Water: Flash Fiction Friday Post


I checked the temperature on my phone as I wiped the sweat dripping down my temple. Eighty-six. Not really that hot. But the morning weather report said the humidity was supposed to be at nearly ninety today. It felt like it. I walked on.  I was thirsty. My map listed the next water source as twelve miles away. I had a liter and a half of water left. I took a swallow to moisten my mouth and thought about all of the advice about what to do when you were short of water.

As a hiker it wouldn’t be the first time I’d face a lack of water on this through-hike, but this was the first time since I’d started my trip. One school of thought was to drink sparingly until the next water source was reached. Wetting my mouth was in this vein. On the other hand, some people thought it was better to drink my fill, store the water in my body where it was needed anyway. Camel up, some called it.

I hitched my pack and adjusted the right strap. It was another two miles before I took another drink. Ten miles to go to the spring. Time to make a decision. I took a deep breath, then drank my fill. Cameling up it is, I thought. I just hope this isn’t a mistake. I trudged on, three-quarters of a liter of water left.

The next part of the trail was uphill. Olive Mountain it was called on the map. Halfway up, I was on the south side of the mountain, shadeless, and the trail was a rock scramble. My breathing was heavy and my mouth was dry but I resisted taking another drink. At the top, I told myself as I struggled over the rocks. The trail switchbacked up the mountainside. I never understood why a mile going uphill seemed longer than a mile on the level. I reached the top and took a moment to look around. This mountain was bald and the view was three hundred and sixty degrees of awesome. That was one of the best things about back-packing. It felt like the whole world was mine alone. A breeze helped cool me and I rewarded myself with another big drink. My water bladder was about a quarter full when I finished.

Eight more miles. The trail down the mountain went fast and the next part of the trail meandered through a swamp. The mosquitos were fierce and once past the swamp I stopped in the shade of a tree to dig some hydrocortisone cream out of my pack. The bug bites were already itching. While putting the lotion on, I wished for the breeze that was at the top of Olive Mountain. The sweat ran down my back. I flapped the back of my shirt, trying to dry off. That was a waste of time. There were five miles to go.

I eyed my water bladder. Drink the rest of the water now or wait another mile or two? I reached over and grabbed the bladder. Then drank it all. I was sweating so much, I really needed to drink. It would have been nice if the water was cold but beggars couldn’t be choosers. I packed everything up and pulled on my pack. Five miles would be about two hours. I started hiking. Two hours without water. In this heat. I was going to be thirsty.

As I hiked I started thinking about the water source at my destination. It had been a dry summer. Some of the trail’s water sources had dried up. I sincerely hoped that this one was still good or I was going to be in big trouble. I didn’t even want to think about having to hike without water. Just thinking about it made me thirsty. The trail wound out of the woods and into a wide-open grassland. The mid-afternoon sun beat down and I took off my hat, wiped my face and put the hat back on. Trudging on, the grassland lasted about a mile, then back into the woods. My shirt was soaked and I wanted water but it was gone. I cleared my mind. Forget about the water, I told myself. I hummed a tune, then took notice of all the flowers I passed and birds flying by. Another mile went by. Three to go.

It had been just an hour since my last drink, but I was thirsty. I dug a piece of hard candy out of my pack and popped that into my mouth. That helped. Anything I could do to trick my body into thinking it had water. The next mile went pretty fast. Then the next section was another climb. A deep breath and on I trudged. Up, up, up, a rocky trail that threatened my ankles.

I didn’t have enough spit in my mouth to swallow and my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth as I gasped for breath. I sure hoped the water source wasn’t dried up. The next water was six more miles away and I really didn’t want to have to hike six thirsty miles in the dark and try to find the water once I got there.

The sun was setting, and I was going slower. One more mile I told myself. Then you’ll get your drink. I went down the other side of the mountain, glad for the downhill. The sign post for the camp site was on my left, pointing out the trail. Four hundred feet. I straggled into the site. There were three other hikers already there. “Water?”

“Over there,” a young woman pointed.

I hurried over. A small spring trickled out of the side of the hill. Someone had dug out small pool lined with rocks. I dug out my cup and scooped water into my bladder and added the water treatment. Half an hour to wait for it to work and a nice cool drink.

Merry Go Round Blog Post for March

Me,Long Distance BackPacking on the AT/Long Trail, Vermont

Me,Long Distance BackPacking on the AT/Long Trail, Vermont

I have and have had a lot of hobbies in the past. I love to try new things, explore different aspects of my creative ability. Just after high school I took up oil painting. I liked it, but somehow it wasn’t for me.

Then I tried the flute. I hired a music teacher, bought an actual silver, not silver-plated, flute, and dropped it after a couple of years. Decades later, I’m still in love with that flute and have carried it around with me through several moves. I still have it, in a bin, on the top shelf of my closet. I’m just not ready to let go of it.

Other hobbies and handicrafts have come and gone. Crocheting for example. I crocheted a number of river pattern Afghans for myself and my brothers upon their weddings. I still have mine, in shades of brown and when I’m cold on a winter’s night, it keeps me cozy and warm.

There were other hobbies: spoon collecting from tourist spots, cheese making, soap making, leaf pressing, hiking, basket weaving, the list goes on.

How does all of this relate to writing? I’ve tried writing on and off for decades. I’d get just so far and halt, not knowing what to do next. It was another hobby, tried and forgotten, but not. I kept poking at it until in 2011 when I found the internet bonanza of writing: an on-line writing group, Forward Motion.

