Hitch 4 by Garrett Janzen

I am Hitch 4, the one that got away and became something more.
I am the dusty trail to Thompson Lake. Thompson has many friends: Mason, Blazer, Island, Little Rainbow, even Little Thompson. I have no friends; I am a fungus. I have tendrils and nuclei, and occasionally log benches. Sometimes I lead you off a cliff. Do not blame me when I lead you off a cliff; I did not create myself. You have created me. Sometimes the water tries, but you so rarely fall for the drainages. Garrett, you were wise to listen to Sarah, when Sarah told you not to go down Blazer’s southern cliff. Neither should you blame the cliff.
I am the marker Sarah dropped off the southern Blazer cliff. I did not fall far, but far enough. Over the months and years, I will continue to fall, until I splash. I love the water.
I am the little chalkboard that stayed home. You forgot me. Hope you enjoyed using a stupid marker and a stupid piece of paper for tagging the photos. Idiots.
I am the two-foot thick layer of water at the top of Mason Lake. I am significantly warmer than the water beneath the thermocline, but when you jump through me, you make me feel all funny, and I get all mixed up with the cold water. Apparently you guys thought it felt pretty good; it’s all you could talk about for like an hour.

I am the part of your brain that tells you sweet lies about the nearness of the final destination. I take my cues from subconscious sounds and smells, like moving water and changes in the wind. I set the limit to what distance you believe you can hike. Eight miles up Necklace Valley is nothing. “Eight” is just a number, like two or ten. You do not perceive eight. You perceive the lactic acid in your muscles and the shortness of your breath. You perceive expectations, but even more so, you experience expectations unmet, the lake just over the ridge that does not meet you at the top. I give you pretty dreams and laugh as they die.
I am the beard upon Sol’s chin. My primacy is unquestioned among the group. Sol is my master, and I live to serve him. No mosquito proboscis has ever passed through me. I have been scrubbed and groomed like a royal man-child of the Windsor Castle, but do not be charmed by my charms; I do not fool around. I am a beard.
I am a female mosquito. I have about ten billion girlfriends here in Necklace Valley. Please allow us to take just a little bit of your blood. See, we need your blood so we can make more mosquito babies. Oh! I just remembered, I brought pictures. This here is the oldest, Isaac. He lives over at Jewel Lake nowadays. And this, this is Kara, she’s just on the other side of the Emerald Lake. Then there’s Henry, here. Don’t you just love that picture! Look how cute his little antennae are! Then there’s Danny, Annie, Louis, Bethany, Evan, Ellie, Ellis, Ethan, Edgar, Eve, (I just loved “E” names for a while! I just love that sound: “Eeeeeeeeee”… I could just make that sound all day long!), Courtney, Sam, Doug, Patrice, Savanna, Moby, Graham, Monica, and Wilfred. They’re all just so beautiful (everyone says they take after their mother, of course!) Anyways, with just a little blood, I could get this next batch baking, if you know what I mean. So, what do you say? Here, I’ll just take a little from your neck…
I am Garrett’s hand. My record is six confirmed kills in one swat. Sol bore witness.

I am the weekend. Old hiker ladies and small children from Seattle love me. To celebrate my goodness, they swarm to the wilderness in droves, especially to large lakes three or less miles from parking lots. The best example is Snow Lake.
I am Stevie the Ghost’s dog ghost. Stevie passed away from this earth, and his best friends decided to memorialize his life with a framed photograph of Stevie and me, nailed to a fir looking over Upper Wildcat Lake. Stevie and I reached Upper Wildcat once, in early fall of 1998. There were so many squirrels, I didn’t know what to do. I went about chasing one, under a log and over this flat rock, when two more would run the other way, so obviously I felt compelled to double back and get the two. I wasn’t able to bring any back for Stevie, but he honestly didn’t seem to mind. Just like always, he let me sleep on his legs in the tent, and called me a Good Boy. He’s passed on now, and so have I, and that’s just the way things go. Even if it was a hard chase, I’m sure he found what he was looking for; I know I did.
I’m the Earth Corps trail maintenance team, sent to repair the washed-out trail portions from Snow to Upper Wildcat. Also, we were told about some creepy shrine at a site on Upper Wildcat that was supposed to come down. It’s not fair to creep out the other hikers.
I am the vaporous memory of efficiency, sufficiently dissipated and subsequently abandoned in the general trail network around Snow Lake heavy-use area. I do not approve. Trails to nowhere, trails to other trails, trails that loop back around and meet their origin: If I were an entity with power, rather than an abstraction, I would wipe clean the trails from around that lake and begin anew. My postdiluvian utopia would be simple and elegant, neither a grid nor a web, but an intuitive extension of the local topography.
I am Laetiporus, “chicken-of-the-woods.” Garrett found a cluster of my shelves on a rotting log at Lower Wildcat and packed me up for later. I blended well with the brown rice stir fry at supper that night. Pip did a good job with me. It’s nice to be appreciated.
I am what happens when you give away your summer to do something you don’t really understand with people you’ve never met in a place you’ve never been.
I am Hitch 4, the one that opened its eyes and spoke its mind.