“Where would you like to go on vacation, Breanna?”
“Janna talked about a place called Gorges State Park. Can we go there, Mom?”
“Of course. I’ll call Janna’s mom and find out more about it.”
Later that day, Pele called Mother Nature and learned that Gorges State Park is in North Carolina. The day hikes range from easy to strenuous and the campground is primitive, having only eight campsites, but not having running water for the bathrooms. Pele asked the girls whether that was a place they wanted to stay for Breanna’s birthday.
“Yes!” Janna replied quickly. She’d grown up in Yellowstone National Park and was used to camping.
“No!” Harmonie and Catie said. They were both city girls and couldn’t imagine a weekend without running water.
“I looked up Gorges State Park on the internet and found that a dog named Marvin lives there,” Coral said. “He sometimes joins campers as they hike to Rainbow Falls and Turtle Back Falls.”
“I found a website where Marvin was part of a geocaching event,” Breanna added.
“What is geocaching?” Coral asked.
“Hikers hide canisters with small prizes along trails,” Janna said. “Then they post the coordinates online for other hikers to find the canister. The second set of hikers take the prizes but replace them with new prizes for the next group of hikers. They would earn extra points if they took pictures of themselves with Marvin. I would love to spend my birthday with Marvin!”
“Okay,” Harmonie and Catie said. “But what if we don’t see Marvin? Hikers don’t always see him.”
“I know. That will be disappointing, but we will still have fun hiking,” Breanna replied.
“It’s settled then. Go pack your sleeping bags and gather your hiking gear. We are going to North Carolina,” Pele said. Fortunately, they were already visiting Catie’s mom and dad in New Orleans, instead of at home on the Big Island where Pele and Breanna live.
The princesses packed their tents, hiking boots, extra socks, compasses, matches, Swiss army knives, trail maps, flashlights and other emergency supplies they thought they might need. Pele went to the store and bought food along with a special surprise for the night of Breanna’s birthday. They set out for the drive to North Carolina, enjoying the March spring flowers along the way.
When they arrived at the campground that evening, the girls pitched their tents, laid out their sleeping bags and gathered firewood for the fire. Since they had Breanna, they didn’t need their matches. As Pele’s daughter, she could throw fireballs, and she tossed a sparkling ball onto the firewood. The orange flame lit the campground with a gentle glow.
The next day, the princesses hiked to Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls. The talked quietly as they walked the wooded trails. When they arrived at Rainbow Falls, they stopped for a drink of water from their thermoses and leaned against the short fence as they rested.
“There’s a happy looking dog coming our way,” Breanna said.
“It looks like the pictures I saw of Marvin on the internet,” Coral replied. “We’ll get points if we find the geocache.”
They continued on to Turtleback Falls where they sat on the large rocks and ate their lunch while enjoying the view. Pele told them to listen quietly to the rush of the water, so they sat silently for a few minutes until Janna spoke.
“Waterfalls are one of my mom’s favorite of nature’s decorations. She loves the variety as each looks different. I have to say that even though I can control wildlife, waterfalls are also my favorite.”
“Yes,” Coral added. “The roar of the water crashing on the rocks is a mixture of power and peace.”
“It’s time to head back to the camp grounds,” Pele said. “We don’t want to have to hike back in the dark even though we have flashlights.”
Marvin hiked all the way to the trailhead with the princesses. Along the way, he chased squirrels, splashed happily in the river, and stopped to drink water. He always caught up with the girls, as though he wanted to ensure they made it back safely.
That night the princesses and Pele sat around the fire talking about their day. Then Pele said, “I have one last surprise for you, Breanna. It’s your favorite campfire delight, S’Mores.” The princesses sang Happy Birthday to Breanna as they roasted their marshmallows over the fire.
“Yum!” Breanna exclaimed. “Thank you, Mom. This is the best birthday ever!”