Nobody posted pies. I was looking forward to it.
Yeah, my Thanksgiving isn’t for another 2 days
I'm not Canadian, but pie is always good.
"...The blade that is kept in this scabbard ne'er shall break. Nor shall it fail you in time of need or be turned by the shield of your foe. For you are the most unyielding of your company. And so your blade shall never yield," said the elf queen, raven locks swaying in the wind, though there was no wind here in the changeless land of Mothróin where the starlight is born. "It was your grandfather's, you know, who perished in the mines of Tracho'on."
"Thank you, my lady. You know my heart, and I shall fight in your service," said Malconium, last of the Druain. He took the scabbard, and bowed, weeping at the return of his ancestral relic.
"And you, Shadwell son of Sadmell, I have this small token to see you through your trials. I have here hope and life, distilled into a drop of sun, contained in the heart of this crystal. Use it at a moment of utmost peril and fear, when all seems lost. For you are the bravest of this company."
Shadwell, dwarvish heart high, took the crystal from the elf queen. "I shall, your majesty. I judged you wrong, I reckon."
The elf queen looked down at Filby, last and perhaps least of their company. "For you, I have this pie. For you are, you know, the fattest of your company. And so..."
"What does the pie do?" Filby said.
"We use the lard of the jugjun beast in the crust. It's really tender," the elf queen says. "But seriously, it's just a pie."
"Should I use it in a time of peril?"
"I want to tell you to share it with the fellowship, but I think we both know that's not going to happen," she said gently.
"I don't get a sword or a magic lamp?"
"No, just the pie."
"That's probably for the best," said Malconium, watching Filby begin to eat the pie with his hands. "I frankly don't even know why we brought this guy."
"There will come a time when Filby's fatness turns out to have a purpose," the elf queen said mysteriously, pushing forward some additional baskets of pastries. "If my mirror tells me true."
Malconium winced. "I don't like even one of the possibilities for what could mean. Goodbye, queen. And thank you."
This is amazing! And hilarious.
For some reason, my story is covering up the picture Camelon posted, which makes my story nonsense. Here it is.
Thanks, I wasn't sure why it was being wonky.
Living in a state that borders Canada, I don't think they celebrate their Thanksgiving with a big family dinner. Many, many Canadians from Ottawa and Montreal spend the long weekend vacationing here in the Adirondacks. It's just another big three-day weekend for them, as far as I can tell. Eh?
I told Malk I'd unban him when he first came back to the Discord, but he said he didn't want to be until he actually had a new story to submit.
A message from The hell Happy Thanksgiving AND BRING ICE LOTS OF ICE ??
Here is a recounting of one experience I had during the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving / Columbus Day in 2007, in a place called the High Peaks Wilderness near Lake Placid. This is an area that has always been extremely popular for hikers on both sides of the border, and because there are few mountain ranges in eastern Canada it gets a lot of traffic from Ottawa and Montreal. Columbus Day is always crowded because not only is it a long weekend for both countries, but it falls at the end of the peak foliage season. Usually I'm smart enough to avoid that area at that time of the year, but in this case I was curious to experience it firsthand.
The encounter with the Quebecois is in the middle of the essay, for those who are averse to nature and/or reading and want to get to the point. Marcy, Gray, Skylight, and Colden are all names of mountains; we love them so much around here we refer to them on a first-name basis.
I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so unlike me. Why didn’t I just head back down toward Feldspar Brook when I knew the weather was going to change? This is the type of thing I’d scoff at someone else for doing. I could have been further down the mountain instead of further up. What did I think was going to happen? That’s just it, I wasn’t thinking. I hate these mountains for what they do to you, for what they make you do.
I’m huddling under the pack cover near the summit of Gray, using my pack as a backrest. The rain is pelting me, a cold, heavy downpour. The cover isn’t helping much. I can feel each drop, each cold drop through the skin of nylon. It feels like the moisture is being drawn through the fabric. Each drop is a rebuke, a taunt that I know I’ve earned. I didn’t have to be here doing this. I chose to be doing this by not choosing to head back to camp like I knew I should.
Ah great, I hear footsteps and here I am squatting in the middle of the trail. I lift the cover and see people coming down, hurrying from the summit, a family. Two boys are passing, and the older one is giving me a curious look. Then I see the parents. I recognize these people through their dog, a golden retriever keeping pace with the boys; they are the same people I saw an hour or two ago on Skylight. I crawl back off the trail as best I can, but there is only so far I can go. I had stopped here because the woods on either side are too thick to enter. I nod hellos, trying to look like this is routine for me and that I’m doing something tried and true, huddling under the pack cover to keep dry. They’re eager to get off the mountain, but unlike me they’ve already been to the summit.
