A group of guys gathered. It was early morning, the base of a mountain. The dress code called for fleece, hiking boots, and frayed baseball caps with the bills smoothed round. There was not a lot talking. Current events were not shared, no discussion of politics. No verbiage on the wives and kids, except to say how big the boy is getting and how she likes her new job. Shortly after, they got down to the business of being there.
Hiking up the mountain, they talked even less. Some pulled ahead, some trailed behind. Step by step they plodded away, cracks of twigs breaking underfoot. A hefty Moose idled near by, calling out with a loud bellyache maw. It was a disgusting and thunderous noise, yet satisfying with its ugliness. With each step, the air grew firmer, resisting the labor of their breathing. Streams of sunlight lit up the wild and decaying earth around them. Leaning against juniper bark, they took stops. Sipping water and eating trail mix.
Blood pooled and rushed around. Muscles roared to fiery life. Sweat poured out, making their clothes and skin soggy. Their thoughts sounding like glass marbles bouncing in a tin cup. Each step jolting the lot. With no small effort; they focused on the trees, the lichen, the weight of their pack, anything but food. Then, an abrupt silence came and swallowed them whole, making nothing else audible. They had broken through the tree line.
The gray landscape stood as vast mounds. Lichen left nothing uncovered. Their acute exposure was overshadowed by the height they had reached. The squared themselves, squat and cocksure with fraternity. Steeper and steeper they strode. Each step was treated with the care of new born Australian Sheppard. Laced with firm leadership, the mountain path would be solid and giving. Loyal to their master's purpose. Fellow hikers now passed them, going the other direction. Wearing cotton t-shirts and tennis shoes, they were amateurs. Terror plastered on their faces.
Day turned to hot noon, noon to dusk. Dusk turned to a viscous, blue black sky. They set up camp, lit a fire, and took a leak behind the rocks. Bullshit was flipped back and forth. Beers were cracked, meals were made, joints were passed. Cards were thrown. Humor was shared about the teenagers they had seen, coming down the mountain. Tales of dirty girls and past drinking deeds circled up like smoke signals.
The next day broke with a chilly wind. Small whispers went running over Popeye forearms. Gray clouds blended with the mounds, forgetting where one began and the other ended. They cooked coffee and broke bread. Sleep stubbornly wiped from swollen eyes. Packed the tarps and army mats. They gave rise once more, this time down the mountain.
*This photo is not mine and I was not there. It belongs to Geology Joe (he is the one in the red shirt). He says, "The picture was taken at the base of Mount Katahdin (peak in the background) in Baxter State Park (in the state of Maine) during October 2005, the night before the hike." There was also a lot more guys then the ones pictured.
For more hiking, biking and mountain climbing adventures (that I didn't have) go to his website (really, it is awesome, you should go):
Sling Shot Thought
**If you want a story behind your photo, send it to me, WITHOUT telling me anything about the picture, and I will publish the story here. my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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