The hike up the hill was the killer.
I actually liked everything else about the campground. The hot-and-cold running water and actual showers were definite improvements over our usual stomping ground in Maine. I also like the generous amount of space that we had been allotted for camp ground, and the beautiful view of the lake, and even the absence of bees, a decided plus.
But the hill hike was a negative. Since we couldn't use our car to get to the site, it meant a five minute trip from the parking lot/main office/bathrooms to the site, and in the middle of this trek (smack dab in the middle, actually) was this huge hill. I called it Heartbreak Hill, myself. Well, I didn't tell anyone that's what I had named it, because I didn't want to sound overdramatic. That'll just be a little secret, between the two of us.
Oh, and there was one other negative, aside from Heartbreak Hill. I discovered this one shortly before dusk, after the tents had been pitched and I was returning back from a trip to the supermarket.
"You gotta see Ashley," said Tiger, actually looking concerned for his sister. I had left them alone with my friend Pauline, who had been busy setting up her tent and had left them alone with her 13-year-old daughter, Amber. It had been, I had reasoned, a nice way for me to be alone with Annie, except for the fact, of course, that we really weren't alone, considering that we had taken Corb and Annie's undercover boyfriend Chad on the trip with us.
Concerned by Tiger's concern, I ran over to Ashley, who was playing with her Bratz dolls inside the tent that I was sharing with Corb. "What happened, sweetie?" I asked, even though it didn't appear as though anything was the matter at all.
Ashley put down her Bratz dolls. "Oh," she said, with a sleepy smile on her face. "Did you know there were leeches in the pond?"
Da da dummmm.
Leeches? My mind started to race. You mean, like Stephen King, Stand by Me leeches? IN OUR POND???
I chose my next words carefully. "How do you know there are leeches in the pond, sweetie?"
"Oh. Well, because I sort of had one stuck on me."
Leeches? My baby girl had leeches on her? A five alarm fire started going off in my head. Was this a bad thing? No one taught me how to deal with leeches in the parents handbook!
"D-did you tell Pauline, hun?" I stammered.
"Well, no I didn't, on account of the fact that, well she didn't exactly, but Amber did, I mean, Pauline didn't, but Amber did, and..." I mentally allowed myself some breathing room, knowing that this was going to be a typically long, convoluted Ashley story. "Well, I mean, I was sort of told not to go swimming, and I kind of didn't listen, and Amber got all mad at me and went to tell her Mom, I mean, about me not listening to her about going swimming, and then I looked down, and well...there it was."
"The leech. On my stomach."
"So, what did you do? Did it hurt?" I contemplated calling 911. Annie had commented on the number of walk-in medical facilities they had in Royalston. Now I knew why. The place was built on a lake full of killer leeches!
"No, it didn't hurt at all," she said dreamily, and picked up one of her Bratz. "But I saw it there, on my stomach, and I thought, 'Ooooh, gross,' and so I yanked it off. It started bleeding, a lot. Is it still bleeding?"
I checked her stomach. Yes, it was. "I'll go get you something, sweetie," I said, "I packed lots of band aids."
Turns out, it wasn't an emergency at all, of course. As everyone that we discussed this with mentioned, leeches are back in favor in the medical world, and hey, if they're good enough for Medieval times, they're good enough for modern campers, right?
One of the campers we talked to at the bathrooms later on said that Tully Lake doesn't usually have many leeches, but this year, they were abnormally abundant. Just our luck. His daughter had gotten five leeches while swimming in the past four days. "You just need to sprinkle a little salt on them," he informed us. "They don't like salt, and so they just fall off."
Still, it was a pretty disgusting surprise, and all of us started to dread entering the water, fearing that we would be the next ones to be leeched. Even Pauline's daughter, typically the bravest camper of all, started avoiding the lake like the plague.
The whole thing reminded me of a camping story an old friend, Brenda, had once told me. She was camping with her teenage boys, and one day, her youngest son came to her one evening.
"Uh, Mom, I kind of have a tick," he informed her.
"Well, just pick it off," she said.
His face turned red. "Well, I kind of can't," he replied. "It's um, kind of hard to reach."
"Why? Where is it?" she asked, and then her face fell as he unzipped his fly. Turns out it had worked its way into the tip of his penis. At least I didn't have to dig out ticks from a penis tip. That would have been absolutely a nightmare. I would have left, then and there.
For Ashley's part, she was just fine. And by the way, we did overcome our fear of leeches a few days later...but that's another story. And that is, incidentally, how Ashley regarded the whole incident. As a story.
"Wow," she said, as I was tucking her into her sleeping bag that night. "One day here, and we already have two stories!"
"Two?" I asked, and brushed back her curly hair and kissed her on the cheek.
"Two," she said, "Pauline knocking the bathroom walls down, and me getting a leech! Pretty cool, huh?"
Pretty cool. Our sleep that night, by the way, was anything BUT that. The kids wimped out on sleeping alone, and Corb and I ended up with Tiger and Annie sleeping next to us, snoring away, in cramped quarters during a humid summer night. I didn't get to sleep until four in the morning.