Mountain West

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I worked the entire summer — the hottest one on record — outside, mowing lawns in the blistering heat at the local hospital. That is, the lawns that I could actually get to grow grass. It was also the driest summer on record, and the hospital grounds didn’t have a sprinkler system. I had to use hoses to maintain the grass in close proximity to the building itself.

The hoses wouldn’t reach farther than about 100 feet from the building in any direction, but because of my efforts, that left a fairly large area of the grounds lush with thick grass. The rest turned gold, except for a thin pale green area in between the dark green and the bright gold that would catch a little, but not enough, of the sprinklers’ spray.

I worked at the hospital with my roommate and best friend Greg. Greg was an EMT. We were both ostensibly saving money for school, but by August the heat had wilted our aspirations for fiscal pragmatism. If we had any hopes to make it successfully through our final year of college when it began in September, we need some relief — from the heat and the daily grind of having to rise each morning at 6:00 a.m. to endure work, most days suffering from massive hangovers and very little sleep.

So, on August 1, we both put in our two weeks notice and began making plans for a trip to the Mountain West, into the Rockies where the temperature and the pace of life was certain to plummet as precipitously as the slopes that fell from its impressive peaks. We had been told that the little window of time that we had planned for our visit promised fair weather, but what we hadn’t planned on was the fairer sex. For a span of three weeks, I was exposed to a variety of beautiful girls with whom I experienced unparalleled sexual gratification.

Greg and I really only had one planned destination on our itinerary, the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. We intended to hike there for a week. The remaining two weeks of our trip we would wing it, traveling wherever the wind blew us and our limited savings could take us. We planned to camp as often as we could to save money. Our only real expense would be gasoline.

So as long as we avoided eating in restaurants, shopping for useless shit that we did not need, and drinking in bars, we might actually make it back to school with a little money left in the bank. But we had two weeks to go before we finished work, and we still had to suffer through the dog days of August.

The next weekend, Greg and I drove to my parent’s house. I needed to pick up my camping equipment. I didn’t keep it at school. On Saturday night after we had grabbed my stuff, we stopped over to visit some friends of mine from high school. They were asking us about our upcoming trip, where we intended to go, and if there was anyone we might try to stop and see along the way.

“Well, we’ll stop in the Hills, and there are plenty of people there that we know,” I said. “We can always stay at Jake’s or at Greg’s brother’s place. But other than my sister out in Washington, I don’t anybody who lives out west.

“Ellie’s out in Montana. She just left to go back there yesterday. You could stop and see her,” my buddy Tim said.

“Who’s Ellie?” I asked. I was unfamiliar with anyone by that name; it certainly wasn’t anyone that I had gone to school with.

“Ellie Lundberg. You know her don’t you?” Mark Fleming asked. “She went to Kennedy. She would definitely show you a good time.” Kennedy was the high school on the east side of town. I didn’t know all that many kids that went there.

“Did she ‘show you a good time’ last weekend, Mark?” Tim asked chuckling.

“Nah, I wish. She sure is cute, though, and a hell of a lotta fun — we partied for two days straight! That girl can keep up with any guy in town! I can’t believe you don’t know her, Steve.”

“She’s better than cute. She’s fuckin’ beautiful,” Tim said. He turned to me. “She’s been home from school the entire summer, and all of us have been hanging out with her and a couple of her friends. She’s a cool chick, and Mark’s right, she can party with the best of them.”

“Ellie Lundberg? I’ve never heard that name,” I said. “What does she look like? Maybe I’ve seen her at one of your parties, but didn’t know it.”

“She’s really tall, like as tall as I am, and she has long, blonde hair and big tits. She’s a knockout,” said Rollie.

“You banged her, didn’t you, Rollie?” asked Tim, laughing again.

“Fuck you, Tim. If I had, I wouldn’t tell you anyway! Why is it that you’re always asking everybody else who they’ve fucked?”

“‘Cause he never bangs anyone himself, so he’s got to live vicariously through the rest of us,” said Mark laughing.

“She doesn’t sound familiar,” I said.

“But she does sound hot,” said Greg. “Too bad we don’t know her.”

“How do you guys know her?” I asked.

