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Paradise Unveiled by D.B. Magee - HTML preview

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Chapter One

David Finch, 22 years old stands five foot eleven with a medium athletic build and neatly combed short cropped light brown hair.

Best friend Brian Lipton, age 23, is slightly over six feet tall with medium length black and wavy hair exhibiting ruggedly handsome facial features. He also touts a very muscular and solid looking physique.

Both men sit across from each other at a small round table relaxing in an airport coffee shop enjoying a snack while awaiting their flight.

David notices the electronic information board on the wall which presently displays world news headlines. Studying the scrolling digital messages he makes mental note of the following topics: “No end to war in sight; religious conflict continues in Middle East – Starvation on the rise in Africa – World sees population of orphans increase – Terrorist attacks still feared; security measures continue – Crime rate up 22% nationwide...”Disgusted by the horrific state of affairs he shakes his head and snaps a thumb gestures towards the screen.

“It never ends! You’d think by now we’d be tired of all this contravention. We should start looking for solutions to our problems instead of creating new ones.”

Brian doesn’t answer. Tight lipped he glances at the board letting David blow off steam.
David continues to ponder mankind’s plight. His mind reels, he becomes more agitated. He’s about to continue when Brian, knowing his friend and his strong beliefs and desires for world peace, stops him before he explodes.
“Calm down Davy. You do this to yourself every time you see the news. Feel sorry for the world if you must, but don’t cause yourself so much grief about something you have no control over.”
“No control over... yeah maybe that’s where I made my mistake. Maybe I should have joined the Peace Core instead of Engineering. At least there I could havetriedto make a difference.”
“Who says you can’t or won’t make a difference in the Engineering field? Maybe you’ll design something that’ll bring the whole world together.”
David eyeballs Brian with a serious look of doubt. “It's just that I feel so helpless. I'm a bright guy; I should be able to do something... I just can’t figure out what that ‘something’ is.” He stares once again at the message board and continues to contemplate the world’s present condition.
Brian sits back and quietly mulls over his own thoughts for a moment. Suddenly he stands smartly pushing his chair back with his legs and gulps down the last swallow of coffee. Then in an attempt to change the subject and David’s mood says, “Well you can't do anything right now buddy... so what do say we get this party started?”
David stares blankly at his friend for a second and then shakes his head in an attempt to drive out the dismal thoughts. In an instant he sits erect, finishes his coffee and stands. “You're right. This is supposed to be a vacation. What are we waiting for?
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Brian exclaims and claps David on the back.
Together they make their way talking and laughing through the crowded airport in search of their departure gate.

An hour later they’re onboard a commercial wide-bodied aircraft heading down the tarmac towards the runway.
Sitting next to his best friend, David thinks about his recent interview with the National Space Agency Research Center in Mountain View California. He sent his resume in about a month before he graduated from Pennsylvania Institute of Space Science in Pittsburgh. They contacted him two weeks later and scheduled an interview with him two days after his graduation. He flew to California and met with four different department heads. Feeling that the interview went well he was told that he would hear from them within three weeks. That interview was three days ago but he still plays it over in his head wondering if there was anything he could have said or done differently to improve his chances for getting the job.
He really likes the idea of working for the N.S.A.R.C. and loves the thought of living in California for a while. Being from Florida he enjoys the calm of the ocean as well as the diving opportunities it presents. He also loves the climate and even though he enjoys traveling and seeing other places, as far as residing for any period of time in a particular location, he would prefer something comparable to where he grew up. The thought of living in sunny California has always intrigued him, and even though the diving will be considerably different due to the temperature of the water, the limited visibility and the amount of gear needed to stay warm, he welcomes the idea of the challenge and experience.
David’s thoughts change as the plane takes to the air. He now reflects on his long and close friendship with Brian. The two of them grew up down the street from each other in Tampa, Florida and developed a bond early on in their childhood. They are both outgoing and their favorite recreational activities are back packing and SCUBA diving. Both are experienced and P.A.D.I. certified SCUBA divers. Together they were certified while in high school. Florida and the surrounding islands provide excellent diving opportunities. As teenagers whenever they had free time, which were most weekends, their dads would take them to the various hot spots in search of the perfect underwater scenic adventure.
All during high school they had planned on attending college together when they graduated and so they spent a great deal of time researching and locating schools that had great academic programs in both of their courses of interest. They settled on the Pennsylvania Institute of Space Science.
Breaks in there academia would find them off together on one or the other of their favorite pastimes and sometimes both in the same trip. However, when undertaking dual activities in a single trip they would have to finish one escapade before starting the other since each required its own complete set of equipment.
David and Brian had plannedthistrip months ago. It was decided that after graduating college they would take some much needed time off before actually starting a career to unwind and have a little fun.
The plane levels and the seat belt signs are turned off. David leans back and continues to sit quietly anticipating the adventure and tranquility that awaits them as he reflects and reminisces about his life.

Brian muses over the conversation he had with David which concerned their remaining in Pittsburgh after graduation instead of returning home to Florida. Knowing they could end up anywhere in the country they decided that by applying for a job from their present location it would save time and money by preventing a possible double move in a short period of time. Brian is now second guessing that decision and feeling lonely already at the thought of David getting the position with the NSA and thinks,Since he already had his interview and it seems he will probably get the job, I may just go ahead and return to Florida and continue my job search from there. At least I’ll be close to the best dive spots again.

He continues stressing over this decision as a flight attendant leans over from the isle near him.
“Headphones?” she asks.
He smiles, “no thanks, I think I’ll just read.”
She looks to David who waves her off as he remains deep in thought. She proceeds up the isle and continues to solicit for the upcoming movie.
Brian makes good on his decision to read and unfastens the tray from the back of the seat in front of him and pivots it down above his lap. Rotating the hinged cover that hides the Passenger Media Player (PMP1) inside, he fastens it beneath the tray with the Velcro straps provided. He pulls out and slides his credit card through the slot on the device.
A category menu quickly appears: Video – Reading – Audio. Highlighting the categories using the touchpad he quickly scans the sub-menus. Under “Video” he finds: Movies – Games - Live Broadcast. He scrolls across to “Reading” and sees: Magazines – Books – Educational. Under “Reading”, the short list that follows is: Music – Books.
His first instinct is to select magazines but he changes his mind and chooses books. A list of titles appears on the left of the screen. On the right an invisible window displays a synopsis or description of the title as it’s highlighted. A few minutes pass and he finds a title and description that suits him. He selects it from the long list; the title page appears. Tapping on one of the touch screen buttons a couple of times he adjusts the font size of the text.
Satisfied with his choice he tilts his seat back to a comfortable reading position and proceeds to peruse his selection.

David snaps out of his trance and concentrates on the trip ahead. It’s the beginning of summer and they’re now on their way to Anchorage, Alaska where they’ll get supplies and hop a float plane to Lake Clark. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a composite of ecosystems which represent many of the regions of Alaska.

The Chigmit Mountains within the park host a spectacular array of jagged peaks and glaciers and are also home to two active volcanoes. The main lake, Lake Clark, is 40 miles long and combined with many other lakes and rivers offer excellent fishing, wildlife study, and photo opportunities.

Deep in thought David stares unconsciously at the blank screen that hangs on the wall at the front of the coach section of the aircraft as he mentally plans their trek.We’ll land at Port Alsworth, (a little bush community), and pay some of the natives to usher us across the lake to the west coast. Then we’ll hike southwest, following the lake for the most part toward Fish Village to Nondalton. Since this route is less than twenty five miles long, and we have two weeks, it should leave us plenty of time for relaxing and side excursions.

As he sits contemplating their trek he allows a momentary interruption of another thought. I hope there are a good number of cliffs along this route.One of David and Brian’s favorite past times while backpacking is hiking up the backside of mountains and rappelling down the face.

He shakes his head and the thought vanishes. I need to stay focusedhe thinks, and returns his concentration to the task at hand. Once at Nondalton, If we have time, we’ll make camp and scout the area for potential future excursions before catching a plane back to Anchorage, and then home. He nods a few times subconsciously in approval of his plan. Spending a bit more time fine tuning the trip in his head he finally reclines the seat and allows himself a mental break.

He relaxes and falls into a meditative state and daydreams about the beauty of Alaska’s great expanse. One of the reasons he likes to regularly come to Lake Clark, in addition to the great hiking and abundant wildlife, is that most of this park is uncharted and un-traveled. He reflects on how he and Brian both like a lot of solitude while backpacking, and that they both also like the fact that most of their chosen routes have never been walked by any other human.

