hitched her shoelaces and double knotted the strings of her boots. She
stood, swiped wood chips from her backside, and gazed across the
Shining Rock Wilderness. Sunlight reflected off mica and quartzite
embedded in mountain peaks, a scene unchanged from her last visit. The
only thing missing was Brian.
She closed her eyes and took a
deep breath. Air laced with balsam
and a hint of rime ice filled her lungs, easing strained muscles.
Freeing memories. Cold Mountain had been Brian’s favorite hike long
before the book or movie brought the curious to its twisting paths and
steep slope. So familiar with the trail, he no longer needed a guide or
a compass. He’d convinced her to trek to the overview below the summit
for their first date. Three years later, after dragging her back up the
6,000-foot peak to pick blueberries the size of marbles, he proposed.
“Kat, it’s getting late.”
Kathy glanced at the bear of a
man stationed near a cluster of Turks
Cap lilies bobbing in the stiff breeze. Resting on his new hiking
stick, his natural frown emphasizing his natural gruffness, he looked
more impatient than he had fifteen minutes earlier.
“I need a few minutes.”
Jason jerked his head in the
direction of the sun. “We need to get moving if we want to reach the
trailhead before dark.”
“We can make it if we keep a