Being Prey. Mile Twenty-Four.
Lightening jukes and strikes far down the canyon, moving away, out over the valley. I hike through a light rain, blowback from the hot day. My legs and feet are numb and heavy. I am one mile from the Spanish Peaks trailhead—one mile from the truck, flip-flops, and beer—and fifteen minutes from absolute darkness.
I am in some kind of zone, some definition of perfect, some form of idiot sensuality. Another hot, jagged streak sideways, outline of thunderhead and foothills. Echoes rumble up the canyon. One fat raindrop hits my forearm, then another, making a cool mud out of the day’s dirt and salt.
Beautiful and unnerving, dusk slowly closes down my sense of sight, transforming the broad and flat canyon and its erratics, trees, and bushes into black lumps, lines, and scuffmarks. Fifty feet to my left, burl on lodge pole pine, a beach ball sized silhouette, catches my attention. I like how the black shape inlays the dark grey of mountainside.
Suddenly, the burl moves further up the tree.
“That’s weird…” I mumbled to the dog, then alert, “oh shit, where’s mom?”
I look around, squinting, sucking in the last bit of light, and resting my hand on my bear spray. Thousands of black shapes sit in the deep, dark grey of the forest.
I pray momma is bear behind me and push forward, adrenaline wringing the day’s mileage out of my body.