Many hours later the plane makes a long slow right banked turn as it begins its descent and final approach to the Anchorage airport. Brian awakes as the cabin lights are turned on and the “Fasten your seatbelt” sign sounds.

“We here already?” he asks groggily as he yawns and stretches.
David peers out the window as the plane is banking and enjoys the beauty of the city nestled in the valley below the Chugach Mountains on the edge of the Kink arm of Cook Inlet off the Gulf of Alaska. He always enjoys taking in this view from the air. As he sits reflecting on his previous visit he tries to relieve the pressure in his ears by pinching his nose and blowing. (This is a SCUBA divers technique.) After a few attempts he finally succeeds and is glad that the headache he is suffering from starts to dissipate.
“Doesn’t seem to have changed much since the last time we were here,” David says to Brian.
“It hasn’t beenthatlong since we were here last.”
“Yeah but it seems there is always some addition to the city every time we come.”
Brian rubs his eyes and then his shoulders in an attempt to stretch and wake completely.
David gazes out the window a moment longer taking in as much of the view as possible before the plane straightens outs and blocks his view completely.
Even though it’s evening, due to this being mid June and daylight being approximately 19 hours long, it’s still light outside.
“I so love summer here!” Brian exclaims, referring to the fact that it stays light so long. “I’m sure glad we decided to come now.”
“Yeah, it’ll definitely make for better photo
opportunities,” David replies.
“Not to mention more exploring time per day.”

Upon parking and with gangways in place the doors open with a burst of rushing air. This is their signal. Unencumbered by onboard luggage they hop quickly out of their seats and proceed to file directly off the aircraft trying to avoid the crowd of people that gather in the isles in a hurried attempt to remove their carry on luggage from the over head compartments.

Proceeding directly to baggage claim they retrieve their backpacks. As they stroll across the medium size concourse towards the exit, Brian spots three women with backpacking gear of their own standing at the entrance to a corridor that leads to other gates. Intrigued, his gaze falls on the brunette in the group. Her height is between that of the other two and she is very pretty with an oval shaped face and well proportioned. Her hair is of shoulder length and worn loose. She’s wearing cute jean overalls with a colorful floral long sleeved shirt.

It looks as if they have just arrived from another airline, but since they are just standing around it’s hard to tell if they are coming or going.

Brian considers approaching the young women when he notices that his friend, oblivious to the ladies, is already heading out the door. He thinks better of it and hustles to catch up to him.

Outside it’s a beautiful sunny day with few fluffy white cumulus clouds floating overhead in the bright light-blue sky. David stands on the sidewalk and enjoys the view of the city in the distance. As he hails a cab and awaits its arrival he turns to Brian. “We still on for a day in town before we head out?”

“Absolutely! Well... if we’re not too hung over after tonight that is.”
David snorts contemptuously. “You can spend the day in bed if you wish, not me.”
Just then a new model four door taxi pulls up. The driver hops out and hurries to the back of the car.
“Evening gents. How was your flight?” he asks as he pops the trunk.
David was about to complain about the length of the flight when Brian blurts out, “Wonderful, the flights seem to be getting shorter each time we come here.”
David shakes his head in disbelief at Brian’s comment. “It wasn’t any shorter than the last time we came. It’s just that you slept through the whole flight!”
“I didn’t sleep through all of it.”
“Ninety percent of it!”
The cabby chuckles at their raillery and takes David’s backpack from him as Brain dumps his deep into the trunk. David’s pack is inserted and the two packs shifted flat to allow closure of the trunks lid.
The cabby sees that Brian has already opened the back door so he hustles to his place behind the wheel. With a quick, effortless and precise movement the cabby is in his seat, belt buckled, door shut, engine started and is staring back over his shoulder with a wide grin on his face as Brian and David are still entering the back seat.
“Where to gentlemen,” he asks as David pulls the door shut.
“You know of any hotels with vacancies?” David inquires.
“I know of a few. Would you prefer near the water or inland?”
“The water’s fine.”
“Yes sir,” he chirps. Facing forward he drops the gearshift in drive and darts off away from the airport.
“Did you spot those female backpackers?” Brian asks David.
“No... Why?”
“They were pretty cute, that’s why! I tried to get your attention to see if you wanted to talk to them, but when I looked back you were already out the door.”
“Why did you want to talk to them? We’re not here to pick up chicks. This is supposed to be our farewell vacation. This’ll be the last time we see each other for awhile. We were going to spend it alone.”
Brian raises an eyebrow and stares at David for a minute.
David realizes how that last comment sounded and just shakes his head. “You know what I mean.”
Brian grins, “I know and I was only suggesting possibly some female companionship this evening. Besides, they’re backpackers also. We could find out where they hike around here and compare notes.”

The taxi pulls up to a hotel near the beach. The digital sign blinks ‘Vacancies’. Moving quickly the cabby exits the vehicle, opens the back door on his side of the car and raises the trunk almost before his passengers know they’ve stopped. Brian slides out through the opened door as David reaches for the door handle on his side of the car. At that very moment his door flies open. The cabby stands smartly holding the door grinning. David steps out and pays him. Brian removes the luggage and is just closing the trunk as the driver returns to the back of the vehicle.

“You sirs have a good stay in Alaska. And good hiking!” he calls as he re-enters the car. A moment later he’s off.
David and Brian hoist their packs over their shoulders and head inside.

Inside the room the two drop their packs against a wall. They don’t unpack anything since they will only be in town one day before heading out on their excursion.

Brain takes a few steps towards one of the double beds and then dives and spins in the air landing with his hands behind his head. A soft thud is heard without any squeaking or bouncing.Ah, nice and firm just the way I like it! He thinks. “Tomorrow morning we should stock up on supplies and check on the hop to the lake.” Brian remarks.

“Ok. But why don’t we verify availability first? Then pick up the supplies and bring them back here. After that we can spend the rest of the day around town.”

Brian nods, “Sounds good.”
David heads to the bathroom and turns on the water in the sink. He splashes his face a few times and utilizes the complimentary aftershave lotion to freshen up before going out to dinner.
“Davy, where do you want to eat?” Brian calls from the room.
“I don’t really care.”
“How bout Chinese?”
He ponders this momentarily as he dries his face. “Nah, not Chinese.”
“Thought you didn’t care?”
He steps out of the bathroom, looks at Brian and shrugs. “Didn’t think I did, Chinese just doesn’t seem that appealing at the moment. How about Italian?”
Brian perks up, “pizza?”
“Noooo not pizza! Real Italian.”

After freshening up, but remaining in the clothes they arrived in, they leave the hotel and walk around the city in search of a nice Italian restaurant. A few blocks down they find one and spend an hour eating and discussing their future plans and career goals.

Supper finished they step out of the restaurant onto the sidewalk full and satisfied. It’s still fairly light out. David un-wraps an after-dinner mint and pops it in his mouth. He stands near the curb looking for the nearest cab as Brian walks up. Silently they stand for a minute; David waiting to finish his mint before speaking and Brian surveying the area before offering any suggestions for the rest of the evening.

“Concierge mentioned a club across town. What do you think?” David asks.
Brian is staring at something down the block. “Looks like some action down there... Let’s check that out first, yeah?
David turns to see what Brian’s looking at. He sees a group of people trickling into some establishment. “After you,” he says, gesturing nonchalantly.
Together the two of them walk down the street until they reach a small gathering of people waiting to enter an attractive and friendly looking club. Joyous banter and lively music are heard coming from inside. They fall into the rear of the line and enter a few minutes later.

