Rated: E · Short Story · Spiritual · #2289719
Writing Prompt: Something eerie in the wind blowing through the tree's
|It has been about two month since I hit the trial of the world famous PCT or Pacific Crest Trail. I started alone and have made progress daily; usually covering 10 to 12 miles per day. Of course when I began I took it slow. Now around two months in, and I'm becoming accustom to the long miles. I have been able to maintain a consistent pace usually stopping near sunset and setting up camp, having food, and getting a decent amount of sleep. |
Over the months people have joined me. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for a moment. Walking alone could get lonely, but for the most part it has been a pleasant trip. With or without company.
This particular morning was like most.
Waking up in my tent there was a dim glow emanating from the morning light that was beginning to peek trough the light green color of my tent. The sleeping bag, an old Zero degree I inherited from my father, had kept me comfortable from the night cold. As I lay there, just being alive, seemed like a gift. My breath, my body, my needs, the glow of the morning, and the cold all greeted me as I lazily awoke.
One thing about the hard ground is that for me there was no snooze button. Once that switch was flipped i was awake. With the warmth of the new sun, the gentle chirping of the birds, the firm ground, and the invisible energy of the forest. It seemed like a natural alarm clock.
Like most mornings I slowly went through my routine. Unzipping and then stuffing my sleeping bag. Cleaning and finding all my items that I had used the day previous: Flash light, Trail knife, Bear spray, and even a book I would sometimes read to keep my mind busy. Of course I had to retrieve my food hung in the tree nearby. Then firstly and lastly the thing I always did was quickly hydrate, have a breakfast snack, and don my shoes. Once ready I would stretch and be off.
Last night I had camped near a small lake somewhere in the Sierras. So that meant I got to spoil my self with plenty of water. Its coldness, even while in the cold, was still refreshing. Though I still wished for a nice hot cup tea. Regardless of this, once I was ready I hit the trail, excited for what the day was to bring.
-Miles and hours later-
Looking at the sky it looked to be about mid-day. I had relied on my own internal clock and the signs of nature to decide what my noon was or what my evening was. When it was getting dark that meant I would stop. If it felt right I would stop for a lunch, or sit break. Nothing seemed to be governed by any truly man made construct which made it all the more real. Also human.
At the moment it felt like lunch so I made up my mind to stop.
I stopped on what was a downward sloped trail heading though the Sierra's. I popped a squat on an old log that looked as if it had fallen, blocked the trial, then was sawed and pushed too the side. The scenery was limited due to the density of the tree's. I could make out that I was in a green valley encased in forest. The greenery look healthy which made me think there had been plenty of snow pack that had melted and fed the forest floor. Removing my pack off my back I got out my water, a protien bar, and observed my surroundings as I sublimely ate and sipped on my water.
As I finished my break I heard through the tree's the sound of foot steps and the movement of what seemed like a group of hikers. Sitting there, they quickly came into focus. Two girls and and a young man. The girls looked as if they were traveling together. Wearing what looked like newer gear. Bright colors, but also different shades of brown, and gray. One was a younger Asian girl the other a similar aged blonde Caucasian woman. Both had beauty. Not just visual, but also a unique beauty that hundreds of miles and constant walking can give you.
The gentleman with them looked like an experienced hiker. Like the trail and his feet where his profession. His gear and clothing were devoid of color. His hair long and brown pulled back into a pony tail. A full brown beard and a strong weathered face.
I noticed them first and waved at the two girls. They smiled and waved back as they grasped their hiking poles in each of their hands. The man with them seemed to not change his demeanor. I found this odd, but thought nothing of it.
“Howdy” I said in a slight southern accent
“Howdy partner” one girl said giving her best southern drawl.
“Howdy” said the other with similar effort.
The gentleman with them simply said “Sup”
As they came to where I was sitting. He took of his pack and placed it on the ground, and from the side pocket pulled out water and snacks. I was okay with this because I preferred to interact with the girls first.
Speaking up I said “Man, you guys must be covering good ground to be passing me this soon”.
The young Asian woman replied first. “Yep, been in high gear since we started. Came across 'Ash' here a couple days ago and we have been a thing since then.”
“Thing?” I said
She smiled and winked at me.
