Photo by Cam Adams
It was something I never thought would happen to me. I tried to put it off, fight it back with every ounce of strength I had. But it was useless, I was not prepared for what lay in store for me.
It started out as a typical weekend hike. Brent and I had made this hike several times over the years and it proved to be one our favorites not because of the complexity of it, but more the connection with each other that we enjoyed.
Brent had called earlier in the week and said he was in town for a few weeks and wanted to go hiking. He said that Lookout Point would be a nice weekend getaway and that we should go. I told him I would make arrangements with my wife so that him and I could go.
Brent called today and said that he met up with a girl at the bar and she was a climber as well and wanted to know if I would care if she came along. I told him I didn’t care as long as she carried her own gear. He has invited girls before and then we ended up carrying all her gear because she had never been climbing before. He said that she was an experienced climber and that there was nothing to worry about.
I hope my wife will be okay with this.
Today Brent came by to drop off his gear bag. We stayed up late talking about old times and friends. It was good to talk to someone again. I sometimes feel like I get isolated from people because of my job as a guide. I’m often gone for days at a time and it can put a strain on my family. I only do this to support them as I can’t find any other work locally. I looked for 2 years before deciding on this occupation. After the insurance is paid and all the other garbage that comes along with it, there is barely enough to pay the groceries.
At least I get to be outside.
The big day is finally here! Brent and I haven’t been climbing together in over 5 years. I miss the old times we had when we were both guides and would bring our groups together at the Point. It was fun. Hopefully this day will be fun as well.
Well, I thought that we would be having an enjoyable weekend but it seems that is not going to be the case. I have never wanted anyone to fall off the side of the mountain, but this woman is driving me crazy! “I’ve done this, I’ve done that.” I never met anyone so conceited in all my life! Would it be wrong of me to start walking home and leave these two alone on the mountain?
We stopped for lunch at the Trees and I had to sneak away for a while. I faked needing to go relieve myself. I needed relief, but not that way. I needed relief from motor mouth.
After my break, I found the two of them making eyes at one another and nearly threw up. Brent was always trying to play the women and now I knew why he wanted her to come along. Hopefully they will keep it in their pants tonight.
I woke up early to try to have a word with Brent alone but he was passed out cold. Apparently he still carried his drinks with him on hikes. I always told him that it was dangerous. That it clouds the mind and dulls the senses. Obviously he hadn’t listened all those years.
She was wearing his shirt and cooking some bacon over a small fire. Her hair was a tangled mess and I didn’t know that makeup could look that terrible on anyone. I said my good mornings and was cordial with her. As much as possible at least. I withdrew into the woods by myself for a while.
I later came back to camp to find Brent awake and with a slight hangover. He gave me a smile that said, “Yep. Still got it.” I shook my head and set about breaking my camp. I had been married far too long to my wonderful wife to even entertain the idea.
Supper was one that will forever be engrained in my memory. After the food was prepared I saw that the drinks were out early and I gathered my things and went along the trail a little ways to have my peace and quite. I could see them in the distance and could tell that they were naked and partying. The only thing I could do was shake my head and go to sleep.
I awoke the next day and dreaded the short hike to our old meeting place when we were guides. I didn’t want to listen to motor mouth today. But unless one of us left the mountain, I was stuck.
Coming out of my tent, I didn’t want to see what kind of mess his campsite was in. My imagination was plenty good at remembering how his sites were when we were younger. I took a short walk to the creek that ran down the mountain near the trail to refresh my water canteens. We would be eating lunch at the Ledge and begin our return home. I was looking forward to it.
After coming back to my site, I glanced down at Brent’s campsite and nothing was left. Dropping my canteens, I ran down the trail and looked around the site.
Nothing was left. Everything was gone.
My heart sank as my mind began racing through the possibilities. I started examining the ground as this would give me the best idea as to what happened.
The dirt was scuffed and turned up from the tent poles. The coals were still warm and surrounded by both bare footprints and boot imprints. I couldn’t gather anything from it all. Typical campsite for Brent.
That was when I saw it, wolf tracks.
I missed seeing the massive paw prints earlier but now that they were at the forefront of my attention, they were everywhere. I knew better than to start calling for Brent for fear of attracting the attention of the wolves. Panic started to set in.
“Where were they? Why had they left without me?”
I raced up to my camp and noticed the same thing around my tent. Wolf tracks.
They circled my tent and I could see where one had pawed at the corner of my tent tearing it a little. They hadn’t found my rations which was a huge relief to me. I packed up my gear as fast as I could and raced up the mountain. If I knew Brent, he would head to the Ledge and wait for me there just as he always did.
Flying up the trail, I could see boot tracks heading up the mountain. “Good, fresh tracks,” I thought to myself. “At least someone is heading this way.”
Arriving at the Ledge, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was vacant. There was no sign of Brent or anyone else.
I stayed the rest of the day at the Ledge. It was a popular stopping point for hikers and if anyone stopped I could question them about seeing Brent.
After a fitful night of sleep, I awoke early and stuck my head out of the tent. I positioned my tent to be able to see all of the Ledge without leaving the tent. The temperature was cold. 47 degrees. I didn’t pack for extreme temperatures, and neither did Brent.
I stayed in my tent for most of the day. I came out occasionally during the day to prepare lunch and to look around for signs of Brent. I just couldn’t stand the cold. I wouldn’t be able to stay up here for much longer.
The day progressed and nothing was seen or heard.
Another fitful night of sleep. Checking on things outside proved my fears were coming true, temperatures were continuing to plummet and fresh sets of wolf tracks around my tent.
I had a small handgun with limited shots. It would be my last resort.
The day passed with no sign of Brent. I would have to leave the mountain tomorrow if I wanted to stay alive.
