The curious case of the confounding crick…

Earlier this month, my dad met Joe and I for our third-annual spring camping trip to Petit Jean State Park in central Arkansas.  Joe’s mom was nursing a sinus infection and starting a new job (woot!) the following Monday, so she decided to let the boys fly solo this time around.  As it turned out, this was probably for the best.

All’s well that begins well, right?

Joe and I had a leisurely drive over to Petit Jean and after checking in, we went straight to Rock House Cave to make sure everything was as we’d left it since our 2013 trip.  After Rock House, we quickly set up camp, gathered some kindling and had ourselves some canned goods for dinner.  Before bedding down for the night, we managed to build a nice little fire without too much effort.  My dad was running late, so it looked like we would spend our first night sans Pops, which was disappointing, but not a big deal. So far, so good.

But at approximately 2:43(AM!) I was awakened by an anything but good and totally blood-curdling, scream.  Still half asleep, I quickly realized that the scream was emanating less than 18 inches from my head — by my own flesh and blood.

I immediately scanned the tent for a misplaced skunk, curious raccoon, or slobbering grizzly bear, but there were none to be found.  We were alone.  Chilly, but alone.  Upon further investigation it turned out the real reason behind the carrying on was a confounding crick in Joe’s neck.  He had fallen asleep in a terribly awkward position and when he tried to move from it, his neck just flat refused to do anything but stay stuck.  As someone who has long suffered from various neck ailments and occasional cricks, I speak from experience when I say: Those dudes ain’t no kind of fun.

Wanting more to get back to sleep than to deal with reality, I mistakenly tried to sooth Joe back to sleep with half-empty words of comfort (bad parent, bad!).  Soon enough though, it was evident this was no ordinary crick.  My little buddy started hollering so loud that if they’d gotten within earshot, any of the aforementioned creatures would have been quickly relieved of the hair off their hides.  I know almost was.

Anyway, at about 2:48(AM!), we put some layers on and trudged off to the bathhouse, an appreciably warmer respite during a DEFCON 4 emergency in the woods.  So for the next hour, Joe and I tried various ways of working the crick out or finding a comfortable sitting position on the bench, all to no avail.  It seemed that even looking at his neck caused it to hurt or him to holler, and all the while, I could easily see how this was turning into one of those, “if it don’t kill ya’…” moments.  Having been on the receiving end of several of those experiences in my life (cue frogs playing tiny violins), I decided I needed to put my very best parenting “skillz” to work, and put them to work fast.

After a brief sales pitch/bribe session/conversation with God asking for a miracle forty-five minute discussion,I finally managed to convince Joe that the only thing that would bring him any relief would be for us walk through the woods in the dark, lie down in our cold tent, on the cold ground, in a cold sleeping bag, with the same sorry-excuse-for-a-pillow that caused the confounding-crick in the first place.  Like I said:  Parenting. Skillz.

Once we finally got all “snuggled” back in at the campsite, we did actually manage to drift back to sleep until about 6:30(AM!).  After getting up and moving about, Joe reported he was feeling a little better than he was at o-dark-thirty, but when I saw his range of motion was only about 25% of normal, I began mentally preparing myself to start packing it in and making the long trek back to Mississippi.  Yet to my complete surprise, the first things Joe asked about after I got the fire going again was what time would Pops arrive and when could we hike to down to Cedar Falls?!?!?!

I almost strained my own neck as I did a double take at his questions, but managed to keep a semi-straight face and answered, “In about an hour, and how about after lunch?”.

True to form and consistent as ever, Pops arrived on the mountain about 16 hours later than originally planned; although we did manage to have breakfast together at the lodge around 9:30(AM!).  Joe was still feeling fairly miserable (to put it mildly) during our breakfast, but after a couple hours of moving around, his neck, and thereby his mood, started improving rapidly.

We spent the rest of the day hanging with Pops, setting up tents and enjoying our ENO’s, exploring a secret (and sacred) Native American rock shelter, and hiking to Cedar Falls.  More on those activities later, but two weeks after our trip concluded, I’m still amazed at Joe’s resilience and willingness to hang in there for the remainder of the trip, especially with the pain he was in.  He showed a lot of grit for a 7 year old, much more than I would have at his age – and definitely more than I would at this age!

Before calling a wrap on the day, Pops, Joe, and I traveled down the mountain to get some glow sticks, an extra ration of Vienna sausage, and you’ll be happy to know, a much better pillow for my little trooper.

See you on the trail…

Petit Jean

On the road less traveled with Pops…

Scenes like this never get old, they just get better…

On the way down to the falls, crick and sticks in tow…

All’s well that ends well, right?

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