"Are you sure you don't want to come too, I can still swing by and pick you up from work? … Right, okay (no) I get it… … Oh don't worry your old man can still manage a couple of nights on the Mountain! I've got the old slr so I'll bring you back plenty of blurry photos! … (oh right) you've got a meeting, I'll see you in a couple of days! (okay) Bye!" The bleep of my phone hanging up was the reminder I needed to focus again on the road and push everything else back. I know the route to the Mountain well which is good given the mist that has descended over the area. Before long I found the turning down the narrow forested side road and within the hour arrived at the parking site. I checked my supplies were secure, can't be too careful with the bears out here and set off up the hill.
[[Set Off|Man Lookout]]I definitely packed too much stuff, the thought occurs to me only as I reach the first viewpoint up the side of the Mountain. Now three hours away from my car, far too far to turn back now, right? I could but then might as well call the whole thing off. No, I could take a rest here or just press on it isn't that much further to our usually mid way camping spot after all.
[[Rest Here|Man View]] or [[Continue|Man Continue]]"Ahh and that's already much better," the immediate relief washed over me as I put my heavy bag down. This is why Megan is always saying I should walk from the house, “you don't need as much,” but then you also can't go as far or see sights like these! I take a moment to focus and look out at the rolling hills before me. The trees must be evergreens to still have their foliage covering the country roads and grasslands of the valley. Peering out over the edge I could almost make out our little town silhouetted by the light reflecting off the big city water reservoir. It can't have been easy for Meg growing up in such a little town, I know that all too well, but I didn't expect her to give up on our tradition so quickly after moving away. It was then that I remembered the camera in my bag, should I take a picture of the view for Meg?
[[Take Photo|View Picture]] or [[Continue|Man Continue]]After awhile rustling around and removing most of the contents of my pack I gathered my camera up and looked out through the viewfinder. The lens caught the sun perfectly as a took a couple of shots across the valley, before zooming in on our town and the lake beyond. That'll do for now I don't have that much film and there's a lot of Mountain left! To avoid having to repack my bag again I sling the camera around my neck and carry on.
[[Continue|Man Continue]]As I climbed higher the path and surrounding trees came to echo my own weary exhaustion, the grey-brown leaves lacking the strength to hold on fell flatly down to the dirt of the path where they collected and slowly rot away. For a time a nearby brooke broke the silence of the Mountain with it's subtle watery babble but I didn't catch sight of it before the path veered away.
[[Continue|Mid Point]]I recognised the rocks first, standing monolithic over the entrance to the campsite halfway up the Mountain. It was little more than a field really but the firepit was a welcome addition, thanks to a group effort by hikers of years gone by. However, it looked like there hadn't been anyone around recently the field was starting to grow over and there was no wood for a fire. Right, I thought, should I make camp first or look for some wood for a fire.
[[Camp|Camp]] or [[Firewood|Night]](set: $Mid to "camp")I put my pack down, took my camera off and stretched, need to get that tent up first. Turns out a two man tent isn't designed to be put up by one older man. It took enough time just getting the right poles together for the frame that by the time the entire thing was up the sun was starting to set through the trees. As I set off to look for wood a howl rose up through the shadows of the trees. I turned, stumbled and lost my footing to the busy forest floor in an unfair game of twister.
[[Fade Out|Peak]](set: $Mid to "fire")I decided I better keep my pack with me since there wasn't much else to eat up here and very few waterproof sleeping bags. With a sigh I heaved on my pack and stumbled off into the undergrowth. More time that I'd have thought passed as I slowly collected up a sizable bundle. Crunch! The interruption knocked me from my collecting rhythm as I fell to the forest floor.
[[Fade Out|Peak]]"Well (fuck) Cassy and the other girls said this was a waste of time and (well...) they're right aren't they Artemis?" I reached down to scratch my curly mongrel's ear. She's a good dog and just the friend I need right now. It's taken two days for us to reach the peak. Any view is obscured by a callous layer of fog and we're running dangerously low on dog treats. "Alright Arte, I guess we should get going, you can't see it anyway and this fog'll clear before we reach the base." I grabbed my pack, making sure I had a firm grip of Arte's lead and we set off back down the Mountain.
