The mules were drooling, the sign, the driver said, we approached the summit. The trail wound back through the trees and when the mules proved correct we opened to a view where the mountains unrolled in silver clasps through a haunted room.
Thirsty, there was no drinking in the trees and so, freed, we sat passing black tea bladders/inventing jokes about our arms. A white hawk soared near, the ribbons on our handles shone. We walked another click, as they say, when a cart of paints blocked our way. On a platform sat a tall, fertile woman rendering the view on teacups, laying them out in a drying rack of granite.
Her view was different than ours, we knew, and we graciously sorted through the handles and saucers until we could peer back down the beams of light to our own very hot souls. I asked how much for the set; she nodded to the mules.
We agreed and transferred the gear by sunset. One of my smaller blisters began to bleed and we lost another hour searching for cold water. We were making our way down the switchbacks holding out the last of the candles. Were we to touch a cup, clank, rattle, a noise, we would attract bears. So we padded them with our kerchiefs and called each another new names.
By sunrise we had cleared the area of trees and I spaced the teacups so were one to crack the others would not hear. We had lost two already. The white hawk was back, too, with a mate, and only I knew if we made for the highway then, we’d be found. We spent a week there, keeping our smoke concealed. Finally on a Sunday, our last chance, a thin creek galloped out of the mountains, right past our camp, and we were able to empty the cups and float home.