Inside the club they scan the scene. The dance floor is crowded and most of the tables appear occupied.
“Wanna just sit at the bar?” Brian shouts over the music.
“Sure,” David calls back.
They proceed to mosey toward two empty stools near the end of the bar. The bar tender appears to be doing a million things at once, yet is still aware of everything around him.
“What’ll it be?” he shouts.
“Draft light,” David orders.
“Same for me,” Brian says.
Brian turns to take in the action. Half sitting on the stool and half leaning against the bar he proceeds to glance around the dimly lit room observing the crowd when he sees the same three women he’d seen at the airport earlier. He watches them for a minute and notices that they are unaccompanied. Nudging David he gives a nod towards them smiling. “Those are the three I saw earlier... What do you think?” he says with a look suggesting they approach and introduce themselves.
David turns his head slightly and peers over his shoulder in an attempt to see who Brian is indicating. He chortles. “What do you got some kind of built in radar?”
The bar tender delivers their drinks. David pays.
Brian grins and shrugs. “Just lucky I guess.”
David smirks, and knowing Brian won’t let this go, picks up his drink and waves a hand gesturing for Brian to lead the way.
Brian already holding his drink begins moving in their direction. He surreptitiously scans the group looking for the beautiful brunette he saw earlier. He spies her sitting at the left side of the table sporting the same outfit she wore at the airport. He suavely maneuvers around an obtrusive table as he nears in order to arrive beside her.
David follows about two steps behind as they approach the young women. Their table is circular with four chairs equally spaced around it. The chair closest to David as he advances is empty. Across the table he glimpses the faces of all three gals as he draws closer.
He observes that Brian is already heading towards the brunette. That leaves the shorter oriental gal and the taller blonde bombshell for him. Being six foot tall himself and prone to blondes, he begins making mental observations about this one. He can see that she is very attractive and large busted, and that she is of medium athletic build. She has long hair that is tied into a pony tail. As he briefly studies her face he senses a look of innocence about her. She is wearing black slacks and a thin white lacey sweater.Very nice, he thinks to himself as he approaches.
The women watch and score the approach of these two handsomely rugged men while sipping their drinks. The Asian woman whispers something to blond, they giggle.
“Good evening ladies, I’m Brian Lipton and my friend here is David Finch,” he says with a hand on David’s shoulder. “I saw you at the airport today as we arrived. I noticed your gear. Are you backpacking around here?”
“We’re going to, yes. We also just arrived today. I’m Beth,” says the brunette. “And this is Susan and Kim,” she adds as she indicates and introduces each of her friends.
“Wonderful! We’re here for the same reason. We’re heading out day after tomorrow,” Brian comments.
“Really... what area are you going to hike?” Susan asks.
“The southwest side of Lake Clark,” David answers. “What about you ladies?”
Feeling abashed the gals glance quickly between each other. “We don’t actually know yet,” they giggle.
“Please excuse us,” Susan apologizes. “Would you like to sit down?” She gazes intently at David as she asks the question.
“Absolutely!” Brian accepts enthusiastically. He quickly snags an unoccupied chair from a nearby table, spins it effortlessly with one hand and slides it backwards next to Beth. Then as gentlemanly as possible he straddles the chair and leans in against its back. He begins fraternizing with the young ladies as if he’s known them his whole life.
“Yes, thank you.” David answers simply with a smile and then politely sits in the empty chair next to Susan.
“So, you gals aren’t sure exactly where you’re going yet?” Brian asks to the group in general, all the while staring deeply into Beth’s eyes.
Kim sits quietly with her arms folded and shifts her gaze between Susan and Beth carefully watching the behavior of her friends. Hearing Brian’s question she answers quickly and very matter of fact like, “As we said, not yet.”
Picking up on the hostility of Kim’s comment David cordially addresses her. “How is it that you all decided to come to Alaska?”
Kim stares at David momentarily and sees that he appears genuinely sincere and interested in more than just Susan. She softens her tone. “We were told that there’s a lot of good backpacking country out of Anchorage and decided to just come and see where we end up.”
Kim is the shortest of the three. She has shoulder length black hair and is sporting a multi colored beanie rolled up short on top of her head. She has a cute round face but with a look and demeanor that says “don’t mess with me”. She’s wearing tan colored hiking shorts, boots, long red and white stripped socks and a red short sleeved T-shirt. She is very solid looking with strong muscular legs. It seems apparent to David by her lack of any Asian accent that she was probably born and raised in the United States.
“We figured we would check with the parks department, visitor’s center, or possibly one of the local sporting goods stores for information and recommendations on potential destinations,” Beth adds.
“That’s good. You really don’t want to wander around in this country without a good solid plan. You’ll also want to make sure you let someone know of your intended route and timeline in case you are not back on schedule.” Brian advises.
“We’re aware of that,” Susan sneers jokingly. “We’re new to the area, not to backpacking.”
David notices that drinks are running dry. He swallows the last of his, stands and turns to Susan. “Can I get you another drink?”
“Yes please, margarita.”
He queries the rest of the group.
“Sure, I’ll have a rum and coke, thanks,” Kim answers flatly.
He turns to Beth whose glass is still half full. She puts a quick hand over her glass. “No, thank you I’m good,” she says.
Brian lifts his glass slightly indicating he could use another draft. David makes a mental note of the drink order and strolls to the bar dodging chairs and people who are getting up to dance.
At the bar squeezed between small groups of people, David hears the bartender call from the end of the bar. “What’ll you have?”
Realizing that the question is meant for him David meets his gaze. “One Margarita, a rum and coke, and two drafts. I’m at that table there.” He points to his group. The bartender glances to where he indicated and nods. With no other interaction the bartender returns to his duties and David to his table. He is just sitting down as Brian is saying...
“Well since this is your first time here and you’re all unfamiliar with the area, you could join up with us if you’d like. We can act as your tour guides.”
Stunned by Brian’s offer David quickly glances at the women’s faces examining their expressions and then shoots a discreet questioning look to Brian.
Kim is about speak up when Brian understanding David’s look and wanting to prevent any rejection from Kim, fills him in on what has transpired while he was ordering drinks.
“Davy, Beth was just telling me that they’re from Colorado and that they’ve been backpacking for about seven years together. They have mountain and even cold weather experience, just not the familiarity of this area. So I thought they might like to accompany us on our trip. We could fill them in on the various areas that we have hiked in Alaska while providing a safe and guided tour for their first experience here.”
Unseen by the women, David grimaces briefly at Brian’s selfish offer and thinks,After our conversation earlier he still went ahead and asked them to join us, and without even checking with me first. He notices that they’re all looking at him and feeling the need to say something merely asks, “Where else have you all hiked?
“Mostly Colorado, but we have been to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah a few times,” Susan answers cheerfully and smiles at David.
“Well if you have experience with the Colorado wildlife then you shouldn’t have any problems here. The terrain and temperatures will be similar to what you’re used to. And the only potential animal threats are the bears, and you’re used to bears right?”
“We’ve seen a few sure,” Beth says.
“You’veseena few? Have you ever actually come across any?”
“Not real close. Most bears in Colorado come out at night and are fairly timid and shy around humans.”
“But you do know how to act around bears... yeah?”
“Sure, make a lot of noise and get away from them,” Beth replies. Susan nods in agreement.
David ponders this for a moment. “Colorado has black bears, correct?”
“Yup!” Kim states plainly. She’s beginning to get a little perturbed at this obvious grilling of their experience.
“Then you might want to get some information on the bearsherebefore you head out. Alaska has a lot of black and brown bears. The brown bears are very big. This time of year they’ll be found in large numbers around the rivers and lakes catching salmon. You won’t find them as shy as the bears back home.” David offers.
“Oh!” Beth answers simply, albeit a bit nervously while looking at Susan. Susan peers back with a wide-eyed concerned look on her face.
Kim just sits tight lipped looking skeptical. Studying the expressions of her friends she thinks that they seem to be questioning this trip. “Hey, they’re just bears! All we have to do is give them a wide birth. If need be we can find a tour guide and pick his brain about the wildlife here before we go out.”
“Exactly,” David agrees. “Other than that there’s not much to worry about. You gals have GPS cell phones?”
“Yeah we all do,” Susan answers.
“Then you’re good to go. You shouldn’t have any problems,” he suggests hoping to reestablish confidence in the girls and secretly hopes that they won’t consider joining him and Brian.
Kim nods indicating approval of his advice and encouragement. “See, no worries,” she offers, also secretly hoping that her friends won’t consider joining the guys. That’s all I need is for these two to fall for these guys and this trip to end up being some romantic excursion with me feeling like a fifth wheel.
David senses that Kim is on the same page he is regarding wanting to keep with the original program of traveling alone. He feels pretty confident that she willadvise the other women against joining him and Brian. He looks at Kim, their eyes meet momentarily and it appears that they both know what the other is thinking. David gives an unnoticed half smile and quick nod and is about to change the subject just as the waitress arrives with the drinks.
“Here we go gang... who has the margarita?”
“I do,” Susan replies.
“And the rum and coke?”
“Here.” Kim waves her hand half-heartedly.
“Then these must be for you gents,” she says as she hands the beers to the guys. Brian pays for this round and adds a tip.
“Thanks hon. you guys have a good evening,” she says and hurries off to attend other customers.
Brian is unsated with the apparent end to his
conversation and attempts to pick it back up. “Where were we? Oh yeah bears. Since therearea lot of brown bears out this time of year, it would be a good idea for you to join us. We have extensive experience here and know exactly how to deal with any aggression they may show.”
David rolls his eyes in disbelief that Brian won’t let it go; that he continues to proceed with this when nobody else is. Kim catches David’s look. Now she’s sure they both share the same thoughts.
“Well maybe...” Susan begins.
“Kim quickly interjects. “I don’t know... We don’t know you guys well enough to go traipsing around the wilderness alone with you.”
David grins.
“Well were harmless... and let me reiterate - we do know this area very well and could offer you a worry free trip,” Brian continues.
David can’t believe his ears. Brian just won’t give up. He snaps Brian a hard, stern and questioning look. He then turns to the women and is about to say something when Brian cuts him off...
“But you ladies take your time and think about it.” He slides his chair forward slightly and stands up. “In the meantime would you care to dance?” he asks Beth.
Beth delicately raises her hand, “why yes, thank you,” she says mocking sophistication. Together she and Brian gracefully enter the dance floor.
David relieved that the conversation has ended, at least for now, looks at the two remaining women. “Would either of you ladies...”
“Yes, I would!” Susan speaks up instantly.
David stands and helps Susan with her chair and then escorts her to the dance floor.
Kim sits nursing her rum and coke feeling rejected, but not all that miserable, while watching the various couples on the crowded dance floor.Susan’s the one I’m going to have to keep my eye on it looks like.
After a few songs David and Susan return to the table. After seating Susan, Kim is surprised as David turns to her. “How bout it Kim, can you cut a rug?”
Kim’s eyes widen. She listens for the type of music presently playing. It’s an upbeat tune. “Yeah, I’ve been known to boogie,” she replies. She gulps down the last of her drink and spins sideways in her seat and stands. David waits as she glides past him and leads the way to the dance floor.
They begin to dance. Moments later David raises his voice over the music, “I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed dead set against Brain’s offer to join us.”
A little surprised at the forthright statement, Kim speaks loud enough to be heard and retorts with, “It's like I said we don't know you guys, and traipsing around the wilderness alone with two strong men really isn't the smartest decision, you know? Besides, it looked to me like you weren't too happy about his offer either."
David smiles, “Yeah, I thought you picked up on that and I wanted to explain. At any other time I would have probably been the one to initiate the offer.”
“You don’t have to explain. Apparently we both have our own reasons for wanting to travel alone.”
“Well I’d like to explain anyway, if you’d let me...”
David proceeds to enlighten Kim onhis and Brian’s history and explains how they have just finished college and are both getting ready to go their own ways in search of separate careers. He goes on to inform her that he and Brian have been together since childhood and that this trip is a farewell trip; that he was hoping for an uninterrupted chance to say goodbye. Kim listens intently to his story and understands completely. She promises to explain this to her friends later and convince them to refrain from accepting Brian’s offer if it’s mentioned again. David is pleased and continues dancing with Kim.