“Remember when we went skiing out in Montana last winter?” Tim asked. “We ran into her at Big Sky. gaziantep escort She goes to school out there, but I think she’s more of a ski bum than a student. Mark knew her when she went to Kennedy, so when we ran into her in the lodge out there, we started partying with her. We’ve been in touch ever since, and this summer, she and her friends from Kennedy hung out with us all the time. I’m telling you, Steve, she is hot and really a lot of fun. You should look her up. I’ve got her number, and I’m going to give it to you, no matter what you say.”

He wrote it down on a tiny piece of paper and handed it to me. “I’m not going to call up someone up that I’ve never met before in my life who lives a thousand miles away from here. She’d probably think I was the creepiest guy in the world if I did that,” I said, but I accepted the paper and tucked it into my wallet anyway. “Besides, who’s to say we’ll even get close to Bozeman.”

“Suit yourself,” said Tim, “but I think you’re wrong; she’d love it if you gave her a call. Just mention that you’re friends with all of us. I’m telling ya she’s a really cool chick, and it would be worth your while to look her up if you’re anywhere near Bozeman.”

“Maybe next time,” I said. “I’ll probably meet her some time anyway. Then, I wouldn’t feel weird about calling her up.

On the second Friday in August, our last day of work, we had Greg’s car packed with all of our camping gear, and as soon as the clock struck 3:30 p.m., we hit the road and headed west. We knew we could make it to the Hills that night, and we would stay at our buddy Jake’s house, and then get an early start for the Big Horns, which was about three or four more hours west.

Both Greg and I had lived with Jake before he quit school and moved to the Hills. He was a crazy guy and a lot of fun. He knew everyone and could sniff out a party like a bloodhound. Even though we wouldn’t get there until almost 9:00 p.m., Jake was at his house waiting for us. There was a party at his friend’s place downtown, in a flat above an insurance office.

We didn’t intend to stay late, because we needed to hit the road pretty early. We had a good three hour hike from the trailhead once we got to Cloud Peak, so we needed to be on the road by 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. But both Greg and I were used to getting three or four hours of sleep after partying, so we could easily stay up until about midnight or a little later.

Though the party was small, it was pretty fun. Just before midnight, I found myself sitting on a couch next to a pretty, redheaded girl with milky white skin, who I suspected was a few years older than I was. She was talking to Greg, who was sitting on the couch on her other side.

Greg introduced her to me. Her name was Syndee Nelson, and Greg had gone to high school with her, though she was senior when he was a freshman. Greg mentioned that he also knew her sister Patty, who was a year younger than he was. In the course of the conversation, Syndee, I came to learn, had been married, for several years, but was now a 24 year old eligible divorcée, and a really nice-looking one at that.

Greg was telling her about our trip west, and she seemed unusually interested in what he was saying. She was asking a lot of questions about when and where we were going and when we would return.

Then, Syndee mentioned that she too was headed west. As it turned out, Patty was now going to school at Montana State in, coincidentally, Bozeman, Montana, and Syndee was leaving in 10 days to visit her. She had a ride to Bozeman with a girlfriend who was on her way to Seattle and had agreed to drop her off in Bozeman, but she didn’t, as yet, know how she would be getting back home.

I started to see the general direction of Syndee’s questions, and knowing Greg as I did, I could also see where his perverted thinking was headed. To make a long story short, it was soon decided that at some point in our trip we would be visiting Bozeman, and when we were ready to come back home, Syndee would be riding with us. Syndee gave Greg several phone numbers, including Patty’s number in Bozeman, and then we left the party just after midnight.

On the way home, Greg and Jake explained to me that Patty was even prettier than her sister, and that she was supposedly living with a houseful of girls in Bozeman. By stopping there, we would not only ensure ourselves a 12 hour ride with a very hot redhead, but potentially much more.

Now, our itinerary was beginning to organize itself based on the two geographical destinations that we had committed ourselves to. After we were done hiking in Cloud Peak, we would drive west to the Tetons, and from there north to Yellowstone, camping along the way. Bozeman was only two hours north of there. By the time we got to Bozeman, Syndee would be there. Then, we would still have another week to decide whether we wanted to continue on to Glacier and points west before returning home with Syndee.

