Early one winter weekend in the late 1990’s, Cassie Stone decided to go biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail with her friend and employee Martha Rizoti and their myriad children. All the kids were in their early teens except for Katie Stone, who was in her late teens. Since I was familiar with the trail and knew both families, I was invited to go along as an adult leader. All the kids were excited to do anything outdoors, especially the boys. That is, all except Katie. She was being pushed to go against her will.
As we drove our caravan of vehicles through Ashe County on the way north, it started snowing. We stopped beside the road for a confab. Cassie made the executive decision to press on. I experienced a pleasant change in my traditional leadership role. Up to that point in my outdoor career, I had usually been the ramrod. I was the one who planned trips in difficult conditions. I could be counted on to keep up the pressure on the laggards to keep going. In fact, my brother Frank Laney introduced me to my first wife on a backpacking trip in Linville Gorge as “the hard ass.” Now, with Cassie assuming the mantle of commanding general, I found it my pleasant task to be more nurturing to the kids.
When we got to the Creeper Trail parking lot, Katie pitched a minor sit down strike. You know how teenage girls can be. She did not want to be biking in the mountains to start with. Add the cold, a slick snowy trail, insufficient winter clothes… You get the picture. Cassie read Katie the riot act and got her out of the van.
We set off up the trail from Green Cove towards Whitetop. There was much whooping, hollering, snowball throwing and generally warm camaraderie. That is, all except for one unhappy camper. After awhile, Katie began to get quite cold. We were in several inches of snow and she had no hat or gloves. She let her misery show. Sulking may not be too strong a word.
I made an executive decision to take care of Katie. We stopped beside the trail and I gave her my spare toboggan (… a Boy Scout is always prepared…). Then I pulled up the front of my coat and shirt and stuck her hands on my bare stomach. Woohoo, that is cold! After a minute or so, I gave Katie my gloves (… no, no spares for me…) and we set off up the trail in pursuit of the other happy campers.
Now that she had somebody to take care of her, and she was actually warmer, Katie warmed up to the trip. She became friendly, talkative, even animated. Well, you know how teenage girls can be. We all had a great time.
Forever afterwards, whenever we talked about outdoor trips, Cassie and Katie describe this trip as the time that “Bob saved Katie.”