Last weekend the nieces, brother and sister-in-law, husband Mike and I went tubing at Gun Powder Falls in quaint little Monkton, Maryland. I type that sentence very stiffly today, because I ache in places I didn’t even know I had. Turns out flopping like a fish out of water, in and out of a tube for two and a half hours doesn’t use the same muscles as my usual weekend exercise routine of drinking wine and eating hoagies. But I have to admit it is a lot more fun.
How we talked Mike into going, I have no idea. First, there was a stunning lack of wine bars on the river. Second, Gun Powder Falls doesn’t run through Mike’s weekend comfort zone - our living room. Maybe he went because he likes to play up his curmudgeon persona, particular with the nieces, and the beginning of the trip provided plenty of opportunities. As we piled into the Monkton Bike tube rental shop shuttle, Mike had to find a way to curl his 6’2″ frame into Amish pretzel position to avoid the 14 giant tubes and other fellow floaters. He purposely put himself in the worse possible corner, groaning and eye rolling, tubes bouncing off his forehead for the entire 15 minute trip, much to the delight of the nieces, Alex and Camden.
On the opposite bank of the launch point we were surprised to see a lone German Shepherd just sitting there watching us. (A dog, not a tall blonde guy with some sheep and a staff). The dog was like Charon the ferryman, only instead of coins I guess you have to give him a Pupparoni to travel the river Styx to Hades, which is clearly where Mike thought he was headed anyway. Or maybe the Shepherd just waited for a weaker person to straggle from their herd so he could pick them off for lunch. We didn’t stick around to find out.
The water was bottom-of-the-cooler-after-the-ice-melts freezing. After much grumbling Mike sat in the tube and winced as the cold water hit his tush.
“This is the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life,” said Mike. “Since the shuttle ride.”
But as we each floated off down the river like a bunch of living Pooh Sticks, all the horror of cold waters washed away, even from my husband’s face. Tubing was actually fun. Once in a while a little rush of movement, followed by slow stagnant areas, peppered with the occasional hop out of the tube to dislodge yourself from the shallows where you ran aground. On either side of the river we passed tall stately forest, huge stone walls, reeds and the occasional blur of bikers pedaling by on the parallel trails above us. The entire process is peaceful and engaging at the same time.
After a while we all pulled up on a stony bank for a snack break. Only partially deterred by notices that alcohol coolers were prohibited, we did end up bringing a few vodka and juice drinks we’d siphoned into water bottles. I took one sip of mine and nearly choked. Brother-law Gary, bummed that we couldn’t include the case of beer he had planned to bring, made the drinks extra strong to make up for it. It was like drinking fruit-flavored rocket fuel.
I waded back out into the water to pick up what I figured was Pyrite (fool’s gold) I’d seen glittering everywhere to show the nieces. Twelve year-old Alex waded past me to swim in a deep spot a little farther upstream; behind me Mike tried to teach nine year-old Camden how to skip stones. Intrigued, Alex started trying to skip stones as well. The problem is, I was directly between the two of them. Heavy river rocks splashing all around me, I instantly went from old time gold-panner to front line soldier; trapped between novice rock skippers is not where you want to be. I ran for cover.
Soon after we were floating again down the lazy river.
“Ah goodness…” sighed my sister-in-law Heather in the tube beside me. I snapped my attention to her.
“Did you just say, ‘Ah, penis?’ I asked, truly thinking that is what she said, but forgetting 9 year-old Camden was in earshot.
Camden erupted into giggles, followed by the relentless repetition of ‘Ah, penis’, each time with a little different flair, accent and emphasis.
As completely obsessed as the girl is with everything “poop” related, I shouldn’t have found it surprising that another naughty word would send her into paroxysm of giggles followed by a 9-year old comedy routine. Heather and I tried seriously to make her stop while we ourselves were in tears laughing. Somehow, Camden found it hard to take our objections seriously.
Unfortunately, on the river sound carries for miles. Way ahead of us I heard Mike call back, “We can HEAR you!!”
Great. We look like responsible adults, crying laughing, rolling down a river while our 9-year old screams “Ah PEEEEENISSSSS!”
Eventually we wrestled Camden under control. Mike managed to lose his sunglasses in the water, but miraculously we found them again. Later, ironically, he randomly found someone else’s sunglasses. While for the first quarter of the trip we talked excitedly about taking the shuttle and doing it again, by the three-quarter mark we knew repeats were not an option. Sun, water, bumping into things, hopping out, hopping in was beginning to take it’s toll. By the time we reached the end we were happy and exhausted, ready to head back home. Sure, I have no skin left on my forearms from paddling over the sides of the tube, but it would be hard to have a more perfectly summery summer day.
I highly recommend a day-trip to Gun Powder Falls. Just hold on to your sunglasses.
Visit Monkton Bike for more trip-planning details. Photos borrowed from Monkton Bike’s web site because I was afraid my camera would get wet and didn’t plan far enough ahead to buy a disposable waterproof one.