The five of them spend the next two hours dancing, talking and getting to know one another. David and Brian learn that all three of the women are from Denver Colorado and that they grew up together in the same neighborhood. (Sounds a bit like David and Brian’s story.) Beth’s parents own a sporting goods store. As children the three of them spent a lot of time at the store playing with and learning about the various sporting supplies. Over the years the girls would sit in on many of the various in-house training classes that were offered to the customers. Some of these classes were put on by the store and some were sponsored by the store but taught by outside instructors in their area of expertise. This is how they got into backpacking as teenagers and have been doing it and loving it ever since.

They also learn that all three girls went to school together and also presently attend college together. (This really does sound like the guy’s story.) Beth is working on her Bachelors degree in Small Business Management in hopes of taking over her parents store someday. Susan is studying Computer Science and Kim is majoring in Journalism, with plans to specialize in Editorial News.

Brian continuing with his own agenda attempts to stay on topic and continually talks about their plans, the route they intend on taking through Lake Clark National Park and their varied and extensive past experiences in Alaska. This continues throughout the evening.

Later, as the music concludes the bar lights brighten. This signals to everyone that the club is closing. It also signalizes an end to the night for this group.

Moderately intoxicated Susan hangs on David’s arm as they file out of the establishment among about eighty other joyous, stumbling and stammering patrons. Gathered outside on the sidewalk near the curb they continue laughing and talking while getting ready to call it an evening.

Beth stands next to Brain with her arms folded against her body trying to stay warm.
Kim, hands shoved deep in her pockets and elbows tight against her ribs hustles to the curb and stares down the street in search of a taxi.
Brian notices that Beth is shivering and puts an arm around her in an attempt to keep her warm. He feels her lean into and against his body. Pleased with her reaction to his moves, he says, “You know girls, Davy and I are planning on site seeing tomorrow around town. How’d you like to accompany us? We can make a day of it.”
David hears this and just hangs his head and smiles. He is now actually becoming pretty fond of the women and really wouldn’t mind if they accompanied them around town tomorrow. He still has his reservations though about the women joining them on their trip across the wilderness, and plans on mentioning that point to Brian as soon as they get back to the hotel.
Upon hearing this invitation Beth straightens up and her face brightens. Susan slightly tipsy swings her head loosely in David’s direction grinning from ear to ear and says without hesitation, “yeah that’ll be fun!”
Kim also hears the invitation and spins around from the street in an attempt to prevent any replies from her group, but without success. She hasn’t yet had a chance to talk to her friends about the conversation she and David had earlier. She steps out of the street and nears the jubilant group. With an authoritative voice and demeanor says, “Look, we still don’t know if we can trust you guys or not. Tell you what; we’ll call you at your hotel in the morning if we decide to spend the day with you.”
David looks up at Kim and smiles, “Deal,” he replies politely. “Now, let’s get you ladies out of this cold.” Stepping off the curb with Susan still clutching his arm he spots a cab about a block down the street and whistles while waving his free arm above his head.
A moment later he hears commotion behind him. It sounds like begging. He turns and looks over his shoulder.
Brain stands before the women but mainly faces Kim. He has both hands clasped together like he’s praying and pleads with them. “Ah come on ladies, we won’t bite. Just spend tomorrow with us and I’ll promise not to bother you anymore.”
David just chortles and shakes his head. He looks at Kim who is looking back at him with a questioning look. He just smiles and gestureswhy notwith a look that infers that he’s giving up; that he no longer wishes to challenge Brian, but that it’s now ok with him.
Kim stares now at Brian trying to decide what to say.
“Come on Kim... they won’t biiiite,” Susan says slurring her speech and then giggles.
Beth just remains snuggled next to Brain smiling her approval to Kim.
Kim looks at Susan and then to Beth. She throws her hands up surrendering. “Ok, fine... but we’re only agreeing to one day... tomorrow only!”
Brain wraps one arm back around Beth and feeling victorious forms a fist with his other hand and makes a single quick triumphant gesture. “We’ll have a good time you’ll see.” Beth smiles and hugs him tighter.
Susan squeaks, “Yea,” and claps.
The cab pulls up and David opens the door. Susan gives him a kiss on the cheek and then enters the back of the taxi, half falling onto the seat. Kim hurries in next to Susan.
Beth stands facing Brian and holds his hands daintily for a minute, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she says romantically. Brian smiles warmly and then releases her hands gently. She lets them float slowly away from his and gracefully slides into the taxi beside Kim. The cab drives away.
“What was with you this evening?” David asks as he and Brian stroll back towards their hotel.
Chapter Two

The next morning Brian lies in one of the double beds with the sheet folded half way down his torso and his arms behind his head staring at the ceiling.

David stands in the bathroom doorway partially dressed and brushing his teeth. He steps up to the sink and spits and returns to the room. “I don’t really care if they join us or not. In fact I’d really rather they didn’t.”

