good, dry wood, bringing back armfuls at a time.
We hiked up especially intriguing pass, the little kids impressing me with how well they navigated the steep slopes, and my older boy scrambling up a nearly sheer face off to the right. By the time we crested the area we had our eyes on, we could see the road up to another area of the mountain several miles away.
Here’s something that I learned up there: gray is gorgeous. The family joined me off and on for leaning back against the hood and windshield of the car to look up at the sky and watch the clouds slide by overhead, seemingly only a few feet away. They were the best kind of clouds: like a cottony blanket whose mild, medium, moderate grayness treats the background blue like a lampshade and gives the whole atmosphere a calm, relaxing demeanor. There’s nothing like looking up through several 50-foot evergreens at a sky like that.
A wonderfully pleasant park ranger and her puppy came by and agreed to take some pictures of us with our camera. Then, it started to rain a little. My wife and the little kids sat in the car while my older son and I played catch with our football. Something about the mountains was good for that, too: I’ve never seen him throw so many solid spirals. My little boy kept popping out of the car to play with us, then going and forth to the car again when he felt wet.
Before long, the rain stopped and we started getting ready for the night…until it started raining again. My wife had heated up some soup on the little propane stove and we took it inside the van to eat. It really poured for a while. On the plus side, it brought out that soothing pine smell in the forest even more strongly. Our breath fogged up all the windows, and the kids entertained themselves drawing faces on the windows with their fingers.
When the rain stopped (again), we made hot chocolate and started our fire. This was when I learned that my wife has better Boy Scout skills than I do. Actually, I already knew that, and good thing, too, because I can always use a reminder of how much she takes care of us.
But it was all for naught. The rain started again, the fire wouldn’t stay lit, and people were getting a little discouraged. So, my oldest boy and I broke camp and we came back down into the valley for pizza. It figures: the one weekend we go camping is the one weekend it rains hard here. I didn’t even wash my car.
But we had a great time all day. And my son got to sign off some achievements in his Cub Scout book.