Smoothly, Ash nodded to me and said “Yep, their quick” in a gentle quiet manner. “And just hiking buddies”.
The other girl spoke next“You should join us. We are planning on doing 24 hours today. We are just going to take a quick break now and push through till morning then rest for a while.”
I looked at Ash and then the two other girls and said “Hell, why not and by the way what are your trial names? Mine's Dag”
Ash gently said “Ash obviously. That's 'Kale” he said pointing to the young blond girl. Then pointing at the other woman said “that's 'Hair”.
“Fair enough” I spoke “ Lets hit the trail. And your gonna have to give me the story behind those names. Its always interesting.”
“Deal” Kale spoke “we have plan!”.
With that we soon hit the trail. There were small conversations as we walked. Most of the time we were busy observing the scenery, watching our footings, and enjoying life. As the sun set, the scenery, mostly tree's and hillsides began to give an alpine glow. A redness which developed on the mountains opposite us. It basking the valley in a gold and red like glow. It was like this only for a short time. Soon the colors transitioned to a slight glow as the dark spread over. So we donned our head lamps as the corresponding cold settled over the valley. Soon we were surrounded by a darkness that covered everything but our lights and the speckled stars in the sky.
As we walked I learned a little about my fellow hikers. Hair and Kale were friend from college who the year before had decided to take a backpacking trip together. And apparently had agreed if they were going to do a trip they wanted it to be one for the record books. So they chose the PCT.
Ash, who was the quietest, spoke very little. All I learned about him was that he had done some traveling before and enjoyed solitude unless his company was okay with a wall flower. The names on the other hand were always unique.
Kale got hers because she always had plenty of Native toilet paper which was just a soft leaf that grew here. Perfect for the daily dirty deed.
Hair on the other hand always had a hat or beanie on. Her short hair hidden under. Making her seem balled.
Ash, last but not least, was an expert at making fires which seemed to always burn till the last coal turned to ash.
We learned this and more as we hiked through the night. Little details here and there. Most of our energy was dedicated towards walking. Twenty four hours is a long time.
When the night became late and we could feel dawn soon approaching Hair's spider sense got tingling.
“Wait guys.” She whispered “You guys feel that”
Kale, looking back at where we came from said “Ya that wind is colder and the direction just changed. It feels so eerie.”
“Agreed” Hair said.
As soon as they spoke I picked up on the cold wind. It was coming from behind us. Ash had been leading, followed by me, then the two women. This change had the two girls stopping in their tracks for they were the first to notice. Which obviously got my attention, and as usual Ash didn't seem disturbed.
We stood there for what could only have been moments. In that time I noticed the direction in which Kale and Hair were looking had a rising flow of cold air being pushed our way. Ash was now behind me as we looked back. The wind kept blowing. Getting colder little by little. Then it got to a point were I felt that there was something alien about the wind. Like something unnatural was directing it.
In that instant a light flashed from behind, where Ash was, and in that moment we were suddenly sitting around a campfire. Hair to my left, Kale to my right. But Ash was no where to be seen.
The fire was dwindling down like it had be burning for some time, and the sun had just poked up on the horizon; its warm glow hitting us. Yet only a second ago we were in the dark facing a cold wind as its bite stung our faces. Now we were comfortably sitting around a fire. Our packs resting against the tree's nearby. Mine, Kale's, Hair's, and Ash's. The only thing amiss was that Ash was not seated with us. It was Just us. The only thing left of Ash was his pack.
I was the first to speak up.
“What happened?!” I stuttered “We we were just....somewhere...else.”
Without missing a beat Hair spoke “dude its okay Ash had to leave”
“Wait, what, how do you know that?” I responded
Hair replied “ I..I don't know. I just do.”
Kale then said “Yeah apparently he just wanted to say hi and spend some time with you. And don't ask how I know. I just do”
Shocked and yet completely at easy an image of of someone with his arm around Ash flashed in my mind. The person I saw was strangely familiar. Like I knew him, and yet he looked completely different.
In my mind I asked to myself “who is that?”
Then a quiet and kind voice replied. Almost as if spoken it said “you”.
We three sat there as the final coal in the fire turned to ash as the sun showed her face. There was an unspoken understanding between us. We felt as though we knew without words what to do. A gift from Ash.
A new friend.
An old friend.