The mountain stood its ground as Roger pulled his backpack from the trunk of his compact car. There was a weather-beaten map of the trails laminated on a corkboard next to the entrance of the main trail. The ink marking the map had faded in the blazing light of many setting suns and some of the trails were difficult to discern.
Roger squinted into the light of the sun as it came up over the ridge of the mountain’s summit. He reached out and took one of the maps from a protective cubby built into the display. He never took his eyes away from the summit’s crag as he reached behind himself to tuck the pamphlet into one of the pack’s pockets. There was one final adjustment to the shoulder straps and he was heading up the trail marked by vibrant green circles the size of his palm that were spray-painted on the trunks of trees every ten yards or so.
Usually one of Roger’s buddies or at the very least his dog would join him on his hike. But as luck would have it, one guy had to work, two were on vacation, a fourth had a family thing going on, and Roger’s dog, though willing, was prevented by the veterinarian’s orders and the large plastic cone encircling his head.
So Roger set off up the trail alone, giving the tree a high five on its bright green marker as he passed. Instinctively he looked back over his shoulder only to find that for once, no one was trailing behind. Even with no one to see, Roger shrugged his shoulders, readjusted his backpack because he had just dislodged it from a comfortable position, and continued up the mountain. With no one following but a distracted squirrel and a few burrowing bugs, Roger had no one to say anything about the map that had fallen from his pack as he shifted and jostled it.
Roger, used to having someone moving at a slower pace, pushed himself rapidly along the trail, paying little attention to the forks he chose along the way. Of course, he believed he had a map to reference later when he finally took pause to check. But along with willfully losing his way, he lost his regular references for time. He only slowed down enough to pull out his water bottle from time to time. Until he began to realize he was lost on the side of the mountain.
The green stains transformed to yellow ones before disappearing when he wasn’t paying attention. He finally slowed enough to reach for his map doing an amazing though unappreciated impression of his dog chasing its tail. Pulling the bag from his back, he fought an impulse to hurl it against a conveniently placed tree upon finding the map absent. He looked up towards the peak, backlit by the sun. It was frowned upon to go off the beaten path but since he was already off of it… why not?