Just down the trail, about twenty feet away, is the top of a ledge. I had considered it a minor victory to get to the top of this thing before the rain had really started to get things wet. It was a sheer rock wall with few good gripping points. I could see the black mass of clouds approaching, the one that other people coming down the mountain had warned me about, the one I could’ve deduced was coming myself when I heard thunder at Lake Tear. The darkness was coming fast as I had stood contemplating the ledge, releasing its opening barrage of rain. At this point I had come too far up the mountain to think of turning back.
My first reaction? To get up this thing before the rain made it slick. With drops falling and freckling the rock, I used trees as handholds. I had little faith in my boots’ ability to grip the rock; the mountain would be a little bit more eroded by the time I was done. I looked over my shoulder and saw darkness where previously mountains had been. The shower was here. At the top, there was no way to get off the trail, so I took shelter as best I could right in the middle—under the mistaken assumption that all of my choices up to that point still allowed the possibility of staying dry.
Strangely, I can’t imagine going down that ledge, not now. My body freezes at the idea. From under the cover I watch as the dog, the kids, and the parents who passed me disappear over the precipice. I expect to hear cries of pain any moment now as they slip and fall, as they land on top of each other with broken legs, but they somehow get down without complaint—even the kids, even the dog. The slick surface and the lack of gripping points haven’t deterred them. I am left alone with the mountain, the wind, and the pattering of rain.
The little ditch of a trail is becoming a trickling brook, the water just about the same color as last night’s hot chocolate. It is backing up around my boots and diverting past them to one side, then spilling down to the ledge. I’m not sure why I’m bothering with the cover. At this point, nothing I could do between here and my camp will keep me dry. Even if the rain stops now—and a shower this heavy won’t last very long, that’s one consolation—even when the rain stops, there will still be the brush. No matter how long I wait under this cover, or what clothes I put on, I know one thing: I’m screwed.
I was right about the rain. It’s beginning to lighten up. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been here—maybe ten, fifteen minutes. I forgot to check my watch when it started. No—it’s picking back up again. That was just a lull. But the dark cloud is passing. I see lighter skies beyond. The end should be near.
And indeed, the shower tapers off until all I hear is the dripping from the branches. I emerge from my cramped, barely adequate shelter. I’ve never done this before, used my pack cover like this. I tried fitting under it once at home and found that I could at least keep myself covered. Using it as a quick shelter was one of those contingencies I had filed away in my mind as something to try someday. Well, I’ve tried it and I’m not sure I’ll try it again.
The dark cloud is not completely gone. From the top of the ledge I can see that Skylight is lost in the darkness, a pocket of night moving through the mountains. But it’s not raining here, not for the moment. At least I got that going for me.
I gather up my stuff and continue on my way. The summit is not that far away, and I find that it’s sort of an interesting place. It is completely wooded, but the ridge is very narrow, as though the butt ends of two glaciers had once squeezed towards each other with the mountain pressed between them. There are wide views on both sides, with Marcy rising like an imposing pyramid above the ridge not too far away. The views are temporary, I know. The clouds are swirling and floating through the mountains, and what I see now was shrouded a few minutes ago—and will be again soon, no doubt. So what I meant to say was that there would be wide views on both sides of the ridge on a better day.
So I made it to the top of Gray—although it is unclear who bagged who, me or the mountain. This is where I now have to make a decision, to go back or to go forward. Going back will not exactly be short or keep me any drier. Going forward will involve an unknown element. The herd path continues along the ridgeline right up to Marcy; I’ve read about it and I can see it continuing into the thick, wet brush. According to the GPS the summit of Marcy is six-tenths of a mile away—really not that far at all. Of course, its summit is open so once I’m there I’ll be out of the woods, literally, and I can follow the trails back to Lake Arnold. This was the way I originally planned to go, anyway, before the weather changed.
Going back? Well, that damn trail leading up the mountain hardly endeared itself to me. And then there’s that ledge. I know that going down this way would be the shorter, more sensible way to go, but those aren’t the primary considerations. I came here with an agenda, and turning back seems too defeatist. If getting soaked is guaranteed either way, then why not press on?