“Ah come on Davy. Since when don’t you like female companionship?” Brian jests.
David frowns and continues seriously, “This was supposed to be a private outing and I’m still looking forward to that. I certainly don’t want to baby sit a bunch of novices, nor do I want to feel like a tour guide.”
“They already told you that they have seven years experience. They can take care of themselves.”
David gives Brian a long look. “Seven years hiking foothills as far as we know. For that matter they might not even have seven years hiking experience at all. Look, they came here without any kind of plan.”
“Ah, that’s not fair. We’ve done that a number of times ourselves,” Brian reminds. “Tell ya what, if the girls decide to go we’ll tell them that they’re welcomed to come along all the way including side excursions, or they can cut out on their own at anytime. We’ll just be theirescortsto Nondalton.”
David realizes he doesn’t have much choice anyway since the offer was already extended last night. He knows that if the girls did agree to come along, and if they were inexperienced, that he and Brian would be stuck being responsible for them. “I’m still planning on the rappelling excursions,” he adamantly reminds Brian.
“Absolutely, of course, no problem! If the girls aren’t willing to do the same then they can stay at camp or go off on their own day trips and meet up with us in the evening.”
David decides that since it’s already after 7:00 AM and they still haven’t received a phone call from the girls, that their discussion was probably pointless anyway. He grabs a pillow from his bed and chucks it at Brian. “Come on get up. I’m hungry and I’m not waiting for you.”
Brian stretches and rolls out of bed. He staggers to the bathroom to shower and dress.

A half hour later, David and Brian saunter into the Hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. As no one is waiting the hostess seats them immediately. They slide into a booth near a window looking out at Cook Inlet. Menus and coffee are offered and accepted. The hostess moves to the customers at the next table to refresh their coffee.

The guys begin scanning the short list of breakfast items on the menu. Brian decides quickly on his preference and drops the menu at the end of the table within easy reach of a waitress. A minute later David places his menu on top of Brian’s.

A red headed middle aged waitress brings glasses of water to the table and flips through her order book looking for a clean page to write on.

“Morning boys, what can I get you?”

“I’ll have eggs over medium, pancakes, toast and orange juice,” David orders.
“I’ll have the Alaskan omelet. I’ll also have a large OJ” Brian says gleefully.
“Alrighty then!” She scribbles the order down. “I’ll be right back with your drinks.” She hurries off.
Brain stares out the window for a moment and then turns to David. “You want to head over to the airport after we finish here to verify our flight or just call?”
“I’ll just call. After that we can run out and grab some supplies, dump them in the room, and enjoy the rest of the day.”
Brain nods, “Sounds like a plan.”
Awaiting their meal both men peer out the window and enjoy the view while they discuss and contemplate the day’s activities. Outside they can see the beautifully jagged and majestic Aleutian Range as well as many fishing and personal boats of various sizes and types gliding and speeding along the calm waters of the Kink arm of Cook Inlet.

Forty minutes later satisfied and content after a nice breakfast, they return to their room to change clothes. A light flashes on the phone as they enter their room indicating a recorded message on the Hotels answering system. Brian checks it...

“HI guys this is Susan... uh, from last night. We’ve decided to hang out with you today if the offer still stands, uh, and if it is not too late. Well it doesn’t look like you guys are there, so... I guess we’ll talk to you later, uh.... maybe. We’ll be here in the room for about 20 more minutes. If you get this message before then gives us a call. If not, maybe we will see you around town, bye.”

Brian listens to the time stamp on the message, checks his watch and decides that the women should still be in their room. He returns the call. “Hi, your still there, good. Did you want to....? Yeah sure. How about the Downtown Visitor Information Center on 4thAve. and F Street? Great! Can we make it about an hour and a half? Ok, see you then.”

David hears Brian’s end of the conversation and deduces that the girlsareinterested in spending the day together. Well that’s not a good sign, he thinks. He stands deep in thought for a moment, and then with a resigned sigh grabs the phone, plops on the bed and leans against the wall. Punching numbers for the small water port that he had looked up previously, he calls to verify availability for the hop to Lake Clark.

Reservations confirmed he additionally ascertains that there is presently still enough room for four more passengers on this flight.

“I will only potentiallyneed three of those slots,” David says to the man on the other end of the phone.
“Yes sir but without actually reserving them I can’t hold them. Would you like me to reserve them for you now?”
David considers this briefly. “No, let me get a commitment from the others first. I’ll call you back.”
“Ok but listen. It really shouldn’t be a problem. We have shuttles running all day long every hour. If your friends don’t make it over with you, they can come a little later.”
Or I can release our spots and go with them on a later flight, he thinks. “Ok good. I’ll get back to you yet today.”
The conversation ends and David hangs up.
Brain has been listening to David’s conversation. He looks at David interrogatively.
“What?” David asks.
Brian shrugs with a sheepish grin on his face. “I didn’t say anything! It’s just that for someone who didn’t want them to come along...”
“Right, like I’m stupid enough to believe that that’s not going to happen now.”
“We haven’t even spent the day with them yet and you’re already making reservations for their flight,” Brian teases.
“First of all I didn’t make any reservations. I was just checking availability... in hopes that they were booked up so I could tell the girls that they are out of luck.”
Brian laughs. “Yea right! You and I both know that they have hops running all day long. And they’re never that booked up.”
“What I know is that the girls are going to accompany us around town today, which is already a bad sign, and, I know you! You will continue to pressure them today until they agree to join us.”
“Me? I can’t do that I made a promise last night,” Brain replies, feigning innocence.
David snorts, “Hah, like I’m going to believe that promise!”
Brian just grins while he changes his shirt. He takes money from a pocket on his pack and stuffs it in his front pants pocket. Pouring a glass of water he downs it in one long swallow.
Turning to David and in a supercilious tone he says, “I know your secret Davy. You like Susan and you’ve been planning since you met her to bring her with us. All I can say is - you must have put on some mad moves to have her hanging on you the way she did last night - shame on you.”
David is kneeling on the floor with his back to Brain and ruffling through his pack when he hears Brian’s comment. He stops and looks over his shoulder with a surprised look on his face. “What...?” he starts to say but Brain is already out the door and down the hallway laughing to himself.
David pulls out the list of supplies he needs from a pocket on the side of his backpack. He snags a handful of nuts from the bowl next to the water pitcher and moseys out the door. The elevator is just closing as he reaches it. Without hesitation he nonchalantly pushes the door open to the left of the elevator and tosses a few nuts in his mouth as he strolls down the stairway.
Brian has already hailed a cab and is standing next to it with the back door opened as David emerges from the building. He watches David approach. He smirks and shakes his head continuing the teasing he started moments earlier.
David glances both ways to make sure the coast is clear and launches a nut at Brian just as he is getting in the car. It bounces off the back of his head.
“Ouch! Brian blurts out as he reaches back and rubs his head. Glancing over his shoulder he starts laughing as David enters the cab.
David grins with satisfaction.
The cabby just sits looking over his shoulder watching the shenanigans.
“Take us to the nearest grocery store will ya?” David directs still grinning.
The cabby faces front without saying a word, hits the meter, checks traffic and pulls out onto the road. A few minutes later he drops them in front of a large super market.
After stocking up on bags of dried fruit and trail mix along with a few other snacks they proceed to a sporting goods store to top off the supplies they couldn’t get at the grocery store. David picks up a spare rappelling harness and extra carabiners while he’s here just in case the women decide to come with them on their trip.
Brian notices the single harness and asks, “What if they all want to go rappelling?”
“Then we’ll lower them one at a time and pull the harness back up for the next one.”
Errands finished they return to the hotel and drop off the supplies. Then it’s back out to the city for a leisurely stroll in search of the lovely ladies.

The five of them meet up at the Information Center and begin talking and carrying on like they’ve known each other for years.

