“Fannie, get up, we’re going to be late,” said Richard shaking my shoulder.
“Just five more minutes,” I said pulling the blanket over my head.
“You’ve been saying that for the last half hour. It’s already 5:30, we’re going to be late.”
Jumping out of bed, adrenaline pumped through my veins. I grabbed my clothing, hiking boots and day pack. My eyes still swollen slits as I stumbled into my boots on the way to the car.
“Fannie, I’d swear you’re allergic to morning,” said Richard handing me a bagel and a water bottle.
“I’m only allergic to Sunday mornings,” I said taking the offering.
“I’m not convinced.”
“That’s because you’re a morning person.”
“What does that make you, a mid-day person?”
I looked at him over my water bottle. “I prefer to think of it as mid-morning.”
The sun shot the first rays over the Cascade foothills reflecting pinks and reds in the scattered clouds. A few cars raced the open freeway ahead of us.
Cars of every description lined both sides of the road for over half a mile at the High Point Road turn off.
“I am so glad we aren’t going to be slogging up Tiger Mountain this morning,” said Richard as we drove by. “How fun is it to shuffle up a mountain like a salmon spawning?”
“I’m glad Sarah and Charlie agreed to meet us at Mount Si instead. At least we’ll be able to hike to the top.”
“Yah and by the looks of it we’ll be able to see the view this time.”
Three cars sat in the parking lot near the trail access. Sarah and Charlie leaned against the bumper of their brown and tan Bronco drinking coffee. Sarah waved as we pulled up.
“You’re fifteen minutes early. What happened?” asked Charlie shaking Richard’s hand.
“I lied about the time,” he said in hushed tones glancing over his shoulder at me.
“Hey guys, we’re going to use the port-o-potty before we head up the hill,” said Sarah. Turning to me she said smiling, “I have no interest in using a port-o-bush if I can avoid it.”
“Yeah, leaves of three don’t make good TP,” I said laughing.
“I know. You only have to make that mistake once,” said Sarah grimacing.
Meeting the boys at the head of the trail we walked under the power lines and into the trees. Birds flitted over our heads from branch to branch. Their music drowning out the sounds of intermittent traffic below. The damp smell of fir needles wafted through the air as the sun rose in the sky.
We followed Charlie up a switchback off a sharp rise into a level open area outlined with a rough hewn rail indicating the route up the mountain.
“Hey Charlie, hold up a minute, I have to make a pit stop,” said Richard. “I’ll be right back.”
Richard ducked under the rail and walked down the hill into a thicket of trees disappearing from sight.
Leaning against the railing with our backs to Richard, we greeted fellow hikers.
Five minutes elapsed. Fifteen people walked up the trail ahead of us. Three more minutes elapsed. Twenty more hikers.
“I’m getting worried about Richard,” said Sarah, “he should have been back by now. What if he’s been eaten by a bear?”
“Sarah, there are too many people in this area for bears to hang around, we make too much noise,” said Charlie shaking his head.
Turning to me, “Aren’t you worried?”
“Nope, if he was in trouble, we would be able to hear him,” I said nodding to the next group of hikers.
Richard emerged two minutes later from the thicket scratching his arm just below the tattered remnants of a sleeve.
“Richard, what happened to your shirt?” asked Sarah her voice cresting in a sharp pitch.
“Sarah, you won’t believe this, I was attacked by a bear and barely got away,” said Richard flashing his devil-inside smile. “Don’t worry, all it got was my shirt sleeve.”
Charlie and I held onto the fence rail. Our bodies shaking with laughter, but no sound coming out.
“Oh my god, we have to warn people,” said Sarah. “Some one else might not be so lucky.”
“Sarah, it was a pretty good sized shirt sleeve. I’m sure with that much fiber it has to be full.”
Sarah darted toward the head of the switch back. “I’ve got to warn people, it’s just not safe.”
Recovering enough to chase after her, I grabbed Sarah’s arm before she reached the next group of hikers.
“Sarah, stop, you have to listen to me.”
“No, Fannie, we have to warn people about the bear.”
Grabbing both her arms I forced her to look at me. Her eyes widening.
“Fannie, don’t you understand, there’s a bear.”
“Sarah, there is no bear. Richard made it up.”
“What?” she asked focusing on me.
“He could hear us talking when he was doing his business. We forgot to bring toilet paper with us and he used his shirt instead of going natural.”
Sarah’s face flushed. “What a jerk.”
“Come on, let’s join the others and finish our hike,” I said putting my arm around her shoulder.
She glared at Richard as we rejoined the group.
Charlie took Sarah’s hand and continued up the hill. Richard followed me.
That same bear dined on Richard’s shirt twice more before we finished the hike. It’s good to know the bear got plenty of fiber that day.