Zach again with the story-time sequel. I’ve been getting to bed a little bit earlier these past few nights and haven’t had time to write it up, anyway…
After a full day of hiking, we quickly fell asleep, ready to embrace the oblivion of the night. It would seem that someone did not believe we had earned that rest though; the temperature plunged and it was a struggle to lie still as shivers wracked our bodies. While Parker did eventually fall into a troubled sleep, my eyes remained wired open as my body shook despite the multiple layers I had dawned. I remained in that frozen purgatory until the sun rose and the temperature with it. Only then was I able to rest after nearly eight hours of staring at the walls of our tent. Parker woke at 9:50 but let me sleep until 12:00. With a good portion of the day lost, we decided to hike a short distance to the summit of Phelps Mtn. (Which was another peak over 4,600 feet)
As we took our first steps, we quickly felt the effects of yesterday’s journey. Blood welled in our limbs, rendering them stiff and sore. Stretching was only a partial remedy, a realization that we tried to suppress as we prepared the five mile hike before us. The climb began on another of the many hard-beaten paths that patrol the foothills. I found myself questioning what fraction of the people in the park actually came to cross mountains. The trail gave way to the rocks of a somewhat dry riverbed as we neared the foothills. The orientation of the stones was not unlike that of a staircase and resulted in a fairly easy climb. I was able to appreciate my surroundings much more completely as I no longer had to pay attention to every specific angle
of and distance between rocks. We were flanked by all manner of leafed trees, and the forest floor was covered with the colors of leaves in different stages of decay. Tangled and gnarled roots slithered across the trail, serving as footholds in some places, their bark smoothed by hundreds of uncaring boots. Here, a small stream of rain water left over from yesterday’s drizzle trickled beneath our feet, carrying away loose sentiment and polishing the rocks it flowed over. There, a tree had fallen across our path, its truck scattered in a thousand prices where it had broken from its anchor and its limbs reaching our to snag our clothing as we hurtled its attempt to dissuade us. We knew that we were close as our stairway became a terraced wall that we were to scale. Boulders the size of a man were stacked on top of each other with only tree roots, on the way of hand holds, providing a means to scale them. I ascended ahead of Parker this time, confident that his shoulder would not betray him in this climb. We moved slowly, hand over hand, I only barely registered the weight of my pack pulling my back down.
My hand gripped the rough edge of the next rock, hoisting me up from the root that I was standing on. Parker was below me, without looking I could picture him taking his time to pick the easiest way to make the climb. I must be some ways ahead of him. I stepped up to the ledge, pausing to crush another mosquito under my palm and to let Parker catch up. We had been talking about a book that I was reading for the past hour now and I wanted to make sure he remained within ear-shot. He always did complain that I mumbled too often and failed to properly enunciate. We were almost to the top now, I could see the valley below me. Waves of forest flowed out beneath me. That was what they looked like, giant waves. As if I were trapped in the tides of a green sea in a storm, nearly on the apex of a gargantuan swell. The weather was much too nice for a storm though. Clouds drifter lazily overhead in the paradigm of a blue sky. I turned and began to climb again. I wanted to get to the top soon, I was hungry and the landscape would provide a nice view for the meal that I had packed.
The top of the mountain was not of bare rock as was Marcy or Skylight. Still below the tree line, pines stood on either side of us upon a typical carpet of fallen needles. A cramped path of stone wove its way through them, slowly zig-zagging upwards. Eventually we can to a large outcropping that stood apart from the greenery. Pale gray stone, rendered smooth by what I could only assume was the wind formed a vast porch on the top of the mountain. Parker and I sat, our feet dangling precariously over the edge, as I opened my pack and removed our lunch. As I clumsily opened a can of chicken breast I took in the panoramic view provided. We gazed down from a mountain in a forest of mountains, each covered by forest. Peaks broke out above and below us, though all were distant. There were no bodies of water nor cliff faces to take away from the uniformity of the dark colors of the woods surrounding us. We ate in silence before digressing to read the books that we had brought with us. We had figured that it would be a peaceful enough setting.
Two hours later, around 5:00, we closed our books and began the descent down the mountain. This time, it felt that we were moving at a much faster pace than that of our climb up. We made our way down the steepest of the boulders with this in mind before stepping on to the more level stones of the river-bed.
My momentum increased as I moved over the next rock, using the slim truck of a tree to swing me across. My feet met the surface of stones faster, my mind quickly calculating where I had to place them. Parker was ahead of me, doing the same. Before we knew it we were running down the mountain. I leapt from one rock to the next, swinging between the limbs of trees when I could. My legs powered me over beds of mud. My strides lengthened as I ran faster, the thrill at the possibility of falling and surly breaking something only spurred me on. The silence of the trail was broken by the thud thud thud of our feet pounding across it. Between our speed and the roughness of terrain, I marveled at my ability to place my feet on and apply the right force to a stone when one wrong move would see me dashed against them. The forest rushed past me, blurred as I hurdled a boulder before skipping to another four feet away. A young couple was coming up the trail. I smiled as I noticed the way they were starring as if what we were doing was totally insane. I can assure you that it was. For two miles I ran, my shoes never touching the ground, accept for that one time I slipped. Then I had mud all up my leg. Besides that I was feeling very entertained. Adrenaline rushed through me, filling my limbs with the ability to flit between protruding roots, leaning tree trunks and the stones that littered the trail. The pack I wore was tightly secured to my torso, I could feel its straps digging into my abdomen. The entire experience was a blur, I struggled to contain joyous laughter.
Reaching the end if the trail, we paused to rest before continuing back to our camp. Even though we had hiked only a fourth of the previous day’s distance. We felt that the run made up for a few miles. The rest of the night was spent cooking up supper and reading after night had fallen.