"No trespassing!" the dented metal gate exclaims. As I lift the end of it I struggle to move it to the side of the dirt road. Our family car passes by the open gate. I scamper into the car and we lurch onto the rusty red railroad bridge over the creek. Finally, we've made it to the ranch.
The warm breeze runs its delicate fingers through my hair as I walk through the spacious green field to the mountain of caves. While sauntering up the sandy rocks, I duck under small trees, pass by cactus, and spot an alert lizard on a rock. I finally climb into the familiar dugout I call a cave. Indian drawings scatter the walls and corn grinds lie in the floor. I look down and see abundant trees, fields, a pond, a stream, and best of all, Grandpa's red cabin with the pine-colored roof. I wave to my mom and dad, my aunts and cousins, or anyone who might be on the deck in the back of the cabin. I linger for a while, then start back down.
When the sun is high, my cousin stands next to me on the ledge urging me to jump. I look down into the clear, ice-cold creek. Butterflies flutter all through my body and I get a rush of excitement. I count in my head. "One, two, three!" My feet fling off the sturdy ledge. I prepare my knees to bend slightly as I hit the stinging-cold creek. It's so cold that my breath escapes my lungs and I spring to the surface. My legs scramble onto the rocky land as I grope for a dry towel. As soon as I'm somewhat dry and warm, I start to the ledge for another jump.
Later in the day, I stand at the bottom of Lizard Mountain, what used to be a hydropower plant. I gaze up to the top. My heart is full of ambition as I place my foot into the first groove in the grey rock. Holding fast to the cable wire, I make my way to the top, stopping only once for a breath. I stand majestically on the top and search the land below. Even though it's a different view from the Indian cave, I still see Grandpa's cabin. It's just a miniature red doll house from up here.
The hot tub is an end-of-the-day event. "Ooh! Hot!" My feet and legs burn with a tingle as I set them into the scalding water. The three-hundred gallon horse trough connected to a water heater makes a great hot tub. Once all the way in, my body temperature rises. "Let's go!" exclaims cousin Drew. Out we go, plummeting in the dark through the prickly grass, over the log fence, through the grass again, and onto the board that crosses over the stream. "You first," he says. I force myself into the ice-cold water. I stand, sit, and lie down all at the same time. It doesn't count unless every part of my body gets dunked. I fly out of the stream, my heart pounding. My bones ache from the cold. After Drew's turn, we each do it again. Dad says it's good for the heart. Then we sprint back to the hot tub, repeating the cycle.
Exhausted, I lie, gazing at the stars in the night sky. I snuggle cozily in my thick sleeping bag, searching for shooting stars or satellites. My eyes droop and my head nods as I doze off, dreaming of the fun I'll have tomorrow, when I'll begin the day by waking to the glow of the morning light.
Happy 4th of July!