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Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2111415
A new bride takes on a challenge to complete a New Year's tradition.

{center} by Apondia or (JD){/center}

My new family has an interesting tradition on New Year's Eve. Sam, my new husband, and a full-fledged member of the family who owns this farm said the tradition started when the first members of the family settled here in the late 1800's. At that time the hunter's cabin was an extension of the farm where they spent time hunting for the winter meat that kept the family healthy until spring. It was easier to go out from a cabin situated in the wilder part of the property than to gather game from the farm in the valley where the plowed fields surrounded the house.

Sam and I met in college. He was studying farm techniques. I was studying environmentalism. We discussed the New Year's tradition at length. I'm a long time trekker so it didn't seem like a problem to walk a couple miles in the dark along a well-worn trail with markers every quarter mile. Now I'm in the farm house alone waiting for the ten-minute alarm to go off on my phone. Then I walk out the back door, lock it and I'm on my way. The family left for the Cabin yesterday. Sam looked a little apprehensive when he left with them. There are all kinds of stories about happenings out on the trail on New Year's Eve.

The first year Devlin, Sam's brother, walked the New Year's Welcome was the year the wolf pack showed up at midnight to haunt the trail to the hunter's cabin in the woods. He left the farm house at 10 minutes to midnight but never showed up at the hunter's cabin. The next morning they found him sleeping in a tree which had teeth marks on the trunk where the wolf pack chewed out their frustration, not being able to catch him. He was OK, though, it was a warm night and he stayed high up in the tree. That's why we aren't allowed to ride a horse out to the cabin in the night.

It is up to the person who has never walked the trail at midnight to bring the morning light. The person waits at the farm house. Everyone else moves to the hunter's cabin by daylight the day before. They use the farm vehicles. Carrying out the party food, blankets, extra fuel for the furnace and any other necessities for camping in the cabin for a few days around New Years. It's a really comfortable cabin with a lot of the comforts of home. The family built it on a high rising hill in the middle of a wild valley. Even though it is only a couple miles from the farm house it makes you feel as if there is no civilization left in the world. Now, in this modern technological world, it even has wifi with a satellite dish installed last year.

The morning light you carry used to be a burning torch. Then a few years ago when one of the teens, who was taking their first New Year's welcome trek, dropped the torch in a panic because they saw a black bear. It was the wrong time of year for a bear. The elders couldn't figure out why it wasn't hibernating. Of course, the torch scared off the bear but it also started a fire in the woods since it was a rather dry year. The trekker, Ben, was carrying a cell phone for the first time ever. He called the cabin and the party members rode out on farm 4-wheelers with water. Luckily, Ben had taken off his jacket and was beating out the flames with it. Then, he was only a quarter mile from the end of the trail to the cabin so they put the fire out with barrels of water. Everything worked out well that time. Anyway the younger members of the family convinced the elders they should start carrying an electric torch instead of the kerosene torches of older days.

Other stories of many years gone past about things that happen on the trail aren't so fun.
At least one young bride who started out on the trail never arrived at the cabin at all. She was never seen again. No trace. Nada. The family spent months scouring the forests and brush around the whole length of the trail never found even a drag mark or blood.

It gave me a day alone in on the farm. Well, there is still a farm hand in the barn who will stay to feed all the livestock in the barns. The house has seemed very quiet and still for the last 24 hours. One thing about this family group they are an active rowdy bunch.

The alarm went off. I slipped my phone into a pocket, then shouldered a small walking pack. Buttoned on my coat. Picked up the torch, locked the door behind me and crossed to the barn. The path ran around the back of the barn and across a large field, then into the forest. I turned around and looked at the lighted barnyard behind me as I stood at the entry to the woods. No turning back now.

As I entered the forest I thought back to the week before, when Sam and I had walked this together to the Cabin then stayed for the night and walked back. "See it's just a cleared trail. Easy to walk. Easy to navigate." He had stated, as we explored the sights on the side of the trail. He pointed out the markers on the trail as we walked along.

I saw a small stream flowing across the trail that day. It was situated about half way to the cabin. There was a little walkway across the stream with railings. Sam's husky, Hush ran along with us. He stopped and dabbled his paw in the water chasing the minnows that swam just under the surface.

My wandering mind centered itself back onto the trail. It was different today. Snow covered some of the tracks from the machines that drove down it yesterday. We had wind today that blew small drifts across the trail.

I switched off the torch. Discovery is fun in any adventure. I found that the snow reflected the moonlight enough so I could walk along without the torch burning. No-one had said I had to use the light the whole way.

As I drew to the place, where the first quarter marker was I flicked on the torch to read the sign better. When the light burst on I heard rustling off the side of the trail back in the direction I had already covered. I shined the light in that direction and across the brush and trees next to the trail but I did not see any thing moving. I decided to backtrack a few paces. Back about 30 feet, I found where two deer had crossed the trail.

Turning toward my destination I continued forward passed the marker sign and walked on. Even without the light, I could see something huge blocking the trail as I was approaching the stream. I switched the torch back on. A huge buck straddled the trail. Blinded by the light, he stood twitching his short white tail. The 6 tines on his rack made him seem formidable. He let out a long snorting sigh. In truth, he might be dangerous if he decided to run or jump over me. I only took a second to switch off the light. Released by the beam which had froze him, he snorted a short huff, bolted with an arching leap into the under brush.

I crossed the bridge, switched on the light to read the halfway sign. That is when I noticed the snow on the little bridge was scuffed and pushed by something that had already crossed it earlier. I checked my watch. It was a little passed midnight. I had forgotten to set my watch so one year had slid quietly away and another had settled in without me even noticing.

Before I could congratulate myself for making the halfway point I heard the sound you don't want to hear when you are walking a trail in the woods across a years worth of memories.

If you ever hear it, the stretched out screaming wail of a women, in agony, in the dark of night on a lonely trail will make you stop and shiver. This time I felt warned. I searched the sides of the trail with the light both before me and from the direction I had just walked. I did not see any movement. More than that, I was looking for a place to take cover if I needed it. There was nothing to see, so I walked on. Then the scream came again. Deer burst from the undergrowth across the trail 50 feet in front of me. They were running hard.

I wasn't walking comfortably anymore I was searching the night with the light and I could feel the cold seeping through me even though I was well clothed for the walk and should have been too warm not cold. I was hoping I was making good enough time to see the 3/4 marker soon. The light found the marker as I flashed it forward.

There was the trail marker. Standing in front of it was a Bobcat. It didn't give any ground. I set the light on flash hoping it would run away. Instead, it crept forward crouching with a slight snarl. I backed up a step then decided it might be better to stand my ground.

A new howl entered the sound of the woods. The long high drawn out howl of the wolf. The bobcat froze. It stopped stepped sideways grabbed up a dead rabbit laying on the edge of the trail and ran off away from the direction of the wolf howl.

Flashing the light back and forth across the sides of the trail I ran a few yards leaving the last marker behind. I figured I would not be able to run the whole rest of the way to the cabin so I slowed to a fast walk. As I turned the bend in the trail that would take me close enough to the cabin to see it. A large body barreled off the pile of logs beside the path and dragged me down to the ground as it's weight hit me. I wrapped my hands around the animal, we rolled back and forth for a minute then it pinned me and began to lick my face with its slobbery tongue.

Hush get off me I snarled. He lept up to the trail and followed me the rest of the way on my walk. All the lights in the cabin were on. There was music playing and porch lights also burned. As I walked up the front steps the music of Auld Ang Sine began to blare and people pored out of the cabin yelling Happy New Year.

Sam patted me on the back. "How was the walk?"

" Exciting, Next year we will do it together."
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