We hit the road about 8:30 the next morning and arrived at West Tensleep Lake trailhead on the southwest end of Cloud Peak Wilderness Area around 12:30 in the afternoon. We were just a little disappointed to find one other car parked in the parking area. We thought we might have the whole wilderness area or at least that trailhead to ourselves. We organized all of our gear, and then started up the trail.

Our gear was heavy. We had brought more than enough food for eight days, most of it in boxes, but quite a few canned items as well — probably too much canned food, but it made life a lot easier at the end of a long day of hiking. This was wilderness camping, which meant we were abiding by “leave no trace” principles — every thing we carried in, we carried out. While spent boxes could be burned in campfires, a can had to be carted out as garbage. We also intended to supplement the food we brought with fresh fish, so we’d brought our fishing gear as well.

We knew that each day the hiking would get easier, as we began the process of whittling down our provisions, but that first day’s hike was a challenge — we were each climbing with 35-40 pound packs on our backs.

Though it was probably not advisable, we only brought enough water to fill both of our canteens. That would get us into the mountains, and once there, there were plenty of lakes and streams, with no cattle grazing, so we reasoned that the water was probably safe. Just to be a little more careful, we tried to only take water from quick moving streams. We could have been even more careful and boiled all of our drinking water, but that was a real hassle. Besides, nothing tastes better than ice cold water from a mountain stream.

We also brought a small, Coleman camping stove that Jake loaned us. Our hiking would take us above 12,000 feet elevation, which in Cloud Peak almost certainly ensured being above the timber line. The stove guaranteed that we could cook meals, even if we didn’t have firewood.

We set off up the trail, climbing steadily. It was incredibly beautiful country that blended an infinite variety of scenic wonders — meadows of lush green mixed-grasses and wild flowers, dense forests of pine and spruce, hundreds of beautiful lakes that drained into miles of streams and wetlands, and rugged rock cliffs and outcroppings. It was wild, clean, and pristine, just what we were looking for to unwind from a summer of work.

After three and half hours of hiking, it was late in the afternoon, and after walking the length of it, we decided to set up camp at the far end of Mirror Lake, a beautiful, mountain pond, fed by a half dozen streams and surrounded by a dense pine forest.

On the opposite side of the lake, a steep canyon wall rose 800 feet above the water. In part because of that protection from the wind, Mirror Lake was so unbelievably placid that the name was perfectly apropos. We found the prettiest spot on the water, tucked between the edge of the woods, a pristine mountain stream, and a sunny meadow. We had everything we needed here: fresh, clean water; plenty of firewood, a nice spot for our tent in the shade; and a prospective dinner of freshwater fish.

Once we erected our tent and laid out our sleeping bags, we got out our fishing gear. Greg opened a can of corn, which would hopefully be a nice side dish for dinner, but until then would serve as our bait.

We cast our lines into the perfectly calm surface of the crystalline water and watched our lines despoil its faultless stillness, sending out concentric circles from their landing spots 35 feet from shore. In five minutes, Greg had caught a nice, two pound, lake trout, and five minutes later, I snagged a modest sized perch. That was all we needed.

Greg cleaned the fish, while I gathered firewood and got our campfire started. Soon, I had a roaring blaze, and nice pile of glowing coals. When Greg had finishing slicing up four nice filets, he brought out a box of Egg Beaters, the fake egg product. When he had packed that, I made a point of reminding him that I didn’t eat eggs, but he assured me that there were plenty of other uses for this product, and that I would be grateful that we had allotted some space in our backpacks for it. In a minute, he proved his point.

Using some water to mix with the Egg Beaters, he quickly had a soupy mixture concocted, to which he added a half a sleeve of crushed saltine crackers, and some pepper. Then, I laid a metal grill out on my pile of coals and poured the can of corn into a small pot. Greg coated the filets in his breading mixture, and laid them carefully into a frying pan, to which he had added a little bit of oil and set it on the grill next to the pot of corn.

In ten minutes, we enjoyed an amazing meal, which we topped off with a can of apricots. By the time we finished eating and cleaning up our pots, pans, dishes, and silverware, the sun had fallen behind the mountains, and we turned in early. I slept like a rock.

We awoke before the sun rose, and I started another fire. I made coffee, using an old percolating pot. Gathering wood and making fires, hauling water, as well as attending to little tasks like making coffee and tea was about the extent of my contribution to our sustenance. That’s because Greg had unofficially designated himself our chef, and he proved himself worthy of that distinction.

