Shades of Death

On the way up we stopped by Hickory Run State Park and did the Shades of Death trail (on Memorial Day weekend we checked out boulder field, which is when this trail caught our eye).  Most of the reviews I found online seem to think this trail is easy and scenic, but we did not find it that way at all.  I think the only reasons Mom and I made it through were her walking sticks and my toe shoes, respectively.

On the way out we passed a family.  The daughter, who looked approximately my age, was walking an adorable miniature dachshund.  She (the daughter, not the dog) said something about my shoes.  I didn’t have time to register her comment–I’d been about to admire her dog and wasn’t able to switch gears quickly–before she was past me.  Next came her mom, who complimented my hair and informed me that she hoped hers looked the same once it had grown out (she was wearing a hat).  She then said that there were two schools of thought about my shoes, and that I should read the NY Times article on them.  I seriously don’t know how she managed to say everything she did–my impression was that our encounter lasted only seconds and I was hard-pressed to properly understand everything she’d said.

Then the dad passed me, and I’m not sure whether he said something about drive-by mothering or only gave me a look to that effect.

Mother and I agreed, afterward, that we didn’t understand how that little dog could deal with the rockier portions of the trail.

The eponymous shade referred to the excessive amount of foliage this path garnered.  The sun was filtered out twice–once by the regular trees, and again by the wild rhododendrons.  I found these groves especially creepy, because in the area I grew up these are ornamental plants.  The leaves are closely packed to obscure the branches and they are pruned to an appropriate size.

Not so with these.  Rangy plants, gawkily bearing their sparse branches to the world.  It’s unnerving, to see something so normally tame and flush looking so wild and sickly.  SO feral.

Yes.  Feral rhododendrons.

On the way back, walking through one of these shadowy groves, we passed a family.  There were either two or three little girls–Mother and I cannot agree.  I thought two, so that each parent had one to lead.  Mother thinks that she counted three.  The father also had a boy in a carrier on his back.

All of them, parents and children alike, looked totally and perfectly unenthused.  The girls were dull-eyed; the parents, stoic.  No one uttered a word, as though this trail was something to be endured, rather than enjoyed.

Once we were passed, I glanced back at Mother and grimaced.  She, laughing uncomfortably, confided that it reminded her of something out of Hansel and Gretel.  I could only agree.

We also encountered a pug so energetically gung-ho that he strained at the leash no matter what difficult terrain he was presented with.  He shattered Mother’s perception of pugs as being uniformly fat and indolent.  He put our dogs to shame.

(Actually, I’m fairly sure that both Ramon and Happy have no shame.)