I suck at hiking. I know what you’re thinking. Hiking is just walking in the woods. How much harder can it be than regular walking? For me, it is fraught with potential injury inducing opportunities and an assortment of insect bites. With a long standing record of injuring myself doing mundane household activities, doing a mundane activity in a natural setting only ups the ante on the risk factor. I’ve tried hiking in some spectacular locations: Glacier National Park in Montana, Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, The Alps in Switzerland. Hiking while surrounded by those stunning vistas was completely lost on me. I spent so much time concentrating on where I was putting my feet that I never looked up from the ground. I might as well have been hiking in an aisle in Target.
Oregano knows of my dislike of hiking so he was a bit surprised when I suggested we go hiking at a park in Pennsylvania as a way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
“Why would you want to spend our anniversary doing that?” he wondered.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. We can’t go on the celebratory vacation we planned or to a show or even out to eat. It was time to think outside the box or just think outside.” I replied.
“OK. If you are sure you want to hike, I’ll take the day off from work,” he agreed.
“It’s supposed to be an easy hike, so I should be fine as long as I slather on the bug spray and walk carefully,” I said attempting to muster enthusiasm for the loathsome undertaking.
The day before our anniversary outing, I took hammers out of the garage and put them by the front door.
That evening Oregano noticed them, “Why are those hammers there?”
“We’ll need them for our walk in the woods and I don’t want to forget them,” I said cheerfully.
“Hmmm… hammers on a hike? That’s weird. I can’t imagine where we are going that we’ll need hammers in the woods,” he wondered as he headed up the stairs.
“I admire your confidence in our relationship,” I said.
He stopped and turned to look at me. “What do you mean?”
“Well, your wife, who hates to hike, invited you on a hike in the woods and is packing hammers and you aren’t the least bit suspicious. We’ve been trapped at home together for the past four months, a man less sure of his relationship might be concerned about being taken on a journey to an undisclosed, remote location with a bag full of potential weapons.” I said with a slightly evil smirk on my face.
He shook his head, laughed and continued up the stairs.
“Don’t try Googling hiking with hammers in Pennsylvania,” I warned as he hit the top step.
Thankfully, the day of our anniversary was not blazing hot so we grabbed our backpack loaded with bug spray, water bottles and what may or may not be key pieces of evidence in an upcoming murder trial and headed across the border to Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful ride through bucolic scenery.
During the ride, Oregano’s curiosity reawakened and he mused about why we might need hammers. When we turned on to Ringing Rocks Road, he commented on the unusual street name and then a light bulb started to flicker above his head. “I wonder if that is a clue to where we are going.”
“It might be,” I said as we turned into the parking lot for Ringing Rocks State Park.
When we got out, I swung the backpack over my shoulder causing the hammers to clang against the can of bug spray. Oregano offered to carry the bag, but I said I could manage then made an ominous laugh.
It was a blissfully flat trail. We passed a few other socially distant hikers, all carrying hammers. I’m not sure, but Oregano seemed slightly relieved to realize I wasn’t the only one with hammers. After a few minutes, a strange sound began emerging from the left side of the trail. It wasn’t the buzz of insects or the chirps of birds. These were not sounds you’d expect to hear in the middle of the woods. It was either an oddly located blacksmith’s shop or some very large bells.
We walked down the path towards the noise and found a huge field strewn with boulders. Carefully, we began to pick our way over and around the boulders nimbly avoiding the poison ivy growing between them. My first thought after scrambling up and over a few rows of rocks was that this would be a great place for an orthopedist to set up shop. I was envisioning an ice cream truck tricked out with a portable x-ray machine. The doctor could even play music to help the unfortunate people in need of medical assistance locate the mobile office in the woods. As I scrambled around ungracefully on all fours, I wondered which of my limbs I was going to break first. Always the optimist, I realized that at least we’d be able to use the hammer handles as a makeshift splint until we could get me back out across the boulders.
While I was navigating this natural obstacle course, I could hear the clanging cacophony created by the other hammer wielding hikers. These people clearly had better balance or were direct descendants of mountain goats because they had made it to the far side of the field of boulders. A wide-eyed Oregano took the hammer I managed to extract from the backpack and started banging out tunes on any rock he could reach. Some rocks had deep sounds like a bell, others sounded like someone dropped change on a concrete floor and some were just duds.
“How on Earth did you know about this?” he asked me while swinging his hammer.
“During my pandemic purge, I came across an article I saved from 2007 about this park. I did some research and thought it would be a fun surprise for you. It only took 13 years and no other available options to move this attraction to the top of our places to see list.”