"There is no way we are going to make it," Colette cried through taut vocal chords every time we took a two-wheeled turn.
"We'll make it," false confidence etching each syllable into the cloud drenched air.
|O.K. now imagine this with blurrier trees. I might have been exaggerating a bit, but I swear at one point we were on two wheels.|
"We are not going to make it."
"If we don't, I will sweet talk the ranger, but we will make it."
"Have we passed the picnic area?"
"I don't know. I think so."
We barreled on to Smokemont Campground. At. 1:56 p.m., we were technically not yet late. I could not estimate an arrival time considering my lack of experience with the park and knowledge of the map scale.
We may fishtail into a parking space in with a minute to spare or not even find the entrance until fifteen minutes after it commenced. A third option of driving in circles in a sprawling campground scanning nervously for a flock of children surrounding a ranger finally happened at 2:03 p.m.
"Why the heck don't they have a sign? I don't see a ranger."
"I know, but we are going to make it. See, there they are. Evan unbuckle."
"What do you mean why? We are here. We are late. Unbuckle. Get your hat."
"Just get out and go."
Evan leaped from the car and sprinted to a gaggle of kids crushing a picnic table and two rangers explaining how to use a variety of nets to scoop up bug larva and other creek critters. Colette and I gathered the cameras, the expensive Fuji, the Droid, and Evan's Toys-R-Us Christmas special. We also got his ranger book and hustled to the gathering to secure a seat on a stump.
After instruction that went on much longer than needed Evan took the biggest net available which had to be used in coordination with two other kids. Though he is well trained in photo posing, the excitement of netting creek critters meant that he was paying little mind to the location of the camera.
"Here," I said holding my hand out for the camera.
I left the security of the bank and venture out into the creek to get a better angle of Evan. Every time I positioned myself for the perfect shot either he moved or some other child, oblivious to the fact that I was trying to photograph the only thing that mattered, crossed into the frame.
I stumble around a while and finally decided to give up. Ambling back to the shore I placed my foot on a water worn stone and fell face first into the creek. Did I say face first? I meant camera first. The entire camera had found a pool deep enough to submerge itself. It could have hit the rock to my right or come down in the shallow gravel just inch further ahead, but no, it dove beneath the surface only to reemerge pour water from the battery compartment and lens casing and any other orifice.
|Evan NOT falling down in the river.|
"Take out the batteries," Colette screamed.
"I know, I know." And I did. We had a similar incident at Niagara Falls while riding on the Maid of the Mist our old camera had inhaled enough of the mist to cause a psychotic break in which it refused to take
photos so we had learned how to best prevent camera aneurysms. It is, however, difficult to perform these medical procedures when you are suffering from an accelerated heartbeat and sudden onset heat flashes.
Colette later told me that many of the other parents were concerned about my physical well being. She assured them that I was fine and that in her expert medical opinion I just felt really, really stupid.
I quickly obtain the towel from the car that had previously been used to clean up Evan vomit (that is another story), opened every openable compartment on the camera, and took it to the sunniest spot in the tree filled campground.
Dabbing did little.
I tried blowing. It worked for dust in video game cartridges, but had little effect here.
I check to make sure that the strap was secure and spun the camera as if a was preparing for knockout punch against Yosemite Sam. drops of water gleamed in the shaft of sunlight that I had managed to find.
Then to the hand dryer in the campsite outhouse. Then an older guy told me that the other restroom across the way had an Xlerator XL-W automatic high speed hand dryer. He didn't use those words. What he actually said is, "They got one of them really fast one over there in that other bathroom."
I felt confident that we had most of the moisture out of the camera, but you not supposed to use them for at least 48 hours, and we weren't even done with the Smoky Mountains. Pictures are monumentally important on our vacations. We average well over 100 photos a day, and the cell phone and Evan's camera from Toys-R-Us was not going to cut it.
We finished the ranger program, but cloud loomed over us. It was not the cool "smoky" kind, but the ominous tornadoes and flash floods kind. I had ruined vacation. Only 45 minutes later we were at the visitor center when a herd of elk wander into the river. We had to have a picture. I risked the camera, but the LCD screen came on briefly and then did a neat little sizzle fritz thing like screens do when ghost encounter is imminent and EMF readings spike.
|Not bad, but our real camera could have diagnosed a malignant mole on their lovely elk ears.|
We ended up buying a similar camera at a Wal-Mart in Waynesville. I was assured that the there was a fifteen day return policy, and for the next two days we took pictures with our "borrowed" camera. We eventually went back to our camera when we made it to Charleston. Of course we immediately took it to the beach.