So what do those other hobbies have to do with it? They’re an exploration. They’re an experience that I can draw on when I’m writing about soap making or weaving or hiking or trekking along hard country for long distances. I know how to dehydrate food to keep it for long travel. I know how hard it is to make good music. I’m a mother, daughter, wife, sister, military person, all of these experiences help me when I’m trying to get into my character’s head.

So, you don’t want to risk climbing that mountain? Trying that new cooking course at the community college? Go for it. The experience will help you in ways you never expected.
The Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour is sponsored by the website Forward Motion (http://www.fmwriters.com). The tour is you, the reader, travelling the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. There are all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s always something new and different to enjoy. If you want to get to know the nearly twenty other writers check out the rest of the tour at http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com!  Up next: Jean Schara

Flash Fiction Friday: Hiking Alone

Alien encounters are a big Sci-Fi staple. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read over my life about that kind of thing. Here’s another!

Hiking Alone

My pack dropped to the ground. The sun was an hour from going down, time to rest from my day’s hiking. I was at the west edge of a clearing, about football field size in an irregular shape. Forest surrounded the clearing, providing shade on my end. I’d get the early morning sun, getting me up early to eat, and get going again.

Between the stress of work, an on again, off again boyfriend and a dysfunctional family, I’d had it. I really needed to get out on the trail and leave the rest of the world behind. Neither my family nor my boyfriend understood backpacking, for them, this was just another of my crazy trips. My co-workers thought I’d lost my mind and repeatedly told me so at the coffee machine.

Yeah, I really needed to get away.

It was quiet, only birds and bees and bugs. I emptied my pack and put up my tent. More like a tarp shelter, it used my hiking poles as the supports. I could roll the end panels back and stare at the stars all night if I wanted. Dinner was boiling water over a freezer bag of a home dehydrated meal and letting it set for ten minutes or so. I ate watching the sun go down, turning the clouds in the sky scarlet.

After washing my spoon and drying the pot, I put everything in a bear canister and hung it from a tree about 100 feet away. I settled in for the night, watching the stars come out one by one. My mind emptied of the stresses and worries of my life back in the world. I went to sleep with the full moon peeking over the tree tops.

A blinding light woke me up. I pushed up onto my elbows as a huge spaceship came down at the other end of my clearing. I grabbed my watch, 12:30am. Rubbing my eyes, I looked again. I wasn’t dreaming. A wash of warm air blew over me as the ship touched down. Fighting out of my sleeping bag, I jammed my feet into my boots and laced them tight. The ship’s big lights turned off and what looked like running lights came on around the circumference of the ship.

When the door opened my amazement turned to fear. Oh crap, something’s getting off the ship! I felt in my right pocket, my Leatherman Juice was there. But what’s a three inch knife blade going to do? I didn’t want to get that close anyway. My hiking poles were tied to the tent, no help there. Maybe I should have brought a gun after all. The ship noise stopped and the clearing went silent, not even a cricket chirp.

The light from the ship door dimmed and several beings came down the ramp single file. When the last one was off, the door closed and the running lights dimmed to nearly nothing. I moved to the edge of the woods. My eyes were adjusting to the dark and I didn’t know where the aliens were.

I slipped behind a tree, peaking around it, straining to see. I could hear a low hum, not unpleasant but nothing I could understand. When my eyes adjusted the full moon was shining and the clearing was nearly bright as day. The aliens were in the center of the clearing in a circle, humming and standing with their arms straight up, faces to the sky.

Despite my better judgment, I stepped back to my tent, watching as the aliens moved in a circle, swaying back and forth, arms rising and falling, the hum louder, then softer. I don’t know how long that went on but when they stopped, I was only thirty feet from the dancers. They turned as one and stared at me. I was dazed until one broke away from the group. My heart started thumping but I didn’t move.

The creature stopped about four feet away and raised its’ hand up, open, like some sort of Indian from a 1950’s Western when it says “How”.

“Greetings,” it said.

English? It speaks English?

“We mean you no harm. We are here to celebrate.”

Celebrate? Celebrate what? “Uhh, Hi.”

“Come dance with us,” it invited me, holding out its’ hand.

Damned if I didn’t take it! As soon as I did, I felt a slight tingle and suddenly the night sparkled and the hum of the aliens became richer and filled with a meaning I didn’t grasp.

It pulled me gently into the group and we began to dance.  Joy filled me, wonder surrounded me, and the stars and the moon danced in the sky with us. I lost track of time. As the moon went down the dancers stopped; their hum growing and growing until it seemed like the entire universe and I were pulsing in time.

We dropped our arms to our sides and the alien who had brought me into the circle led me gently back to my tent. When I turned around it was entering the ship, the lights on it brightening and a rumble vibrating the ground. The alien stopped and waved to me, then the door closed. As I watched the ship leave another wash of warm air came across the clearing as it rose into the brightening sky.  I sat, then lay down, never taking my eyes off the ship until it was out of sight. I lay there until the morning sunlight spilled over me, steam rising from my dew soaked clothes.

I felt refreshed, cleansed, as though I’d slept for twelve hours. I never told anyone about my encounter. I mean, how do you not sound like a crazy person with that story. But on the bad days, I think back to that dance in the moonlight and smile.

Words 973

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