[[Continue|Girl Lookout]]I put down my pack and sat; my bag was a very expensive and pretty uncomfortable chair but it worked. Properly situated I looked out over the valley. I can't see my college from here but to be honest that's a good thing and half the reason I travelled out this far. Going to an all girls school was good, a really supportive environment that allowed us to talk frankly about anything but at the same time it was so competitive. I can paint, I could be an artist. Cassy is an amazing illustrator, I'll never be as good as her. I don't have the head to be a lawyer or the heart to be a doctor or the brain to be a math person. I'm pretty sporty but it's so much work to be the best and not just lose all the time. I like hiking but it's the experience more than anything, just being outside- Arte licked my hand in answer to my idle pondering, should I pet her or should we just get going?
[[Pet Dog]] or [[Continue|Girl Continue]]We didn't get much further down the mountain before Artemis got distracted. Some rodent or smell caught her attention and she ran off into the bushes. I slowed down, the trees seemed to slow down with me. The wind that had caught them died down and all that surrounded me was the quiet rustle of Arte on her latest fact finding mission. I called out to her and with an acknowledging bark she appeared a way down the path and on the other side of a dried up ditch. I caught up with her. Since the path was opening up, I put Artemis back on her harness as she stopped to mark another plant.
(if: $Mid is "camp")[[[Continue|Fight Camp]]](else:)[[[Continue|Fight Night]]]Before I moved Artemis was already on her back, she loves having her belly rubbed. Her curly fur is so soft its like scratching a pillow, a really fluffy one that often catches twigs and tangled plants bits. I looked out over the valley once more, it's an amazing view now the fog has lifted I can see for miles. All the tiny people ferreting around in their little cars from small house to small office and back. Arte rested her paw on my arm as I continued to pet her, I'm not sure why she does it but she likes it and it's not that mucky. Without warning Artemis rolled back over, I patted her head for good measure and stood up. Let's get going, shall we?
[[Continue|Girl Continue]]Artemis was chafing at her leash by the time we reached the first viewpoint down the mountain. I stopped for the twentieth time so she could mark an especially interesting leafy plant of some indistinct variety. The fog or mist that had so cruelly barred our view from the peak was starting to clear now. I wondered whether it was worth waiting to admire the clear view or better just to continue on to the campsite.
[[Wait|Girl View]] or [[Continue|Girl Continue]]By the time we reached the campsite it was getting late, someone had already set up and taken the best spot by the firepit. I walked over to put my stuff down on the edge of the clearing. Artemis hadn't moved since I left her side; a low growl escaped her stillness. A sharp coarse yelp was all the warning I got. Out from the bushes crashed a man, torn jacket and panting. He looked about my Dad's age. I started to speak but he moved to my side and took my arm to silence me. He pointed and I saw, the glint of eyes burnt yellow in the setting light.
Artemis chose that moment to make her move. She charged to my side and barked until the eyes blinked away into the growing night. "What was that?" I said baffled.
"Bear or well maybe one of those cryptids my daughter is always going on about but looked like a bear to me." The Man answered stumbling over to his tent with a bundle of sticks for the fire."Thanks for the save there, your dog is a brave one."
"Err, no problem, I would say I've trained her well but she only listens to me when she wants to." I start setting up my own tent. "I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight with that bear so close", I say, taking a moment to listen for it.
"Same", the man quietly added.
By the time we reached the campsite it was getting late. I put my pack down. Our tent was pretty easy to set up since I had one of those popup ones. I'd just started to unpack after knocking in the guide ropes when Arte wanted my attention. Something was off about her; more agitated than usual. I imagined she was pretty fed up of being in that harness all day. I let her go. She turned to look at me for a second and then ran off into the bushes on the other side of the campsite beyond the firepit. I stood for a moment unsure and then started after her into the undergrowth.
"Artemis! Hey get back here-", I found her in a clearing some ways into the woods. She was standing between a man who looked about my dad's age and a curious black bear. The man's leg was injured but that was about all I could make out in the darkness. I cut off my call a moment too late as the man and the bear both turn their gazes towards me. Arte however stayed focused and chose that moment to ponce barking and biting at the bear until outnumbered and aggressed it turned to flee.
We found our way back to the campsite easily enough following the broken trail I had forged before.
"She your dog then?"