“What do you want to do first?” Beth asks.
“Let’s get one of those walking maps there,” Susan directs as she points to the ‘Anchorage Walking Tour Map’ on display at the information center.
“Tour map please,” David says as he steps up to the stand and addresses the man behind the counter.
The vendor selects one from the rack and hands it to David. “Here ya go.”
David pays him and hands the map to Susan who quickly unfolds it. The gang gathers tightly around her as they start off down the street, each attempting to read the map as they walk.
“This isn’t working too well,” David laughs. So they find a bench along a path near a park and sit down to review the map. After studying it for a few minutes they decide to head west down 4thstreet toward the beach.
Susan skips up to David smiling and grabs hold of his arm. The two of them walk this way together throughout the city.
Briandoesn’t mind since the other two girls have each taken a position on either side of him. To anyone watching it looks as though he has two girlfriends, he can handle this image.
Just before they reach the beach they turn south on “L” Street go down one block and head east on 5thStreet.
“Anyone want to check out some science exhibits?” David asks.
“I do,” Susan replies.
“That sounds fun,” Beth remarks.
The Alaska Discovery Center is a hands-on Science Exhibit hall and museum. They pay the required entrance fee and enter the center. An hour or so is spent visiting the reptiles, interacting with the marine life in the “touch tank”, and observing the principles of physics while playing with the specialized toys. David pauses a few times to investigate the Galaxy room and the Physics & Flight exhibits. Even though they partake in the activities of the center they seem to be more focused on each other, and expend most of their energy babbling like school kids.
After leaving the exhibit Brian looks at his watch and sees that it is still early. “What do we want to do now?” he asks.
They gather around the map once again. This time Beth is the one in charge of the precious commodity. Each of onlookers attempt to peek over or around her arms and shoulders in order to study it.
A finger pokes roughly at some point of interest on the paper map making a popping and crackling sound as it snaps from Beth’s fingers and floats to the ground. “Let’s go kayaking!” Kim blurts.
“Hey!” Beth squeaks at loosing grip of the map.
Her comment is ignored while they all look at one another contemplating the idea. As it appears no one has any objection it’s decided to take the ‘Pedal and Paddle’ trip at Eklutna Lake. This is a Kayaking trip along the lake and an eight mile bike ride back to the starting point. They hire a taxi for the forty minute ride to the lake.
After some instruction the group settles into their small water crafts and push off onto the sparkling lake. They spend the next five to six hours enjoying the sights and sounds around the lake. Lazily they paddle down the calm seven mile long but narrow lake. At several points along the lakeshore they witness and photograph moose, muskrats and various other waterfowl and wildlife. Higher up on the tall mountain peeks Kim is able to get a few good telephoto shots of Dall sheep. Overhead they spot many Golden eagles and hawks.
During the bike portion of the trip they see many small mammals including fox, lynx, porcupine, hare, and ground squirrels. The bike path they follow cuts through a dense forest of spruce and birch trees. Covering the forest floor are ferns, mushrooms, and wildflowers such as dwarf dogwood, fireweed and the parasitic broomrape. The view is spectacular and vibrant with color. Kim also gets a wonderful close-up photo of a bright yellow and orange mushroom with raised white spots. Also seen along the lowlands are cranberries, currants, raspberries, and watermelon berries.
The five of them spend the afternoon enjoying each others company. They take their time and don’t rush the trip. Many stops are made along the lakeshore and bike path for pictures and rest. Susan is becoming very interested in David. Brian and Beth are truly enjoying each others company and Kim continues to keep an eye on all of them.
After their trip around the lake and upon returning their bikes to the rental shop they grab a cab and return to their respective hotel rooms to change before meeting up once again for dinner.

The women stay at a nice upscale hotel in the midst of the city. Their room is a suite with double beds in the only bedroom and a pull out sofa bed in the living area. Kim uses the sofa bed since she is more the independent and solitary type. After returning to their room the three of them discuss the day and the guys. Susan and Beth continue to try and persuade Kim to accept the offer to join the guys on their backpacking trip.

“These guys are sweet and definitely not a threat,” Susan remarks.
“Yeah and they do know the area. The routes they choose are based on experience and probably offer the best in terrain and scenery. If we attempt to go off on our own we may not end up on the most ideal route,” Beth adds.
Susan continues, “Besides they are familiar with the wildlife here and David seems to be into photography as much as you are Kim. He can probably point you to some excellent photo opportunities.”
“That’s true,” Beth agrees.
Susan giggles and adds, “And David is pretty cute. I wouldn’t mind getting to know him better.”
Kim listens to the arguments on behalf of the guys by her friends and upon hearing the last statement blurts out, “And thatis what concerns me!”
Susan and Beth stop in their tracks and look at Kim surprised.
“I’ve been watching you two and you are both falling for those guys...” Kim is saying as Beth cuts in.
“I wouldn’t say I wasfallingfor Brian, just enjoying his company.”
“Fine, whatever, but he is definitely into you. And I know as long as you’re around him he is going to pursue you. And by your own admission Susan you are into David and Iknowyou will pursue him.”
Susan and Beth look at each other a bit confused at Kim’s objection since she has never been against dating and hiking in the past. They glance back at Kim. She looks between the two and can tell that they don’t have a clue.
“You don’t get it, do you?”
Susan looks at Kim curiously. “Are you interested in one of the guys too? Is that what this is about?”
Exasperated, Kim huffs, “No I’m not interested in one of those guys! Do the math! I would be a fifth wheel. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to follow you love birds around talking to myself and kicking at the dirt.”
Beth gets it now, “You think you’d be left out,” she reacts.
“Duh!” Kim again huffs.
“Ahhh, we wouldn’t leave you out Kim,” both Susan and Beth exclaim feeling sorry for her now. Together they gather around Kim and hug her.
“Alright, get off me you saps,” she spouts. “I’ll tell you this – if we decide to go with them and I feel left out, I’m leaving. I’ll take off on my own,” she states meaningfully.
“Deal” and “you got it” are the replies.
“I mean it! I’ll take off on my own,” she reiterates.
“Ok, ok, we understand.” Beth laughs.
“We’ll all get to know each other together. After that if you want to pursue these guys you do it on your own time after the trip. Ok?” Kim asks.
“Ok,” Beth chuckles.
Kim looks at Susan, “Ok Susan?”
“Ok!” she resigns.
“Ok!” Kim finishes.

At the restaurant the women mention to the guys that if the offer still stands they would be delighted to accompany them on their backpacking trip.

“... I think we can trust you now,” Susan says. David raises an eyebrow in an attempt to look sinister. “How can you be sure? Maybe our attitude and good charm

today is just a ploy to deceive,” he jokes.
They all laugh.
Brian adds, “Sure the offer still stands. In fact we’ve

already tentatively arranged for your passage on the hop to the lake with us.” He looks at David, face beaming and forces a tight lipped smile.

David merely stares back at him unsurprised and unmoved by anything he does at this point.
Kim chimes in. “That was a little presumptuous of you wasn’t it?”
“I said tentatively,” Brian replies. “We wanted to at least ensure seats for you in case youdiddecide to go.” He then adds enthusiastically, “We’re going to have a great time together!”
Wanting to be up front about his plans David speaks up. “Just to let you know we are planning on making some detours off of the main path to do some rappelling along the way. You ladies are welcome to come along or you can venture off on your own during these trips if you wish.”
He finds that Susan is interested in learning how to do this, but that Beth and Kim will go off on their own to explore and look for good photo opportunities.Good, I’m glad I only picked up enough extra equipment for one then,David thinks.
They spend the rest of evening strolling around the city and talking about the upcoming excursion. They retire early in order to rest up for tomorrow.
Chapter Three

Morning arrives and David checks the weather forecast. The report for the week is good, with the following week looking equally mild, from what can be predicted now. The average ‘high’s’ will be in the mid 60’s, which is great backpacking weather. He also reviews the GPS coordinate data for their planned destinations and checks to make sure his GPS is working properly. Cell phones charged he packs his deep within his backpack for protection from jostling. He hands Brian’s phone to him along with the sole charger they carry.

They both rearrange their packs and place their coldest weather gear on the bottom. David closes and fastens his pack and puts it near the door. A quick look around the room reveals they haven’t missed anything.

“Ready?” Brian asks standing outside the opened door backpack in place on his back.
David takes one last quick peek in the bathroom. “Yup, let’s go.”
They head downstairs, check out of the hotel and catch a cab to the small water port.

“Good morning!” Brian calls to the three women as they exit their cab. He approaches the back of the taxi and waits for the driver to open the trunk.

