The Venus Child Trap

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I had the opportunity Labor Day weekend to go on an overnight camping trip with my boys and a friend with his son. We decided to try Wallace Lake. I was a little apprehensive that it would be crowded because of the holiday weekend. I needn’t have worried; the campground was nearly empty. Apparently, everyone else in the county had checked the weather report. As we unloaded supplies and erected our tents, dark clouds rolled in and a chill wind blew.

Washboard Awareness

When I bent over to pound a tent stake into the rocky ground, I was seized by sharp pain and spasms in my lower back. My kidneys felt as if pugilists were furiously pounding them like speed bags. While I flailed on the ground helplessly, my friend Jason and our sons looked on in sympathy. When the attack subsided, he helped me to my feet and said “washboard”. I agreed.

Most of the drive up Stormy Peak road to Wallace Lake was a bumpy, miserable ride. The winding dirt and gravel road was horribly maintained with miles of continuous washboard ruts. A more fitting name would be: Beat-your-ass-to-death Road. Washboard ruts, if you have never experienced them, are parallel rows of bumps and dips that stretch across a dirt road, reminiscent of an old fashioned clothes washing device. (Thanks to my mother, I am intimately familiar with such a device…but that is another story.)

“They” say the rows of bumps will form eventually on an un-maintained road. There are certain things, howeve, that speed up their formation: heavy traffic, aggressive braking and acceleration, and hot dry weather. I also personally believe that eco-terrorists drive their hybrid Prii (plural of Prius) up and down the forest roads aggressively braking and accelerating just to exacerbate the wilderness experience.

And the rain came down

I would like to believe that angels were weeping upon seeing me in pain after the jarring jeep ride, but it probably had more to do with a cold front moving into the area. A steady drizzle started as soon as the tents were erected. We all put sweatshirts on except for my son Mason. He huddled by the fire in just his t-shirt because he had forgotten to pack a jacket or warm shirt, which is funny because I reminded him several times before we left the house.

Fortunately, his brother had packed flannel pajamas to sleep in. Mason put on the somewhat small pajama top followed by a rain poncho and declared he was ready to fish. I had brought rain gear for the boys, but not for myself. I cut a neck and arm holes in a large garbage bag and slipped it over my clothes to stay dry. I was proud of my ingenuity. I immediately took a selfie and sent it to my wife. (I had 4g service at Wallace lake… so much for roughing it.) She responded with a picture of the propane fireplace in our living room. Very funny.

It continued to sprinkle on and off for the rest of the day, occasionally coming down harder. I kept the food and supplies in the back of our Jeep to keep them dry. When the boys wanted a drink or snack or needed some fishing tackle, they would have to hold the liftgate up with one hand and reach in with the other. The struts that hold the lift gate at the top needed replaced. I called it the Venus child trap.

I rescued both Mason and Logan from its clutches before they could be consumed. It gave me great pleasure to see their little legs kicking from under the door after it closed down on them.

Precision lure casting

My son Mason loves to fish as does his brother Logan. My job is to help tie knots and untangle snarled monofilament. It is also my job to bring the bait. Sadly, in the rush to get on the road, I completely forgot to get any worms. Wallace Lake is shallow and rocky all around the edge of the small lake, so is conducive to bait-and-bobber fishing. Otherwise, you risk getting your tackle hung up in the rocks.

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Fish were jumping all over the lake, but were not too interested in the lures the boys were using. You could see a trout follow the brightly colored spinner as it was being reeled in, but they rarely bit. Then they would taunt the boys by leaping out of the water a few feet away. I think I saw one mouth the words “got bait?”, but it may have been my overactive imagination.

Mason showed a flair for precision casting. With nearly every cast he would find a tiny crevice in the rocks and wedge his lure in it. He would then spend the next ten minutes trying to work it free without breaking the line. I was in awe of his ability and on the edge of my seat with each cast. Would the line snap? Would he retrieve his tackle for another round? I was riveted by the drama and the colorful language. Just to show that it was his own skill and not the equipment, Mason used Logan’s fishing pole and promptly laid his lure right in a very tricky crevice. The line broke moments latter and he stood staring at the resulting ripple.

Who needs a bed?

When the s’mores were done and the ghost stories had been told (which I thought were quite scary), we decided to turn in for the night. Mason had blown up the air mattress earlier that afternoon. As I crawled in the tent after Mason and Logan, I knew right away there was a problem. The mattress contained about half as much air as it had the capacity for. I could feel all of the rocks and sticks that lay under the tent floor. It was going to be a long night.

It was warm and dry in the tent, but cold and rainy outside. I awoke well before dawn with a familiar pressure in my bladder. It was so dark I hit myself in the face trying to see my hand in front of it. I crept barefoot out into the trees, stepping on every sharp rock and stick in the campsite. I did not take a flashlight, so would not have seen a bear or possibly a killer with a hook for a hand sneaking up behind me. I then wandered around camp until I stumbled back upon the tent.

As I closed my eyes to try and get back to sleep, I heard a little squeak inside the tent. I asked, “What’s wrong?”

Logan replied in a strangled whisper, “Mason slid down on top of me and I can’t sleep.” Poor guy. Their slick mummy bags had worked down the slight incline during the night. Logan was off the air mattress against the side of the tent, and Mason was on top of him still fast asleep. I couldn’t locate my phone to get a video, so I grabbed Mason’s sleeping bag and pulled it back up next to me. Logan let out a sigh of relief and said “thanks”.

After breakfast the next morning, the boys all went fishing while Jason and I broke camp and loaded the gear. I got caught in the Venus child trap twice, and Jason had to rescue me. He said he liked to watch my little legs kicking from under the liftgate. That’s just twisted.

Losing all of your favorite fishing lures may suck, but even a rainy camping trip in Idaho doesn’t.

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