"Yeah, Artemis after the Greek hunting goddess. She's always been able to hold her own but that was something else," I reply.
"My daughter's always going on about those cryptid creatures maybe it was some of those?"
"Maybe", I replied with a shrug. "I'll light the fire while you get sorted."
"Thanks", the man handed me the bundle of sticks he had collected before setting out to set up his tent.
I finished lighting the fire and sat down to enjoy the warmth, Artemis resting her head on my thigh. After awhile the man came over to join us.
[[So what brings you to the mountain then?|Talk 2]]"So what brings you to the mountain then?", I say as the man settles down.
"My daughter Megan, I suppose. She suggested it anyway. What about you?", he said turning to me.
"It was Arte's idea really," I smiled and gave Arte's head a scratch.
"Well also I needed some space after dropping out of university, I thought the view at the top would give me some perspective but it hasn't helped much."
"Yeah", sort of pained. "It's not easy finding your way in the world and once you get there even harder to know when you've arrived... I took me ages to finally settle down with Meg and her mother, although after she past everything was up in the air again and we had to start afresh."
[[Oh no, I'm so sorry.|Talk 3]]
[[That must have hard on you, and Meg I can't imagine...|Talk 3]]
[[...(wait)...|Talk 3]]"It wasn't easy," the man continued, stretching out. "One of the main ways we bonded in the years after were trips up here. We'd spend every other weekend on the mountains to start with, once Meg was old enough. Of course that didn't last, as she grew the trips got less and less frequent. We had made it a yearly thing for awhile once she started working..." the man trailed off with a sigh.
"...So you don't know what to do either?", I asked to break the silence of the crackling fire.
"Mhm, not really."
[[Megan just needs to focus on life in the city.|Talk 4a]]
[[Do you have anything in common? Besides hiking I mean.|Talk 4b]]"Megan just needs to focus on her life in the city", this was more of a statement than a question but he answered it anyway.
"Yeah, probably, I just don't know how else to connect with her anymore."
"You could try inviting her to lunch or out for a coffee in that big park in the center?", I continued though a laugh. "Save for Arte earlier we don't bite!"
"Primrose Park? There's a couple of nice places around there actually, oh and I hope I knew that by now." He said smiling.
[[Stare into the fire|Talk 5]]"Do you have anything else in common? Besides hiking I mean."
"Meg used to love photography and she occasionally seemed interested in my job but I'm not sure what we have in common now.'' Exasperated.
"What do you do?" I asked quietly.
"I'm a graphic designer, used to work for a big office but when Molly, Meg's mum passed I had to go freelance to look after her." The man shifted in his seat. "I like the work and it was worth it to be there for Meg but I do end up stuck inside a lot."
"Yeah I bet, being out in the wild is the main reason I hike. Maybe you could just meet up in that big park and talk?", I say putting my hands over Artemis' ears. "Also don't let Arte know but more reason to be outside is also why I got her."
"Oh no worries I won't say anything," the man said with a smile.
[[Stare into the Fire|Talk 5]]A moment's pause as we both stared into the fire.
"Have you thought about a career as a mountain guide?" I hadn't considered that but I guess?
"You certainly helped me out, I don't know what I would have done against that bear, never seen one around here before."
"Me neither must have escaped from a zoo, that was much more Artemis than me anyway", I smile again filled with pride, "but thanks I'll definitely think about it."
"Alright, well on that note, I'm going to bed down for the night." The man stood slowly up his weight on his good leg.
"Alright, I'll put the fire out." I stared into the fire until the embers died down and went to sleep myself.
[[Sleep|Morning]]"Okay thanks again Meg, I'll be waiting by the car."
Artemis woke me up in the morning, she was startled by the commotion outside as the man packed up his tent. I dressed and started to pack up too as the man finished his phone call. He seemed much better after the events of the night although he was leaning hard on his walking stick.
"I thought about what you said last night, so I ran Megan up and she's going to take a taxi down here to drive me back. Then we're going out for lunch and to catch up," the man hoisted his pack up. "Ah, that's great! You can always climb the peak another time, the view is pretty similar to this one," I said looking out over the valley. "Yeah, maybe."
I made sure Arte was by my side and together we set off for the car park.
[[The End|The End]]Writen by Sam Richards
Music from https://filmmusic.io
"Jarvic 8" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
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