“Morning Brian,” Beth chirps exuberantly as she strolls up next to him rubbing her hands in the cold morning air.
“Hi Beth, how are you this fine morning? Did you all get enough sleep?”
“I don’t know about the other two but I did. I was out as soon as I hit the pillow.”
“That’s good because we have a long day ahead of us.”
The driver arrives and unlocks the trunk. Brian helps him remove the three packs and place them on the ground.
Susan pays the cabby. A moment later he darts off leaving them in the dusty parking lot near the dock that leads to the small aircraft that sits tied at the end of it.
“Hey Bri,” Kim greets nonchalantly as she snags her pack and heads for the float plane.
“Hi Kim. Are you ready for...?” he is asking as she continues walking away. He turns to Beth. “Is she ok?” he asks pointing a thumb over his shoulder at Kim.
“Yeah, she’ll be fine. She’s not a morning person,” Beth lies, not wanting to reveal the truth about Kim’s concerns over feeling left out and lonely on this trip with the four of them.
“Hi ya Brian!” Susan greets ebulliently as she springs up to him and Beth. “Where’s David?”
“Loading the plane,” he answers simply as he grabs Beth’s pack and hoists it over his shoulder. Together he and Beth follow Susan as she totes her pack and rushes toward the plane eager to see David.
“Hi David!” Susan calls seductively as she pokes her head in the narrow doorway of the aircraft.
David knowing the importance of proper weight distribution kneels inside the plane and positions the packs across the back of the small area behind the seats.
“Hi Susan. Go ahead and drop your pack inside the door and I’ll get it from there, thanks.”
She glares at him momentarily and thinks,huh; he could have at least acted like he was interested in seeing me.
Just then Brian and Beth walk up behind her.
“Here let me help you with that,” Brain offers and reaches to support Susan’s pack as she slides it off her back. Brian takes it and tosses it gently toward David who is now ready for it. He then slides Beth’s pack off his shoulder and shoves it along the floor close enough for David to reach.
The three outside the plane stand talking and watching the pilot as he walks along the pontoons of the plane and pre-flights the aircraft.
David exits the plane just as the pilot is finishing his checks. The pilot looks around and sees that there is no luggage awaiting him and peers inside to find the backpacks neatly arranged across the back of the plane. He hops aboard and inspects the positioning of the packs.
He sticks his head back out the door and thumbs a gesture back inside the plane, “Nice job,” he says to the group in general not knowing exactly who it was that arranged the packs. “Alright, all aboard,” he calls as he heads to his seat and dons his headphones.
The gang files on board talking excitedly.
“Buckle up!” the pilot calls back over his shoulder. He waves a hand out his window to a boy who just seemed to appear as if from nowhere. Quickly two ropes are unhooked from a post on the pier and pulled from around the struts of the plane freeing the aircraft from the dock. A moment later the pilot starts the engine and taxis out to deeper water. He lines the plane up along the watery runway of Hood Lake and radio’s something to the control tower, if you can call the small building along side the waterway a tower. A moment later he pulls back hard on the throttle and they’re off.
The plane jerks and begins bouncing against the waves of the lake. Faster and faster they head toward the oncoming Talkeetna Mountains. As they pick up speed along the waters surface the bouncing becomes smoother. They’re now gliding across the top of the water. Seconds later they are just skimming the tops of the small and gentle waves that flow across the short lake. With the high pitched whining of the engine ringing in their ears the plane finally breaks from the surface of the water altogether and gracefully moves higher into the bright blue sky toward the jagged peaks of the mountains ahead.
The view is breathtaking. They peer out the few small windows of the aircraft and can see the sparkling deep blue of the small water port below. Off to their left is Cook Inlet. Many fishing boats are seen traveling along this mammoth waterway. At some points this inlet is eighteen miles across. Its length from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska is approximately one hundred and eighty miles.
As they near the mountain peaks the pilot pulls back on his yoke and simultaneously turns left causing the plane to gain altitude quicker and change course at the same time. The passengers are pinned against their seats as the plane climbs steeply into the sky above. As they come back around they now see the expansive waterway running far out of sight.
They follow this for some time and finally see the entrance to the inlet from the Gulf of Alaska up ahead. Dotting the gulf a few ships follow the designated marine highways to various ports around Alaska.
The pilot follows the inlet for a few minutes more and then turns slightly right and heads higher up and over the Aleutian mountain range. In the distance they can see the highest peaks of many mountains. Some of these are still covered in snow. Kim snatches her camera and starts snapping pictures.
“This is spectacular!” she says as she turns and looks out a different window. Leaning across the other passengers she continues shooting. “Some of these shots are going to be very powerful. I bet I could get some good money for these.”
David who is sitting in the front seat looks back, “You can!” he shouts over the sound of the engine. “I have a few times.”
Kim briefly gives David a questioning look and then remembers,oh yeah that’s right he’s been here before. She nods and says, “Good, maybe I can recoup some of the costs for this trip.
“That’s what I do,” he replies once again this time however without looking back.
The plane continues over the mountains and Kim continues taking pictures. However, the frequency of her shots has slowed in order to save film for the rest of the trip.
The gang spends the next thirty minutes or so talking about and commenting on the scenery. Occasionally they solicit information from the pilot about the landscape and geography below.
Finally the plane dips as it comes over one last peak. There in front of them is the long and narrow Lake Clark. As the pilot pushes forward on the throttle the plane slows. At the same instant he pushes forward on the yoke and the small craft starts a slow and smooth descent toward the center of the shimmering lake. As they are mere feet off the surface of the water and approaching Port Alsworth up ahead on the left, Susan enjoys the glistening of light off the small breaking waves along the shoreline.
Less than an hour after take-off they coast up to the shore and arrive at Port Alsworth. The passengers clumsily debark as the small breaking waves continue to nudge at the pontoons causing the plane to rock unsteadily. The pilot unloads the gear to David and Brian who transfer it away from the waters edge. He waves to a local man who is just approaching and then wishes the group well and is off, back to Lake Hood.

Standing in the crisp cold air on the southeast shore of Lake Clark gazing over the expansive wilderness the small group of backpackers attempt to rub warmth back into their hands.

“Wow, there sure isn’t much here,” Beth exclaims as she surveys the area, her misting breath carried away in the brisk morning breeze.

Brian walks past toting the last backpack and hears her comment. “What’d you expect?” he asks.
“Well this is calledPortAlsworth. I did expect... a port. Or at least something similar to what we just left.”
Brian just shakes his head and grins and proceeds up the bank.
Port Alsworth is a small bush community on the east coast of the lake. There are a few metal buildings that look like old hangers. The doors to one of these buildings are open and David’s group can see inside that there are a few all terrain vehicles and two quads. On the back of one quad is a makeshift trailer. They also notice that along the side of the building are about a half dozen kayaks and a couple of canoes. There is also an aluminum fishing boat with a small outboard motor moored to a small rickety dock.
David nudges Brian. “Looks like they’ve upgraded,” he says as he points to the fishing boat. “We can cross the lake in style,” he jokes.
There are a handful of people wondering about and attending to various chores.
The old man that waved to the pilot approaches smiling. “Hi folks my name’s Gil. You all need a ride somewheres?” he asks as he points to the quad with the trailer attached.
“Yes sir but not with that. We need to get across the lake. We’re going to do some backpacking over there,” David comments.
Gill stares out at them from behind his tanned weather beaten face and scratches his chin. “You know you coulda had the plane drop you thar.”
David points toward a small wood shack that doubles as a store and cafe, and says, “I know but we thought we’d have a bite to eat in your fine restaurant first.”
“Ah, ok then. You folks go have yourselves a nice warm meal and I’ll load yur gear fur ya. I can take ya in my new boat o’er yonder when you’re finished,” he says as he gestures to the same boat David was looking at earlier, which actually is not anewboat but apparently is new to this guy.
They all agree and proceed to amble into the weathered structure and enjoy a warm breakfast.

About an hour later the group exits the building carrying a few snacks and drinks that they picked up in the small market inside.

They arrive at the motor boat, already packed with their gear, and get in. The gals fumble with their packs attempting to add the recently bought items. David and Brian simply stuff their new purchases into various pockets of their jackets.

A moment later Gil unties the boat, pushes off and hops into the back. While the boat is gliding silently toward the center of the lake Gil gives a quick hard pull on the engines lanyard and the motor comes alive sputtering and emitting an oily smelling smoke.