I look ahead at that thick mass of balsam fir creeping over the “trail” and realize my trekking poles will be of little use there. They will just be snagging with nearly every step I take. So I stick them in my pack—but I see this arrangement will be almost as bad. Although the poles are collapsible, even in their shortest form they stick out of the pack like a pair of antennae. At the first sign of lightning I will have to distance myself from them. So far, though, there has been no lightning.
The foot tread is clearly worn into the duff, but no side cutting has ever been done. The balsam boughs extend over the path without restraint. It is like a continuous carwash, with wet branches slapping and embracing me. There is no hope of keeping dry, so all that is left is to get out of here as quickly as possible. At least this is balsam fir, which doesn’t snag as much as spruce. In any other context I might enjoy this, thrashing and pushing through the woods with the summit of Marcy looming ever closer. But there are no views anymore, not even any close-in ones. Marcy is lost in the fog. I am reduced to a bent-over position, detecting the trail by examining the foot tread beneath all these trees. It is almost crawling.
There are ledges to scramble down and puddles to splash through. The poles are snagging on branches that I would have otherwise been able to duck under, and my swearing is getting more vehement, more abusive, each time. The poles are unfazed by this verbal assault. It’s not really them I should be mad at, but it feels productive to be shouting at something. It helps to keep my mind off things.
In a few places I reach openings where I know the view must be really good, under better circumstances. I can’t see anything now, but somewhere out to my left is Lake Arnold. There are two little campsites there, and my tent is sitting in one of them. Even though I’m aiming towards Marcy right now, it’s that campsite where I’m really headed.
I wonder who I’ll be sharing it with tonight. I still can’t get over the brazenness of that one Canadian girl last night. She was a piece of work. Yesterday I had reached Lake Arnold around lunchtime and found that I had the pick of the litter, as far as tent sites went. It was Friday, so the weekend crowds had not arrived yet. I set my tent up in a nice little spot with level ground and a log on one side for a bench. I had the time, so I climbed to the summit of Colden after lunch. I was not surprised to find I had company when I returned later in the afternoon, but I had to struggle to hold my tongue. One couple was setting up camp near the water, right across the trail from a perfectly good designated campsite no one was using.
“You do know that’s an illegal campsite, right?” I said as I passed, in one of my little indignant fits.
The girl looked up in tired impatience at her tent, which was still only partially set up. Her boyfriend said, “We didn’t see any other sites.”
“There’s one right over there, next to the privy. See the yellow marker?”
He had not seen it, but he went over to check it out. As I continued down the bank to my campsite I heard them speaking in quiet tones across the trail.
“Is it legal?” the girl said.
“Yes, it’s legal,” the guy said. I don’t know French, but I could understand that much.
My own campsite was only a short distance away, at the foot of a knoll. As I turned into it I saw another group of young people scouting out places to pitch their tents. This was the larger site of the two, but level ground was at a premium. Most of it was pretty rooty. My little solo tent had the best spot around, and I could tell my new campmates were disappointed with the leftovers.
This was not my ideal situation, having to share a tent site with strangers, but I was in no way surprised. This was the High Peaks, after all. I might as well make the most of it.
“Ah, I have neighbors, I see.” It was my best attempt at a cheerful greeting, under the circumstances.
One girl—not bad looking, tall and with short, sandy-blond hair like my own—was scoping out the main part of the site with a friend. I had to pass them to get to my own tent.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said. And had she stopped there she would have been fine. But she quickly added, “Not that it matters.”
You have no idea how much that floored me. Not that it matters. No, it didn’t matter, but that wasn’t the point. What the hell is getting into people, anyway? Whose mountains are these?
Interestingly, that entire group up and left the site altogether a few minutes later, even though I did my best to ignore them and keep out of their way. I assumed they got discouraged over the lumpy ground and moved up to the other campsite with the other couple. I didn’t care. There were French voices in the woods for much of the night, to be sure, but I had my space and so I was fine.
This morning was better, though. I was able to completely ignore anyone who might still be around, enjoying my omelet and coffee in undisturbed peace. Other Canadians were passing through, but these I didn’t mind so much. They were geese, and I heard several flocks flying overhead as though this notch between Marcy and Colden was the only way to get from the north to Chesapeake Bay. There was quite a bit of traffic up there.
The fourth flock to pass by took a closer look. After flying over Lake Arnold the first time they circled back north and then turned back toward the pond again. The air was full of their raucous conversations—neither French nor English, but rather an orchestra of tuneless bicycle horns—as they passed low over the trees to land on the pond.
