Friday, July 6, 2007

Hiking on the 4th

On Wednesday I went out to Busse Woods near Elk Grove, where a local hiking group was having a BBQ/picnic, followed by a hike. All in all, there were about 60 people total, many familiar faces from previous events I'd attended. There were new people too, clearly nervous, worried about fitting in, but the great thing about this group is that nobody gets left out.

Everyone had brought something to share, and I confess I made a debauchery of veggie bratwurst, chips, homemade hummus, red-white-and blue cupcakes and yes, those pre-wrapped Keebler Peanut-butter and cheese crackers (the "cheese" being the orange of the cracker).

It was an orgy of crap, and (cue Piper Laurie) I LIKED IT!!!!

Lisa, a woman I'd previously met, was there. She's Australian, which was funny because I had on my Australia tank top Sven had bought me. The problem is that whenever I hear an Australian accent, I get this sort of Muriel's Wedding Tourette's ("Ivva since I met yew, mah lahf is as good is en ABBA song. It's is good is Dencing Queen.")

Sven's boyfriend, Andrew ("Indrew") is a good sport about our ceaseless ribbing. ("Indrew, say 'rock, paper, scissors.' Say 'row, row row your boat.' You're so CLIVVAH!")

So I exercised restraint around Lisa ("Loysa" I muttered under my breath, needing to get that out), and we all walked. I met a very cool gal, E., from Portland Oregon who talked about up and moving to Chicago, and how she decided that if she couldn't find people to go camping with her or take road trips, she'd do it on her own. And she has. As we walked and talked, I realized we were kindred spirits. We're going to do some camping trips as well as road trips, which we both love. Cool.

The hike we did was on a paved trail that also served as a bike path, and I'd decided for the first time not to wear my hiking boots, figuring my Tevas would be fine. The thing is, pavement is really hard on your feet; E. had a blister the size of a lima bean on her toe. I didn't get blisters, but my feet did get sore and swollen on the soles (The term "tenderfoot" kept pushing into my mind; I envisioned Clint Eastwood astride a horse, squinting at me in silent disdain.)

At one point, a Mad Russian sped by on a bike, and although we were on our side of the line, he should have slowed down, as it was fairly crowded. His pedal caught the leg of one of our gals, and he went down. He was furious, glaring at us and pointing over and over to the scrapes on his knee and arm. I went over and picked up his bike, hoping to squelch the drama, but he just went on and on about how were crazy people and didn't belong on the path.

"It's a shared path," Lisa said flatly, having none of his crap. He was not mollified and just kept going on about the injustice of it all. Our initial concern was turning into hostility, and when he pointed at us and said, "Tomorrow, you go to doctor. All of you. Because are all crazy," I said, "Go. Go now. Get on your bike and leave." I was on the edge of losing my patience and planting one of my tenderfeet in his ass.

He left, and we attended to our gal who was not seriously hurt (Mad Russian never asked her how she was, although she'd obviously been hurt), but would clearly have a large ugly, bruised welt the size of a baseball on her calf. She was pretty tough about it, and we amused ourselves by saying "great, big HEMATOMA!" in a Scottish accent.

OK, maybe I was the only one.

There was a huge Elk pasture, enclosed with chain-link fence that ran along the path. Some elk were resting in the shade, taking a break from the heat. Now, I don't know if you've ever seen an elk, but they are the most beautiful creatures and, my God, they are HUGE. They make deer look like housecats. Imagine me standing on one foot, arms and leg extended, and that's the size of one antler.

"Oh, they're enormous," Sven agreed when I told him. "You could live inside one."

A couple with a little boy of about four was standing by the fence. I of course was glued to the fence. We were all fascinated, in awe; the elk were clearly bored. I stood next to the boy, and we looked at one elk lying with his back to the fence, about a foot away. The boy, a towhead with huge blue eyes, began to chatter to me in what I believe was Polish.

"polishpolishpolish frazheeka," he chatted to me.

"ELK," I enunciated carefully. "ELK-AH."

"polish polish polish frazheeka. FRAZHEEKA," said back.

"Frazheeka?" I asked.

"Dank." He nodded, satisfied.

We repeated this a few times, and the elk finally swung its enormous head over his shoulder to take a look. Watching that huge head swing over to us, I thought I felt the earth's orbit waver just a bit in compensation. He inhaled and exhaled, sniffing us, and I felt my clothing ripple in the vacuum. Very Fee Fi Fo Fum.

"Frazheeka," declared the boy.

"Very frazheeka," I agreed.

By the time we'd been walking for about three hours we'd devolved into a group of four. We were getting tired, and found ourselves in a spot we'd passed. E. went to the map posted, and we realized we'd overshot by almost a quarter of the path, which runs in a circle. We'd forgotten about the connecting road to our site, so instead of walking 8 miles, we'd walked closer to twelve.

Explained a lot.

We called the leader, who drove over and picked us up. Back at the picnic site, I ate some more red-white-and blue cupcakes.

God Bless America.


SP said...

I don't think they look big enough on your blog. Couldn't you put your foot on one so people can see the scale? Oh, and you really shouldn't take pictures while hoisted up on a crane, although I do understand the attraction of bungee jumping into an elk pasture. I'd do it too if I wasn't afraid of heights.

JC said...

Oh, I KNOW! This isn't my photo - I took it from the hiking site, where someeone else had uploaded it. I debated putting it up because the elk does indeed look normal, rather deer-sized.

Trust me, people: objects in this photo are much larger than they appear.

Know what this is like? It's like when we went to Sequoia National Park and I took those pictures of the Sequoias. They look like ordinary trees, until you realize that the tiny dot at their feet is a VW minibus.

In the same way, the elk in this this photo would have been put into truer perspective if someone had had the presence of mind to dangle soemthing like, oh, a polish child in front of them.