“Rocky Mountain High”

My writers group spent a few minutes with a prompt last night. One of the participants explained (and had pictures) that she had recently been hiking in the mountains and came upon a startlingly clean pair of men’s white underwear (“tight whiteys”) alongside the trail. Amazing what people “lose” sometimes. The following is my response to that prompt…I just finished it today.

Near the vault of heaven everything seems clear and clean. It denies the world below.

As he trudged upward on the solitary trail, everything seemed to slip away. Each step was more free, less burdened by what was below. Even the landscape appeared to be shedding itself of its foolishness, its unnecessary camouflage.

He dropped his pack at about 5,000 feet, and left behind pre-packaged food, artificial flame, and polyurethane shelter he knew he didn’t need now. Broadleaved trees waved farewell. Aspen quaked with excitement and bid adieu.

Each step seemed to shed another layer, and the trees became pines longing for the blue of the over-reaching sky. His jacket hung from a low branch. Long sleeved shirt adorned a scrub.

Soon Bean boots stood footless at a lightning-blasted trunk, and his heavy hiking socks looked like Bassett ears from the charred branches.

One of the last fully-grown Lodgepoles might scare away eagles in its bright, white scarecrow T-shirt and denim shorts.

His breath was long draughts pulled deep into his belly and his soul and exhaled in small clouds that settled on the lichen-covered rocks there above the tree line.

From his left, the shriek of a hunting bird made him pause in his stuporous climb and look around. There above the trees, the clouds, the world he had known, he saw the last vestiges of sunset in the west. Overhead the full moon leered at his nakedness. Being seen made him at last a bit self-conscious and aware. He looked down at the barren mountainside.

Just off to one side of the disappearing trail some wag had arranged rocks to form Colorado’s most familiar cliché: “Get High in the Mountains.”

“Of course I’m high in the mountains,” he thought. How stupid. How obvious.

Below, too far away now for the sound or light to reach him, sirens and strobing lights surrounded the food truck where the hiker had bought that really wonderful chocolate brownie just before he started up the trail.

The stars revolved around him when he lay down and looked up at the night. “I sure wish I had some chips,” he thought, and closed his eyes.

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