But something went wrong. Perhaps one goose had misgivings and pulled up, and the flock reflexively followed. Whatever it was, they chose not to land at the last minute. The squawking and honking turned north again as though toward Lake Placid, until the collective resolve to land on Lake Arnold was found once more. They came back on another trajectory, passing just above the trees over my campsite. I could hear the swoop-swoop of each wing beating against the air. Finally, and successfully, they touched down on the surface of the pond. I grabbed my camera and followed the muddy path to the shore. The geese were all at the far end, where the shoreline was grassier, stretching their wings the way a person would stretch their legs after a long car ride. They were only slightly less noisy here on the water than they had been in the air. But these were companions with which I could relate. I didn’t mind the bicycle horns, and in fact I was glad they had come. I had been starting to think these mountains were inhabited only by tourists.
As I crawl across Gray, I wonder if the geese will still be there when I return later tonight. They had perhaps better insight about the weather than I did—at least they knew enough to take the day off. I hadn’t intended to be here in the rain, though. Today was supposed to be the sunniest day of the weekend, which was why I tried to get this loop in now. The rain wasn’t supposed to hit until tomorrow, and today was supposed to be nice. But as I said before, it wasn’t until I had stopped for lunch at Lake Tear that I suspected the weather was going to get worse before it got better. And yet I climbed Gray anyway.
Another shower has passed, but by now there is nothing left to keep dry. I have put my glasses away because the lenses were getting wet and starting to fog up. Time is running short. I still can’t see Marcy. It can’t be that much farther ahead. I stop and turn the GPS on, then wait for it to lock onto the satellites. I see that I still have four-tenths of a mile to the summit, but more importantly I have much less than that before I reach the tree line. That’s all I want more than anything right now, to be free of these fucking balsam trees. I don’t mean that. They’re beautiful trees, but they’re in my way right now. I want to be on open rock, not confined. At least then I’ll feel as though I possess free will again, that I can choose my own course and not be hemmed in by all this nonsense.
There is a low spot on the ridge, and then I begin to climb. This must be Marcy, then. But the trees hold out. They’re following me up the mountain. What the hell is this? How much more do I have to put up with? Won’t something give me a break? Yes, I’m stupid for being here in the first place. Alright, already. Now let me just get on with my life.
The trees are starting to get shorter. That’s a good sign. But the transition from forest to alpine meadow is nothing like what I am expecting. The stunted balsams continue all the way up to the foot of a low rock ledge. I haul my wet carcass to the top, and everything I can see through the heavy fog above me is open rock. The trees make no effort to continue any higher. They just end. I wanted to be in the open, and now I am, as easily as that.
I can only see my immediate surroundings, a bizarre landscape of fractured rock and colonies of little plants. I admit I have little idea what I’m looking at, botany-wise. This is a strange environment to me, not replicated in the parts of the Adirondacks I usually find myself. But because there is nothing else to see I focus on what is visible: dwarf shrubs, clumps of deer grass, other things that look like pincushions. Actually, I should know what a lot of this is, but the names have been shoved to the back of my memory and aren’t worth recalling at the moment. There is enough open rock that I am able to scramble upward without having to step on this stuff very much. Not only that, but the rock is textured—meaning that my boots are getting a good grip. And, at last, I’m no longer swearing at myself.
I can’t see where I’m going in this fog, but it doesn’t matter. I only have to go up until I can climb no further, and then I’ll know I’m at the summit. Then I’ll follow the VanHoevenberg Trail back to Indian Falls, and then the crossover trail back to Lake Arnold. It might be dark by then, or maybe not. It’s hard to say. I’ll be cutting it close.
It’s not raining at the moment. I am, at least, feeling strong. I am looking forward to returning to camp, whenever that might be. Warm food, hot coffee. All of this being put behind me, where it belongs.
Yes, I made my earlier decisions and I endured the consequences. Now what I have to do is make sure I get back to Lake Arnold with minimal further suffering. Once I get over Marcy it will be all downhill on open trails. I can see myself already settling into camp, changing my clothes and firing up the stove. I’ll get there, but it’s going to be a long slog.
I was going to draw a CYStian Last Supper but I realized I'm not that thankful for you folks. ;~)
Here's a cooking Rockwell instead.
Is he throwing cash in the pot?
They actually appear to be green packing peanuts.
It came with the ingredients, and he's not one to waste.