In between visits to my parents, we took the kids on a day trip through Solvang, CA. Mostly because: when you have done every day trip in a 90 mile radius, and the kids are eating the wallpaper, and you still have more summer to go, and if you don’t get out of the house, Godhelpyouall.
We ended up at Nojoqui Falls, a ten minute hike to a waterfall. A nice leg stretcher after CuteDanishTown where we ate CuteDanishBakedGoods, and before continuing on to Santa Barbara.
Of course, in California, in July, there would be no waterfall, and therefore the hike was pretty much deserted. Also? This very welcoming sign:
Which, if you check out the creek at the bottom of that photo, is actually made from, and filled with, what appear to be fallen rocks.
The trail followed a ravine that made me a bit anxious – rocks half-submerged in the dry dirt above our heads, the occasional scatter of gravel against leaves. You know the kind of anxiety, where, no matter how calm you feel, some part of you is forced to think, Everyone I love is here, with undoubtedly shitty cell reception, and no witnesses to go for help.
So this is the ridiculous part. The trail ended before you could even see the falls! With an even more extreme danger sign that I stupidly did not photograph, but which I’ve found at this link. It says.
Do not go beyond this point!
Rocks may fall without warning
causing serious injury or death
With a permanent wooden barrier, and in the near distance beyond, some sort of rock slide that had obliterated the path. And just around the high edge of the ravine, so that you could partially see the very top: A real, live, working waterfall. In July. In California.
Also, a small but well worn dirt footpath, skirting the permanent wooden barrier, connecting the end of the path with the forbidden zone. Clearly, lots of people ignored the sign, despite this end section of the trail, which apparently deserved even more DANGER signs than the regular old DANGER risk we had assumed at the beginning. Of course, the path ahead had also clearly experienced some sort of rock slide. Perhaps burying some days-of-yore hiker.
It was like a fifteen second decision process for my husband. “I’m going.”
The kids looked at me like puppies in the pet store window, big eyed and needy: Can we go? Can we? TAKE US.
The sign specifically said not to go beyond. In this arena, my husband’s argument is always that some sign-maker bureaucrat can’t assess Husband’s personal risk, only the generalized lawsuit-prevention risk for all variety of dumbasses, in which, protecting the owner is the true agenda.
I’m more of the mindset of, Why would a total stranger spend time and money to make a sign, carry it up here, and post it, if not out of general goodwill to help you not get your unaware ass killed? Certainly this sign is based on a bad experience someone actually had.
Full disclosure. My dad spent lots of time working the emergency room. Because of this, he was pretty adamant about safety, always with face-full-of-haunted-memories gravitas. I wasn’t allowed on trampolines, or to swim without an adult present, or ride a bike without wrist, elbow, knee pads and a helmet. He had seatbelts custom installed in the backseat of the first car I ever rode in, before seat belts were required.
When I was a teenager, he once stormed in and yelled, “Don’t you ever drive your car on X road!” and then left without another word.
When I asked my mom WTactualF was wrong with him, because he’d just accused me of driving some place I’d never even heard of, she said, “There’s something wrong with the banking on the curve in that road, and people roll their cars on it. Your dad just spent all night doing procedures on a car full of teenagers who’ll be dead by the end of the week.”
Here’s the tricky thing: I’m not sure I want to pass that value system on to my kids. But it’s hard to go against it when it’s a matter of life and death.
Meanwhile, here’s my husband, hopping the barrier, going to see what we can’t see from here. He’s already experienced more of the world than I will.
My kids wanted to go with him. I let them. It did, in fact, nearly kill me. Not because it was the wrong decision, but out of sheer panic they would all be crushed and then the guilt of permission would kill me. The whole three minutes they were gone was mostly filled with this question: What if only some of them were killed by falling rocks, and I have to struggle with my desire to die outright versus staying alive out of obligation to the living children?
I stayed behind, because someone should be able to run like hell to the nearest phone and call for help in the event of an injury.
I had time to realize how stupid that idea was while they were gone. As if I were magically protected from falling rocks by a sign and a barrier.
I am sweating pretty hard just recounting.
They could not return fast enough, but eventually were back with me, heads undented, limbs not pinned. “It’s so cool!” My middle kid said. She is the one most like me, most anxious, most fearing of consequence. “You should go!”
So I did. Mostly because I didn’t want to model for my daughters that men are brave and women are stay-behind, hand wringing fretters. But I went alone, because I needed to know that my kids wouldn’t be orphaned if I got hit by a rock.
It was pretty amazing.