The Man on the Mountain Path

Matt Banschbach '21, Literary guest writer

Sitting on a rock, the man donned a pullover, for the wind blew with a crispness that cooled the sweat on his back dry, causing him to shiver in the shade. He rose, pulling his pack from the mossy stone and continuing down the narrow path, laden with pine needles. As he descended, the canopy above his head thickened, and he could hear the wind rustling the leaves more distinctly.  

The man stopped to rest mid-afternoon, where he took in his surroundings. The trail had bent around the side of a mountain, its grade gradually increasing. Fifty yards ahead, there was an old wooden ladder, only ten feet tall, where the trail climbed a rock ledge. The forest had become thin again; he could make out the valley floor through tall evergreens to his left, where the face of the mountain sloped downward. The man smiled at the feeling of serenity. He continued up the trail. 

The trail began to switchback, making the climb more strenuous, the man rounding more hairpins than he could count. When the trail finally flattened, the man found himself in a small clearing. He could hear the wind above him, much gustier than the soft breeze of late morning. The light had changed as well, and the long shadows bent in a new direction. A weathered sign stuck in the ground directed the man towards the mountain’s summit. The path was rocky, slowing the man as he carefully picked his steps. As he climbed, his head rose above the stunted firs, and he experienced his first sweeping view. The sky was unbelievably blue, except for a few wispy clouds. The sun was bright, slowly traversing towards its western resting place, and it shone such that the trees seemed like emeralds. The rolling hills and mountains stretching before him ranged in color from deep green to faint blue, like an artist’s gradient. As the man reached the summit, the late afternoon sun became golden, casting dramatic shadows on the rocks and reflecting off of the orange grasses. The warm sun contrasted the cold wind, on which a peregrine falcon rode before diving with a piercing sound. The man tried to take every sight in; he lost track of time drinking in the beauty. 

But all good adventures must end, and as the sun progressed lower and the air grew colder, the man disembarked down the summit. As he descended, the air grew slightly warmer, and the man’s tired feet rejoiced when the path grew soft again. The clattering sound of a rushing creek that ran along the trail replaced that of the wind. The man decided to stop by the stream and wash his face. Feeling refreshed, he stood and continued down the path. After walking fifty yards, he heard a loud rustling of leaves and looked back; a young black bear emerged from the woods. It stopped and shared the man’s gaze, understanding, before turning to the creek and disappeared behind the bank.