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April 20, 2014
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By the light of the silvery moon


“Short hike, my aunt Ethel,” I muttered to anyone within earshot, as our guide pronounced that we were “about halfway there” just as we collectively thought that we were nearing the outlook. We were on one of the many glorious trails that the center has to offer: this one being designated the “Tumbling Waters Trail,” which should have been a heads-up. Sure enough, there was plenty of tumbling water, and our shoes, boots and (poor grandma) sneakers were soaked by the time we reached the summit.

Still, spirits were high as we climbed the mountain. The group meshed wonderfully, and although there were a few slips and falls, the kids were amazing in their tenacity to keep up, even with darkness fast approaching. The materials I picked up before the “slip n slide” adventure pointed to the assortment of flora along the way.

The pamphlet went on to caution us to “please respect the environment—pay attention to your presence in the woods and practice ‘Leave No Trace Hiking’ (Take only photographs, Leave only footprints, Kill only time).”All well and good, but with no head count, dead flashlights and an eight-minute respite before turning back (to actually catch a glimpse of the full moon rising) it’s a miracle that no ankles were turned, much less my withering, whimpering corpse left behind for the wolves to devour.

PEEC is cool, no doubt, and the programs they offer (many free of charge) to the public are enriching and educational, but I found that there were a few gaps, like defining “short” “easy” and “hike.” When asked how assorted callers could receive such diverse descriptions of what to expect, our lovely yet quizzical guide suggested that the answers depended on who was manning the phones at various times throughout the week.

Call me crazy, but if I’m calling to ask, then (IMHO) surely the answers should not be dependent on what day of the week the question arose. I suppose it’s all about the learning curve, and I have concluded that my next adventure will be in a more hospitable season. The kids led by example, and I determined that if they could handle it without whining, then I should be able to as well—maybe next time. Meanwhile, I don’t believe we’ll be seeing grandma again anytime soon, but if we do, she’ll be sporting mukluks, a walking stick and emergency flares, just in case we stray off the beaten path.