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My Adventure Begins - First Day
The top of Katahdin was just ahead. We could see it through a break in the cold, misty clouds that whirled about us. Henry wanted to race for it, but I shook my head. Those last hundred yards were heavy ones and, in spite of the stiff, rocky climb, I was cold and shivery.
Just as we reached the summit, the mist closed in around us and shut off our view of the mountain below. I was disappointed. Who wouldn't be, after such a climb? We waited, shivering in the icy blasts that swept around us, for another break in the clouds. Dimly, just like a ghost, we saw a man standing over to the right, on a spur leading to what is called the Knife Edge. He saw us, too, and waved to us, then started towards us.
Henry is the son of a guide and he seemed pleased. "Let's wait here until he comes over," he said, "then we can start back together-that's the best thing to do."
But I was cold and shivery. I never was good at standing cold, anyway. Nights, when Ryan and Tom slept with only a sheet over them , Dad always came in with a blanket for me. I thought of that, and of Dad somewhere back on the trail behind us.
"Let's get out of here now," I said. I remember that my teeth were chattering as I said it, but Henry shook his head. He wanted to wait for the man.
I think Henry was just a little bit nervous and who wouldn't be, with all that big cloud-covered mountain below us and clouds rolling like smoke around us? But Henry was wise. I can see that now. He knewKatahdin.
Iwas nervous, too, and maybe that is why I decided to go right back and join Dad and the boys. Maybe I was sorrythat I had gone on ahead of them. Maybe that had been a foolish thing to do. Such thoughts run through a fellow's head at a time like that. Anyway, they ran through mine and made me more and more anxious to get back to the folks below.
I had on a sweatshirt under my fleece-lined jacket. When I made up my mind to start back, I peeled off the jacket and gave the sweatshirt to Henry. "That'll keep you warm while you're waiting, I said, "But I'm going back, right now. I'll tell Dad you and the man are coming down soon."
Henry said I was foolish and tried to stop me, but I knew I was all right. I guess I thought I knew more than he did, for I only shrugged my shoulders and laughed at him. just then, an extra heavy cloud rolled in around us. I thought of people being lost in clouds and getting off the trail-and maybe that hurried me a little as I pulled up my fleece-lined reefer about my neck and started down. Boy, I can see now what a mistake that was! A fellow is just plain dumb who laughs at people who know more than he does.
The clouds were like gray smoke and shut Henry from me before I had gone a dozen yards. The going was very rough, and the trail wound in and around huge rocks. It hadn't seemed so awfully rough on the way up -- I mean the last hundred yards, but then you climbed slowly-while going down, you could make better time. I hadn't gone far before I noticed that the trail led me up to rocks that I had to climb over like a squirrel. That seemed funny to me, but I went on just the same, because a fellow forgets easily, and I figured going down was different, anyway.
Trail in a mist. I suppose Henry would laugh at me for saying so. He's been over the trail so often. However, I wasn't worried-not just then. I kept looking ahead, expecting to see Dad and the boys break through the cloud at any moment.
Everything looks different in the clouds. You think you see a man and he turns out to be only a rock. It kind of scares a fellow, especially when you are alone and awfully cold.
When I had gone quite a distance over the rocksfar enough, I thought, to be down on the plateauI stopped and looked around. I couldn't see anything that looked like a trail. I couldn't find a single spot of white paint. I thought I must be down on the plateau, but could not be sure. There, are plenty of huge rocks on the plateau, but the trail winds in and out around them. The going is fairly level and the rocks don't bother as long as you are on the trail, but I was in the middle of the worst mess of rocks you can imagine. I began to worry a little. Boy, it's no fun getting off the trail, when the cloud is so thick you can't see a dozen yards ahead!
One thing helped me not to worry too much.
I knew that if Dad and the boys were still on the way up they must be nearing the place where I stood. At least they must be within hearing distance. I shouted several times. Not a sound answered me. My voice seemed hollow. I had a feeling it didn't go far through that heavy cloud. I waited and then I shouted again and again. At last, I just stood and listened for a long time. No answering shout -- nothing but the noise of the wind among the rocks. Boy, I felt funny when I started on.I couldn't see far on any side of me and I had a feeling I was right on the edge of a great cliff. The way the clouds swirled scared me. The rocks about me looked more like ghosts than rocks, until I tried to climb over them. Besides... Lost on a Mountain in Maine. Copyright © by Joseph Egan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.