I could smell the bacon cooking in the little kitchenette in our cabin. This small lodge was situated at the base of the mountain that we had climbed the day before. The bad news is that we never reached the summit. It started to get too dark to do much more climbing. John had already gone on ahead of us and we called to him, but no answer. He probably made it to the top and made his camp there. It was much too late now to try and search for him, anyway.
I finished off my eggs and made myself bacon on toast sandwich, when Ray came slowly out of one of the bedrooms.
“What’s going on out here?” Ray is halfway into the kitchen by now.
“Nothing much, just had me a little breakfast,” I said.
“I am not a breakfast person; I don’t even usually get up this early.”
“I know what you are going to ask – has anyone seen or heard from John, and the answer is no.”
“We need to get an early start this morning in search of him,” Ray was quick to say.
The mountain had lots of surprises for us today. We would get to a spot where we could start to climb and the wind would begin to whip violently. Then as if someone was shaking the mountain a small rock slide would occur. This was an unsettling feeling since we needed to latch onto those same shifting rocks. This whole climbing idea was everyone else’s idea, not mine. I’d much rather stay home and enjoy the challenges of a good chess game. There is nothing too dangerous about this game, unless you find yourself about to lose your bishop or your queen.
Still no sign of our third trekker - we figured he had made it swiftly to the summit and was sitting back, gloating at us. He had enough food with him to last a week, and we have only been here for the last two days. This is day three and we will make good time, as the wind has died down and a mountain pass has opened up before us. We never noticed this yesterday. It will be an easy climb now to the top.
“John,” I called out at the top of my lungs.
Ray was calling John as well, but to no avail. Now we are getting nervous. If he had made it to the top, why wasn’t he yelling back at us? The cold possibility hit both of us at the same time. John had fallen off the mountain in the night. I almost slipped a couple times myself. That is why Ray and I had turned back early yesterday. We wanted to live. John was at the bottom, we were sure of it.
Then a faint voice was heard and it started to get stronger the more we climbed. There near the top was our friend John. He didn’t look hurt, just upset and embarrassed. He was caught up in a tree and it looked like he couldn’t get down.
“John, you ok?” I had to ask
“I feel so stupid, and it’s my entire fault.” John was usually the calm one of the bunch and always on his game. “I took one last step in the dark and down I came. Luckily this big old tree was here to catch my fall, but I think I may have broken my foot.”
“We will help you down, don’t worry about it. This could happen to any of us. Who could see in the dark?” Ray was always the peacemaker in our group
When we all got back to camp, we found that John had only sprained his leg, but had greatly shattered his ego. He came clean as he told us he was really trying to climb out onto a branch to get a look into a birds nest, when the limb gave way and he ended up at a lower branch with his leg all twisted up in the tree.
“I am sorry I tried to get to the top ahead of the two of you. Please excuse my foolishness, I learned a new meaning to the word lodge,” said John. We all laughed.
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