November 8, 2006

Peak Experiences

This is something I wrote for writing group yesterday and figured I'd post here for your voyeuristic pleasure. The topic we were given was "Peak Experiences" and we could do whatever we wanted with it. I dug into my mental files and came up with this memory:

The footprints in the snow looked fresh. They appeared to have been made from a cat-like animal and judging from their diameter and depth, a large one. And so I followed them.

I liked to hike these rocky canyons on weekends. It was a refreshing escape from the routine of college life and with the mountains only a short bike ride away, an irresistible diversion. I had named my game, "Pick a Peak and Climb It". A tad wordy, but there's a nice little alliteration in there for the fanciful. The peak I had chosen this April morning was a bit higher than usual but I was feeling ambitious and set out clawing my way up the rocky terrain - keeping my eye on the target summit. About an hour into my climb I was surprised to encounter snow stubbornly camped out from winter. The mysterious footprints were much more enticing than my peak and I happily changed course. Before continuing I glanced back to mark my progress. My bike was ridiculously small in the dirt lot below.

As usual I had failed to plan adequately and found myself without water, sunscreen or appropriate footwear for this level of mountain climbing. But the footprints of my mystery animal egged me on. It was probably a cougar. They are purported to wander these Utah mountains but I had never seen one without ten cent glass eyes. Only a week before I had encountered a desert fox on this same mountain. It was a peaceful meeting that left me with an intense feeling of equanimity. I imagined a similar experience with the footprint artist.

Where was my mystery beast going? Where did it sleep? How had it fared through the long Utah winter? The snow was getting deeper now and my Payless jogging shoes were as effective against the wet sludge as Klennex. I have minor asthma but have always been 'too cool' for an inhaler and my breath was becoming jagged. I stopped for a minute to rest on a rock and looked up the mountainside at the purposeful footprints in the snow. Then it hit me. I was trailing a cougar. Alone. In the middle of nowhere. And none of my roommates even knew I was even gone. Sheer panic catapulted me from the rock and tumbled me down the canyon at lightning speed. I reached my bike, took a terrified look back to see if I was about to be eaten alive then raced the three miles home.

My roommates were just beginning their morning routines when I breathed through the front door. I said nothing of course. Most of that day was spent in utter shock at my judgment's unexpected sabbatical. In the years since, this impromptu safari still holds its title as the definitive low moment in Hollywood's Judgment. And yet there is someone inside my head censuring me for not continuing, that still regrets abandoning the hunt on that clear morning and imagines breathtaking alternate endings. As long as she exists, I'll never be safe. Fortunately for me, I never want to be.


Adam said...

so what are you saying, inhalers aren't cool? c'mon. i'm hip. i'm withit. i used to be with it. but then they changed what it was.

Anonymous said...

LOL! i like the tone of your blog and really enjoyed looking over the posts. Suzanne shared a link to you and I had to follow over!

A Payne said...

After reading your very well written post, it made me think that I was grateful, because this is the official gratitude month, for talents.
You, my bloggy friend, are a gifted writer. I, my bloggy friend, am not. I'm not fishing for compliments. I know this about myself. That is why my posts are short and sweet. I am okay with it, I have other talents that I am proud of.
I'm glad that you share in the "hotness".

Suzie Petunia said...

That could have had a very tragic ending. Glad it didn't.

Sarah said...

Thanks, payne! But for what it's worth - I LOVE reading your blog! I have no skill for short and sweet although I'm sure people would appreciate it every once and a while.

kaff said...

You can't fit as much sassy sacracism into something short and sweet!