The recent debacle with our trunk-mounted bike rack has left us a bit soured on the idea of transporting our bikes. We wanted to return to Duke Farms to explore more of the grounds, but since we didn’t have an extra 3 hours to spend wrestling with our bikes, we decided this visit would be on foot. In 15 minutes, we were laced up and out the door. Since it was a warm, cloudless afternoon, we opted for a semi-shady walking path. There were signs along the way that offered a self-guided audio tour accessible through our cell phones. For an hour, we meandered past stone walls, waterfalls and statues. We stopped to listen to information at the various points of interest along the way. When we reached the Mermaid Pool, we sat in the shade to admire the natural beauty before we continued up the path to Great Falls Lake. I stopped to read a sign explaining the waterfalls’ creation and noticed some ominous clouds looming in the distance.
“Those clouds look daunting,” I said to Oregano.
“The sun’s still shining behind us so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Let’s follow the path up to Turtle Lake and see if we can spot any turtles,” he said.
We were crossing over a stone bridge when we heard the first distant rumble of thunder and realized that the sun had become completely obscured by clouds.
“That’s not a comforting sound,” I said looking at the sky’s increasing darkness. I counted for a few seconds, but there were no more rumblings. We still had some time.
“Maybe we should skip Turtle Lake and start walking back towards the car. We’re about 2 miles away.” Oregano suggested.
The wind picked up and a clap of thunder echoed around us. I counted the seconds again and this time my counting was drowned out by another boom of thunder. The storm was getting closer, but Oregano kept stopping to point out interesting sights. I turned to him, “Let’s go!” I said while hurrying him along. “We’re no longer on a sight-seeing mission. We’re on a life-saving mission. We’re in the middle of a park during a thunderstorm. There’s no shelter out here and we’re surrounded by nothing but meadows, trees and lakes. Now is not the time for the audio tour.”
“There’s a single seater bathroom shack over there. We could always use that as shelter,” he said pointing behind us.
“I’m not that desperate yet. Keep walking!” Drizzle began falling and there was another loud clap of thunder. “You were a lifeguard. What lightning safety rules do you remember?” I asked.
“Get out of the pool!” he said with lifeguard-like authority.
“Well, that’s a helpful rule. Since we’re on land and fully clothed I’d say we’ve got that covered. I remember something about lying flat in a field.”
“What are you so worried about? You’re the shortest thing out here. Lightning’s not going to strike you. Look how many tall trees are around us. It would hit those first,” he said making a grand sweeping gesture with his arms to indicate the trees surrounding us.
“Is that supposed to be reassuring? I think you missed the mark. Check the map. Let’s see where the nearest tram stop is and hitch a ride back to the visitors’ center.”
We realized we weren’t far from the tram stop and briskly walked through the rain as lightning flashed and thunder boomed. A few minutes later we reached the tram stop and checked the schedule; the next pick up was at 2:15. I looked at my phone. It was 1:48.
“I’m not going to sit here getting rained on for a half hour. We can make it back to the car in that amount of time. Let’s go,” I said already walking.
We laughed at the ridiculousness of our predicament as people were zipping past us on bikes or running for cover anywhere they thought they might find it. The lane of 100 year old sycamore trees was a blur as we power walked towards the park’s exit.
“We could hide out in there,” Oregano said pointing to the old hay barn.
“That would have been a great idea in 1915 before the roof burned down. Now only the walls are left. The interior is a sculpture garden.”
“Wow! Someone paid attention on the tours,” he said while trying to keep up with me.
After we passed the barn there was a bright flash of lightning, an even louder crack of thunder and the rain fell with more enthusiasm. I picked up my pace and for the first time in 20 years, was walking faster than my husband. I didn’t care about my rain soaked clothes or the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses in a storm. My only goal was to avoid being struck by lightning or a falling tree branch that had been struck by lightning.
At the exit gate, we entered the swarm of people creating a mass exodus. It was like a family-friendly wet t-shirt contest. We reached the car and a torrent of rain fell just as the doors thumped shut. It was 2:10. With water dripping off his nose forming a puddle on the seat, Oregano said, “Good thing we aren’t still sitting at that tram stop.”