For breakfast, he made pancakes, again using the Egg Beaters, and adding freeze dried blueberries to the batter. In addition, he opened a can of Spam, which he fried up in the same pan. I had always considered that stuff truly suspect, but for some reason, cooked in a pan over an open fire, while breathing in cool, clean air, tinged with the scent of pine trees, I couldn’t deny how delicious it was. Between what we had brought with us, and the fish that we caught, I don’t think I have eaten better in my life than I did that week.

We continued hiking a number of trails, some of which took us above the timber line. We were still able to always find camping spots next to lakes or streams, but on two nights, our campsites were illuminated only by our lanterns, and we had to cook our meals on the stove.

Early in the afternoon of our sixth day of hiking, we followed a new trail back down the mountain in the direction of the trailhead from which we had started. We planned to reach Mirror Lake, where we had camped the first night, and from there we intended to hike to the West Tensleep Lake trailhead the next morning. As we were hiking through some rocky outcroppings, we came around a bend in the trail, beyond which a shear rock face, rose from a flat, stone ledge about 20 feet wide.

As we did, we simultaneously heard girlish giggles and smelled a pungent and familiar aroma. Seated with their backs to the rock face, were two girls about our age, smoking a joint. From their vista, they had a spectacular view overlooking a convergence of two incredibly scenic valleys. We startled them, but instead of trying to conceal their wickedness, they just laughed even louder and smiled at us both.

“Care to take a load off and join us?” asked a well-built brunette, in a white halter top, that was straining to conceal her bosom. She had a long, straight dark chocolate mane that fell about her shoulders and down her ample chest, masking what appeared to be rather impressive cleavage. She was also wearing cutoff jean shorts and hiking boots.

Her dark brown eyes smiled brightly, and I was surprised to see that despite being in some of the wildest country in the lower 48, she wore makeup! She sported a dark tan face, with a shapely nose that turned up a bit at the tip, thin lips, and full, thick, dark, sensuous eyebrows.

“Sure!” Greg and I answered simultaneously. We didn’t need to be asked twice. We pulled off our backpacks, both of which were now a good 10 pounds lighter than when we started our hike six days earlier, and laid them down on the stone ledge next to the girls’ packs.

“Want a hit?” asked a very pretty, short-haired blonde, as she extended a large blunt toward Greg at arm’s length. She was much slighter built than her friend, but undeniably cute. Greg sat down next to her, and accepted the joint, took a long hit and passed it back to her.

I parked myself next to the shapely brunette and introduced us, “Hi, I’m Steve, and that’s Greg. How long have you girls been hiking here?”

The brunette smiled, taking the joint from her blonde friend, and passed it to me. “I’m Alison, and this is Coral. We’ve been out here a week.”

I took a deep toke, and passed it back to her. “Thanks. Did you guys come in on the West Tensleep Lake trailhead?”

“Yeah, how did you know that?” Alison asked.

“I think we saw your car parked there. We came in the day after you did. You’re the only people we’ve seen in the six days we’ve been up here.”

“Ditto,” said Coral, passing the blunt back to Greg. “Where you guys from?”

“South Dakota,” Greg answered tersely. “How ’bout you?”

“Chicago. Wheaton, actually. Hey, you know last year we hiked in the Hills. That’s pretty cool country.”

Shaking his head in agreement, Greg asked. “What do you think of Cloud Peak?”

“Fuckin’ incredible,” Alison answered. “This is the best hiking we’ve ever done, and nobody knows about this place. That is, nobody, except you two.”

“When are you headed back to the trailhead?” Greg asked.

“Tomorrow,” Coral answered, passing him a plastic container of trail mix. “How about you?”

“The same. Where were you planning to camp tonight?” he asked. I could see where he was headed.

Alison stood up, and I admired her tight ass in her tiny cutoffs. She pointed toward the center of the valley on the left. “See that lake down there — the one on the left? That’s Mirror Lake. That’s where we’re headed now.” I laughed. “What’s so funny?” she asked smiling at me.

“That’s exactly where we’re going! We camped there on our first night in. Whadaya think, Greg? I say that was the nicest camping spot we’ve had on this trip.”

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