Fight or Flight

he Thru Project The Appalachian Trail www.thru-at.com I walked alone about fifteen minutes down the trail to watch the sun go down on the westerly crest of the mountain. I wanted to sit until it was dark and listen to the forest breathe. I was tuned in.

I wouldn't say I had gone completely feral yet, but the forest had become a welcoming wild place.

There was a throne made of granite positioned perfectly in front of a clearing that opened up to a fantastic panorama of glowing sunset.

The clouds were dancing rose petals that bloomed and dripped over the trees. Indescribable unity Earth, and I.

This was the spot. The throne was made of two large steps of granite between two massive boulders. Behind the throne was a mess of giant boulders tangled with trees and vines. I sat down, enclosed on three sides by the stone and the emblazoned sky before me. I sank into the throne in awe.

I marveled, gawked even. The sun quickly faded from hot to cool and then rapidly disappeared behind a distant mountain.

The mountainside chilled in the remnant glow.

In the deep purple light of dusk my eyes fell to my feet. There, a swarm of glowing lichen pulsated. They grew faster and faster entrancing me with their shimmering undulations. So, this is what eats rocks!

SNAP!

It's cliched. I know. Don't overreact. But, something heavy just stepped on a stick really close by, and broke it. Okay, it's probably just Mack or Jarred climbing down off the trail. I was on edge. In the back of my mind I conjured a hulking black bear.

I sat in the hum of the insects and darkness perfectly still.

snap! huhhh.

It was moving downhill through the boulders and scrag. It would be between me, and the path I needed to take back to camp. I heard it stop moving and start sniffing. I was downwind from it, but It had to have smelled me by that point.

I slowly stood to the edge of boulder and peered over the ledge up the mountain. My eyes dilated and focused on a black clump clamoring over the boulders about 20ft away. It was larger than Mack.

I slowly dropped back into concealment on the throne. Was that real? Did I really just see that? I cringed, that was definitely real. And it sounds like it's getting much closer.

The clock started ticking way faster and way slower at the same time.

I peaked around the lower edge of the throne.

Face to face we met each other right then and there. Black Bear cocked its head to the side in an expression of confusion. Its brown eyes were huge. What in the world are you doing in my seat?

I bolted.

For three steps until I made the leap, It was behind me. Like a dog chasing a toy.

In a freakish explosion of adrenaline, the trail stretched out in front of me like warp speed. The wind thrashed my ears and I had to squint to see. My legs flailed, my feet grew the wings of Samothrace.

As they say, "Any teleportation you walk away from is a good one." This was by no means a "good," one. About 25 yards before the campsite, my flight was interrupted by a loud "pop!"

My right ankle fell out from under me. I slowed to a one legged hop. I was too out of breath to scream. I looked back over my shoulder. There was only darkness.

I hobbled into camp and collapsed in exhaustion by the fire beside Mack. My ankle felt as if it were in the fire.

"What the hell happened to you?" he asked me. He was annoyed because I had dramatically interrupted his fire-staring session.

"There's...there's a......" I didn't have my breath back yet.

"What is it Lassie, is there little girl trapped in a well?" He laughed spitting into the fire.

"There's a bear right over the edge of that hill," I finally got it out.

Mack laughed and grabbed his knife.

Written by Joel Dallas.