Every day this week, I'm using the last sentence of a book as a writing prompt. You can read about the challenge here. This story and the ones that follow are first drafts, so please don't judge them too harshly, and any feedback you might have is welcome!
Today's prompt is from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, 3rd Ed. (Steve Henry): "When you reach the park headquarters, the Rockywood joins with the 1,000 Steps Trail, follows it to the overlook shelter for the second panoramic vista on the Rockywood Trail, and then ends with a descent to the Thunderbird Lodge."
by Anne Earney
674 words (including the words I borrowed)
"When you reach the park headquarters, the Rockywood joins with the 1,000 Steps Trail, follows it to the overlook shelter for the second panoramic vista on the Rockywood Trail, and then ends with a descent to the Thunderbird Lodge." The ranger stopped to take a sip of water.
The entire audience sighed at the same time.
Okay, maybe not, but you'd have sworn he was reading from a guide book, the way he went on with proper place names and grandiose descriptions. I folded my map and fanned my face. I wasn't the only one. At least ten of the twenty of us, students of the trail from all stages of life, learning about trail maintenance, preservation, etc., were misusing our fans. I mean maps. Fan maps.
Needless to say, by the time we hit the trail, we were exhausted from listening. The heat, which bogged down my every step, didn't help. I worried about running out of water when I was only twenty feet onto the trail. Still, we trudged out, no idea where we were headed, maps sweat-stained and stuck to our palms like press-on tattoos.
"How far did he say it was?" The man next to me carried a disturbingly small bottle of water.
I opened my map and tried to make out the trail, but it was useless. Half of the Rockywood had disintegrated into a shaggy, wet mess. I refolded the map and fanned my face with it. "A couple miles?"
He snorted. "Let's hope."
An hour later, the sky had gone gray, although no storms were in the forecast. The man, who kept pace with me despite my reluctance to make conversation, sucked the last drops of water from his bottle and shook it, as if it were the bottle's fault and not his own.
Under the thick midsummer canopy, darkness fell as the clouds thickened. I took off my sunglasses. Our group had spread out, so the only person within talking distance of me was the man. I could barely see a group of three, or maybe four, a bit ahead, and no one behind.
"I hope we're still on the right path," I said, taking a sip of water from my Camelbak.
The man shrugged and tried in vain to extract more water from his bottle.
Although I knew better, we found ourselves on a ridge when the rain began to fall. The wind, which could reach us in the sparse tree cover the ridge provided, whipped my hair around my face. The man looked as if he had no idea what to do, so I took the lead. "Let's go," I said, grabbing his hand and pulling him into a run.
The trail descended the ridge in a slippery mess. We grabbed at saplings as we went and tried to stay as upright as possible. Lightening cracked the sky and we froze for a moment, unsure if this would be our last.
Finally the trail leveled out. I ran across a flat, easy stretch of forest toward a building. As I got closer, I could make out the words on the sign.
"Thunderbird Lodge!" I screamed. I turned to share my excitement with my companion. But he wasn't there.
I stopped and stood in the rain, looking back toward the ridge. I scanned the woods as well as I could, given the vegetation and the rain, but there was no one in sight. Thunder rumbled through the air and I shivered.
There was no sign the man anywhere. I decided to run into the lodge and see if I could get help, but when I tried the door, it was locked. It looked like the lodge was some sort of retail establishment or outfitters, but it was closed, probably due to the weather. What I couldn't understand, though, was where the other hikers had gone.
I sighed and sat down on a bench beside the door. I took my binoculars out of my bag and scanned the hill for whatever would come next.
Week 35: Creativity - Using Writing Prompts