Photo Source: PxHere
Racing up the trail, my heart thumps. Sweat drips down my back. My lungs wonder what the Hell happened to all the oxygen. On the final turn, I sprint up the stone steps and slap my hand against the steel superstructure of the fire tower.
“Done!” I shout to nobody.
I suck air and check the time. Aha! A new personal record. Sliced two minutes, nineteen seconds off the old one. And I’ve burned off that mid-afternoon donut liberated from the break room.
I slip a water out of my pack and chug. To the west, out on the plateau, a guy in a blue sweatshirt has staked out my favorite spot to watch the sunset. Full head of surfer blonde hair and fills out his clothes nicely. Ugh! My tee is soaked and my hair’s a mess. That’s okay. I’m not here to try to meet someone. It’s Friday, my alone time. I’m here to forget about work, the week, everything, as the sun slips under the mountains.
To Blue Sweatshirt’s right a kid bounds over the rocks. Not a child, but a baby mountain goat. White as a bed sheet and a foot-and-a-half tall. Black buttons where the horns will grow. No more than a few months old. Totally adorable.
I call out, “Looks like you’ve got a visitor!”
Blue Sweatshirt waves. He pulls out his phone and records the goat hopping from rock to rock on tiny legs.
The buckling or doeling—impossible to tell which—romps past, oblivious to the human interloper. With ease it ascends a fifteen-foot sheer rock face and munches on blue and yellow wildflowers.
The plateau is plenty wide. I’m sure I can find a spot far from Blue Sweatshirt and the kid.
I head toward the north edge when a nervous nanny goat emerges. She spies her offspring, trots forward and bleats.
Blue Sweatshirt is caught between mother and child.
“Trouble?” I yell.
Blue Sweatshirt waves his arms. “Hey goat! Go away, goat!”
His protests fall on deaf goat ears. The nanny charges. She’s buff and two hundred pounds easy. She could run him through with her horns or effortlessly headbutt him over the cliff.
I shout, “Hey, hey, over here!” Dancing back and forth, I pull the blanket out of my pack and make like a matador. “Olé, Miss Goat!”
She looks at me and snorts. I have her distracted. Great. With fury in her eyes, she rushes forward, horns pointed at me. Not so great.
I backpedal. “Stop, Miss Goat. Come on, Honey. Go check on your kid!”
She bounces over the rocks, gathering speed.
I trip on a wobbly stone and—oof—slam into the ground. The nanny bears down on me.
An ear-piercing screech fills my ears. Blue Sweatshirt is armed with an air horn. The wailing brings the nanny to a halt. Another screech. The nanny kicks at the ground.
She spins in a circle, spies her young one, and scrambles away. She’d advanced so far toward me that Blue Sweatshirt is no longer in her path. In a flash she’s across the plateau and scaling the incline. Mother and child are reunited.
Blue Sweatshirt approaches. “Thanks for the assistance. I’m Jeff.” He offers his hand—no ring—and lifts me to my feet. He has a tiny character-building scar on his chin.
I nod. “Sharon.”
“Well, Sharon, I’m glad I could return the favor.”
I shrug. “I was never in any danger. Had it all under control. Just about to implement Plan B.”
He crosses his arms and grins. “And what is Plan B?”
I deadpan. “Can’t tell you. It’s a technique that depends on the element of surprise. If goats were to ever learn how it works…”
“I won’t tell a soul.” He crosses his heart. “Maybe, you can reveal the secret over a drink in town.”
I shake my head and his smile disappears.
“I have a better idea.” I reach into my pack and pull out a pair of lemon-lime Powerades.
He laughs. “Much better.”
I spread out the blanket. From my favorite spot on the plateau we watch the sky change from orange to purple to black.
James Blakey lives in suburban Philadelphia and has climbed 38 of the 50 United States high points. Visit his website at JamesBlakeyWrites.com