LOCATION: Blue Mountain Ridge, PA
They say that the Mountain never gives up its secrets, so I
took the only remaining piece of Grandpa Dean's old map, and
went up to find out why. He had often been heard to mutter
something about the left foot of Mountain's fourth letter, so
that is where I started on this cold, windy day, not another
soul in sight. Nothing there but hardwood trees and some
footprints in the snow, the sort made by those yuppie "outdoor"
boots, that, like luxury SUVs, you rarely actually see near
I followed the prints as they went in a northwesterly direction,
idly counting them off as I ate the M&M's from my trail
mix ... 88, 89, 90, huh?
There she was, in the boots that belonged to the bootprints --
twentysomething, cute, and fit, though definitely out of place
(and prolly a bit chilly) in her tight-fitting Guess bluejeans
and neatly-tucked white Tommy top.
"Thelma Kennedy", she offered. "What brings you up on the ridge
today in this cold wind?"
"Uh, from Hyannisport, I presume?", was what I managed to
dumbly mumble. I then managed to follow with the most
clever "just doin' some hiking, you?"
"No, I'm from the Virgin Islands, and my purpose here is
much more obscure. What we seek is different, yet the
same. Now that our paths have crossed, I believe we can
help each other."
"Cool", I said, as I offered her some trail mix.
"No thanks", she replied. "But would you mind showing me
"Sure, you can have it. The trails are all wrong, and it
doesn't show me how to get where I want to go anyway. And
I've been forced to navigate by contours, for the most part."
I watched her as she gazed at the map for a while, while I
kept myself occupied adjusting my gear and whatnot so as
to not get caught staring.
She reached into her hip pocket and pulled out a small
laminated sheet of paper. "Here, you may borrow my map",
she said, "if I may borrow yours for a bit."
"Sure", I said, "does it show you what you're looking for?"
"I think so, if you read the contours right."
"Cool", I said dully. "Is there anything I need to know from
it that you saw?"
"Not really, at least not that can help you up here."
"Cool", I said again, as I glanced at the borrowed map. All it
showed was a "T" and two small pine trees at 287 degrees
from there. Pretty much all that was around here was
"Thanks alot", she said, as she turned, waved, and headed
down the trail towards the south.
Sheesh, I thought. Why does everyone else seem to know the
right thing to do in any given situation? After standing
dumbfounded for a moment, I grabbed my compass and headed
into the woods to find the pine trees. I wasn't too far in,
about a third of the way, I'd guess, when I spotted a nice
hole in the side of a tree, about chest high. Wow, there's
a place for a mountain to keep its secrets, I thought. I reached
in, but the hole was bottomless; alas, it was not going to be
that easy today.
I bushwhacked the rest of the way there, and spotted the first
of the trees, just about where the mountain was really starting
to fall off to the north. Hmm, that's nice, I thought, pine
trees. I looked at the map again. What? It no longer showed
from whence I came, but an "X" at 213 degrees from the first
My mouth started to go a bit dry. I could get lost out here
without my contour map and this bizarre map. I reversed
my bearing to head back to where I'd met Thelma, until, duh, I
realised my footprints in the snow could lead me back if need be,
and it wasn't really too far; I had counted off fewer steps than
I did when following her.
My heart was starting to race a bit. I dialed 213 into my
compass and headed up the hill. About the same distance as
the bottomless hole was from where I'd met Thelma, I found
another great hiding place. This was the "X", an old
log. I reached under a nook in the rootstock of the log
and recovered an old box; the Mountain had given up a
secret after all.
But a strange, sweet, intense feeling was overwhelming me.
This was what I had come for, but not what I was going to
leave with ... (continued)