“The Accursed Little Valley,” by Ivana Hillis

Mar 24th, 2021 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

May 27, 2020.  In Littleton, CO, the garbage truck had just gurgled down the alley behind our house and a gorgeous 70 degree breeze swayed the trees while the morning sun shone on our purple mountains.  This would be the perfect day for our first ever camping trip as a family.  I knew exactly where to go: out of cell phone range in this sweet little valley below Mt.  Quandary, one of Colorado’s 58 14ers.

The drive from Littleton is a forever- scenic-it-gets-better-and-better 3 hours and I can’t stop bragging that I find the sweet little valley without GPS.

Do you know that feeling of angels kissing mountains and lakes with their frosted wings while simultaneously winking at you sideways?  No?  Well, that’s how it felt when we arrived: sparkles and ponies.

Our daughter, hereafter referred to as Chuckles, was dressed in a ridiculously cute animal hat that only babies can pull off.  My husband, who we will call Waynie Pooh, is a capable man.

Waynie Pooh went to work pitching the tent while Chuckles looked cute in her Pack N Play but had very little range of motion in her arms due to her three layers of clothes.  I sat in the car taking selfies because I was sporting braid pigtails and as a woman in my late 30s, this made me really ironic.  Don’t you think?

Just as I get out of the car and start snapping photos of the sweet little valley, the angels who were earlier kissing the mountains and lakes start retching ice balls with great precision.  Suddenly I’m running toward Chuckles and trying to get her into the shoddy shelter of the “tent” that is now so uprooted it looks like a kite stuck between the ground and sky and it’s anyone’s guess where it’s gonna land next.

Someone very different from me in temperament once said that in situations of distress, a calm comes over you.  That was not the case in this situation.  If the angels had been listening between retches they would have told you that this is what they heard that day:

We are going to die here, and you’re more concerned about a tent.

Woman, I swear to God….

Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah

Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof (I forgot to mention that our two dogs, Tigs McJigs and Fogster McDogster- their names are slightly changed because they would rather forget that day, were also witness).

At this point, the hail and wind have joined forces and the temperature instantly drops 20 degrees, to somewhere around 30° F, but we can’t verify that because we have no cell service.  Even though I am at the farthest end of the Anxiety Rainbow, I can’t convince Waynie Pooh that it is not a good idea to camp until the one tent stake still in the ground says aloha to stability.

Now, since my angel analogy may have been elusive, I will ask you to imagine that scene from the very popular and very first Jurassic Park where the lawyer sits on a toilet surrounded by nothing but jungle.
This was like that, only the lawyer is an 11-month old Chuckles standing in a Pack N Play in the middle of a hailstorm while her mother and two dogs run in circles around her.

The annoying-ness of my incapability to cope sends Waynie Pooh into problem solving mode and he remembers he saw a van on the other side of the creek from us when we had arrived.  Obviously, anytime there is a van in the middle of nowhere, one must approach it.  Waynie Pooh decides that it is now or never.

To the angels, we must have looked like an offensive line battling a thousand pound Mother-Nature-led defense as we crossed the slick creek.  Somewhat safer on the other side, Waynie Pooh bolts to the van while Chuckles, Tigs, Fogster and I hunker down in our SUV, where I resume taking selfies, this time with my toddler and doggies in crime.

Waynie Pooh comes back after half an hour and the convo the angels might have heard goes something like this:

The low is supposed to be 25 and there’s another storm on the way.  But after that it looks good.

That crap weather forecast!

We could camp in the car.

That crap weather forecast!

The guy in the van has a fire and invited us to sit around with him.

That crap weather forecast!

Maybe we can look for a hotel.

At this suggestion, we set out to leave the accursed little valley and head down the road until we see the North Star of lodges.  We stop, only to be reminded by some hottie mountain man in a flannel that we are in the middle of a pandemic and the county we are in has already switched to stay at home.

As Waynie Pooh pulls the car into reverse, a green and blue swishhhhhh envelops our windshield and, if your surprised eyes can believe it, it’s our not-so-long-lost tent.  Chuckles and I sink down into our warm seats while Waynie Pooh cracks the window an inch and wrestles with gravity and wind to pull the tent in.  Success, with a few holes in it.  We look at each other and silently acknowledge our failure of a camping trip and resolve to make the 3 hour now not-scenic-at-all-because-it’s-night drive back to Littleton.

We arrive just after midnight.  I put Chuckles down in her crib, where she is happy to be surrounded by the warmth and sturdiness of four brick walls.  I creep out of her room, slip off my shoes and check my phone. I got some great shots of the sweet little valley and the forecast for tomorrow looks perfect!

Ivana Hillis lives in Littleton, Colorado with her husband and daughter.  She was born in Yugoslavia, an accursed little country that no longer exists.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.