I awoke in the middle of the night. I could hear something outside my tent. It was sniffing the corners of my tent and pawing at it.
Hopefully only one.
A howl from the woods proved otherwise. Had I looked closer at the tracks the day before I would have noticed the different sizes. It was too late at this point. I would have to wait them out.
This was the first time I ever tried to sleep with a gun in my hand. I would do whatever it took to get away from here tomorrow.
A ripping sound awoke me with a fright. Moonlight came pouring in through the tear in the tent. This wolf was extra curious. It would learn to fear me.
Taking aim at the shadow that haunted the side of the tent, I exhaled and pulled the trigger. A pained yelp was heard through the smoke. My gun was small, but it never missed.
I unzipped the door and fanned out the smoke. It would be some time before it came back. I would wait for the first light of day and set out.
Unable to sleep anymore, I was forced to stay awake the rest of last night. The sun finally began to light my path for me and I quickly broke camp and raced down the mountain. Heading downhill and with as much haste as I dared, I would make good time today.
I looked over my shoulder several times today. That creeping feeling that someone is watching you kept haunting my thoughts. I knew wolves to be relentless in the pursuit of game. Just because I shot one doesn’t mean it wouldn’t pursue me.
I reached the Trees in a few hours. I stopped to refresh my water supply and check the area. This was a popular resting place as well along the trail. Maybe something would be left as a sign. Searching the area proved nothing.
After a quick rest, a nearby wolf howl had me flying down the mountainside once again. I was near to danger from the quickness of the descent and the rocks than the wolves at this point. They knew what they were doing and were following silently behind. They had found my trail and would track me down.
I sped as fast as I could. Falling down twice hurt my arm and broke my pinky finger. I grabbed my pinky and set it quickly and hurried along. If I lived through this I could have it looked at. For now my sole concern was getting off this cursed mountain.
I took several breaks the next hour as I had never trained myself to work this hard in extreme temperatures. The sun was setting and I didn’t dare make camp again for fear of the wolves catching up to me. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t outrun wolves. If I kept moving, maybe they would hang back?
I was one hour away from the town at this pace and the sun was going to set in 20 minutes. I had to choose life or death for myself. Force myself to race down the mountain in the dark and risk tripping and getting injured or setting camp and risk being surrounded by wolves.
Fear carried my legs ever faster. My legs were pumping as hard as possible as my ragged breath came out and materialized before me. I would not be beaten this night.
The moon was only half-full this night, at least it gave me some light to see by. My pace was slowed due to visibility and the ever growing rocks littered about. A twisted ankle could spell my death this night if I wasn’t careful.
I could see the lights of the town. How beautiful it was! I was close to safety if I could just keep going.
I had to stop and catch my breath. It wasn’t until I looked up that I realized my mistake.
I was now completely surrounded by the stealthy beasts that had expertly tracked me.
I didn’t have enough bullets to down all of them. If I had to, I would take one myself to escape the knowledge of being torn to shreds. I was now in a desperate situation.
They snarled as they circled me. Saliva dripped from their open mouths as the circle tightened around me. They had done this maneuver many times before. What was to be done?
A solid black wolf limped towards me. He remembered me. His lip curled up and exposed the teeth that would remove the meat from my bones. He would relish this night.
With the approaching darkness of the night I went into hysterics. I began threatening them and finally, after failed attempts of shouting for help, I fired shots at several of them. I hit two of them and managed to break out of the circle of death.
Fear flung me down the mountainside at neck-breaking speed. They wouldn’t catch me alive. If they were to clean my bones, I would be dead of my own doing.
I shouted in my panic for help as my legs brought me ever closer to the town. “Where the blazes is everyone?” I shouted once again and this proved my undoing. Slipping off the side of a rock, I rolled several feet end over end.
The moment of truth presented itself.
The wolves were surrounding me again in an instant. They would not be denied a meal this evening. I never thought my life would end this way. I had but one bullet remaining.
The wolves were creeping in on me at an excruciating pace. They were toying with me or feared my gun, one of the two.
I raised the gun towards the biggest wolf in front of me. It would be him or me tonight. I would have to choose.
All the wolves began barking at me and snarling at a deafening level. They knew victory was within their grasp and were celebrating.
Speaking to them, “I’ll be damned if you take me alive!” With that I brought the gun to my temple and closed my eyes. I wish I could have seen my wife one last time.
With the memory of my wife in mind, I put my finger on the trigger. My gun was small, but at point-blank, it would deal death swiftly. The wolves could do what they wished with my body, I wouldn’t need it anymore.
That wasn’t my gun. It was a much larger gun.
The wolves began to scatter as more shots were being fired at their quarters. “Come on! Let’s go!” I knew that voice, I had listened to it for years.
Rushing to my side, Brent picked me up blinding me with a headlamp bright as the sun itself. “Come on buddy, let’s get you out of here.”
I stayed that night in the hospital. I awoke the next day to see Brent asleep in the chair beside my bed. My leg was in a cast and my pinky finger taped to my ring finger.
“Hey! Wake up!” I was thankful he saved my life, but pissed that he left me alone at the same time.
Brent stirred in the chair, “Hey man. How you doing?”
“Considering you left me on the mountain by myself and I was hunted down and nearly killed by a pack of wolves? I would say I’m okay. What happened with you? Why did you disappear?”
“Jasmine twisted her ankle during the night and I brought her back here and wasn’t able to find you afterwards. What happened with you? I walked up the trail a little ways but couldn’t find you.”
He was on his phone calling my wife to come see me. After she arrived, I recounted the story to them. After lunch was served I was able to leave with my wife driving me home. I was so happy to see my wife and best friend alive and well.
I never set foot on the mountain again.