“Alrighty, here we go,” Gil calls in a raspy voice. “Any p’ticular spot you wish to go?”
“Straight across is fine,” David replies.
The women try to get comfortable on the wooden planks that run across the small boat and act as seats.
Brian has taken up a position amongst the packs and is reclining with his feet up on the front bench and his arms behind his head enjoying the view of the mountains behind Port Alsworth.
David sits on the back bench next to Gil but appears comfortable and natural in this small cramped boat.
The gals continually shift around trying to get comfortable. Every time the boat rocks they grab for the sides to steady themselves.
Moments later they can see and hear a lot of splashing against the boat.
“Hey look at all the salmon!” Susan calls as she peers out over the side.
“Those are sockeye’s,” Gil informs the group. “This is the beginning of their run. They’ll start spawning next month. They provide food for the bears and lots of other animals too,” he grins.
Susan looks at Beth showing mild concern. Together they scan the upcoming shoreline. “Yeah but the bears really aren’t out quite this early in the season are they?” she asks hoping that her statement is true.
“Huh,” Gil just snorts as he thumbs a gesture farther up the coast.
Susan and Beth peer in the direction he indicates. Up the coast at the edge of a bend they see about eight or nine bears splashing in the water.
“We’re going that way, right?” Susan asks David as she points south. David just nods and smiles, deciding not to inform her of his knowledge of what will surely lie ahead.
Gil doesn’t hesitate he promptly blurts out, “You’ll find em down there too. In fact right now you’ll find them just about anywhere there’s water.”
Brain continues relaxing and enjoying the view. However, he now shakes his head at the conversation underway, but says nothing.
Kim gets exasperated at her friends. She rolls her eyes and says, “I told you they're just bears. All we have to do is stay clear of them. Besides, that’s the reason we tagged along with these guys, so relax.”
Just then the boat slides onto shore with a scraping sound. In a flash Brian jumps up, grabs the side of the boat with his left hand while snatching the coil of rope with his right, and jumps throwing both feet up and over the side of the boat and landing just beyond the water’s edge. He pulls the boat up farther onto the shore preventing it from floating away prematurely.
He then reaches in and starts pulling out the packs that he can reach immediately. He lays them on the ground a few feet further up the shore. He comes around the side of the boat near the front trying to keep his feet out of the water and helps the women off the boat.
“Toss me the rest of the packs will ya Davy?” Brian asks.
David walks quickly and expertly atop the wood benches staying along the centerline of the boat until he reaches the front. He unloads the remaining packs to Brian who hands them off to the gals. They take these packs and place them near the packs Brian unloaded previously.
Everything happens so fast that Gil doesn’t even have time to exit the boat. David hands him some money for the trip and hops off the front. Tossing the rope back inside, he shoves the small craft back out onto the lake.

The backpacking party now stands on the northwest shore, across the lake from and slightly south of Port Alsworth. The women take in the view from waters edge.

The shoreline here is a mixture of gravel and small rocks. The rocks and small boulders are various shapes and sizes but typically not larger than a football. They are rough shaped and jaggy. The edges of the rocks near the water’s edge are worn smooth by the oscillating motion of the incoming waves.

The lake is in a valley between two long mountain ranges, each of which displays hundreds of peaks of various shapes and sizes. The very tops of some of the tallest peaks are still covered in snow. The view is awe-inspiring.

The area between the lake and the base of the mountain on this coast, which is probably about a half mile away, is an open and rolling plain. As they look over the mossy and grass covered area they can see that there are dry and soggy areas.

According to their guide map they know that there are also many small rivers and streams that they will have to cross during their journey.

They look back at the lake. It’s a beautiful turquoise color and sparkles as the sun reflects off the small waves that the boat makes as it departs.

As they scan the area from the shoreline to the mountains they see that the terrain is dynamic. It’s not a continuous flat and monotonous wilderness, but transitions between flat grassy plateaus to rolling hillsides; from grasslands to forests and from meadows to tundra’s. There are even many places where the mountain side comes right down to the water.

David is strapping on a sheathed knife to his belt as the women approach from the shoreline. Brian has already fastened a SCUBA knife to his ankle.

As they draw nearer David mentions, “Further up ahead we’ll encounter thick brush and timber that we’ll have to go around. In some places we can just walk in the lake to get past, in others we’ll have to head inland quite a ways in order to get around.”

“You girls, excuse me ‘ladies’, did bring extra shoes for water travel, didn’t you?” Brian asks.
“Yes, we all have tennis shoes as backups,” Kim replies.
“That’ll work but you might want to consider SCUBA booties in the future.
“What are SCUBA booties?” Kim asks.
“They’re ankle high neoprene booties with rubber soles for walking on rocks and gravel. They provide protection for your feet as well as allowing a thin layer of water between your feet and the booties which warms up from your body heat and keeps your feet a comfortable temperature. They’re also nice because they can be folded, or rolled up, and take up little space in a backpack side pocket. Stick ‘em in a plastic bag before stuffing them in your pack and everything stays dry.”
Gaping at the long winded spiel, Beth snickers, “Wow, now that was a great commercial!”
“Yeah, put me down for a pair,” Kim jokes.
“Ha-ha, Very funny,” Brian retorts.

“Ok, listen up girls. Like we’ve said earlier there are many bears out here especially along bodies of running water,” David explains. “Be aware of this but don’t worry too much about it. We’ve seen many bears on our trips out here and have never had any problems with them. If you see any, just give them a wide birth and don’t disturb them. They’re only after the fish. Periodically you may run into a mother who is going to be very protective of any young that she may have. Don’t act aggressive, just stop and slowly walk backwards away from her until she settles down, then take a route away from and around them.”

Beth is shaking her head constantly during David’s speech. “No way, that ain’t gonna happen to us cause you guys are gonna be out in front the whole way.”

“There may be times when you gals are alone so pay attention...”
“Nope, no way, unh uh. You guys just make sure you’re always close by,” she continues.
David surreptitiously grimaces. “What I just told you was my short version. Now let’s go over some details...”
“The minimum safe distance for a bear is 50 yards and 100 yards if cubs are present. If a bear is standing on its hind legs it’s not necessarily being aggressive but usually just trying to sense you better. Even a charge is often a bluff, ending abruptly short of physical contact. Noise usually scares them away. If you see a bear at a distance turn around or make a wide detour.”
“Hah, if I see a bear standing on its hind legs I’m gonna be gone so fast you’ll think I disappeared,” Beth states very seriously.
Perturbed at Beth’s apparent lack of backbone David continues with his speech. “A bear may huff when it’s tense, which is forcibly exhaling a series of several sharp rasping breaths. A mother may also huff in order to gain the attention of her young. If a bear approaches aggressively or charges, take a calm assured posture. A firm voice and gradual departure are better than a retreat in panic.”
Brian chimes in, “As a last resort lie face down, protect your neck with your hands and arms and don't move. This requires considerable courage but resistance would be futile.”
“Exactly,” David remarks.
“I don’t think so! If a bear comes around, you guys better do something about itbeforeit gets near us, so we don’t have to worry about protecting our necks!” Beth demands.
Brian speaks up, “We will don’t worry but just in case we aren’t around at the time...”
“One of you better be around at all times,” Susan insists.
“What about when you have to... you know, use the bushes?” Brian asks.
“You can still be fairly close by, at least within shouting distance; I’m not that bashful,” Susan states.
“Ok, ok you win, one of us will be close by always, but I still want you all to hear this information,” David insists.
“Ok,” and “yeah alright,” are responses from two of the girls. Kim just sits bored by the speech and rolls her eyes.
David continues to teach the group how to handle food and other scented items in order to prevent visiting bears. As he is finishing up his lecture, he ends with, “When fishing, always have someone "spot" bears for you. Often people become so involved in fishing they are surprised and sometimes injured when a bear tries to take the fish from them. Expect that you will have to give up your fishing hole to a bear at some time during our trip. Know how to break your line. The splashing of a fish will often catch the attention of a bear. Break your line quickly and move out of the water until the bear passes.” He pauses and looks at each of the women. “Any questions?”

Brian hears the silence and claps once, “Good, then let’s get this show on the road?”
They all don their gear and start out following the lake south.
It’s approaching noon when Brian walks up to David and asks, “What do you feel like getting accomplished today Davy?”
Not missing a step David looks far ahead and up towards the mountains, “I’m thinking we try to get as close to that small peak jutting out up there as possible.” He points toward a jagged out cropping about what appears to be five miles away. “What do you think?”
Brian looks to where David points. “Looks good to me. You’re not thinking of trying to climb that today though are you?”
“No, I think we’ll just get close, make camp near the base away from the water, and check out its potential tomorrow.”
“Right,” Brian answers.

The gals trail behind talking and laughing among themselves.
Kim has stopped a couple of times already to take pictures of some of the snow topped mountain peaks and various plant life along their path.
“Hold on a minute,” she says as she focuses her camera for a macro shot of a wild chive. This herb can grow up to 2 ½ feet tall. It has a purplish / pinkish prickly bulb on the end of a single green stem. The shape and configuration remind Kim of an artichoke, except for the coloring. “This’ll make a nice close-up,” she thinks. She takes the shot. The motor in the camera advances the film automatically as she regroups with the others.
They continue their trek through the wilderness traipsing along the shoreline admiring the scenery. Only a few hours have passed since they started this trip yet they’ve already had to stop and change shoes a few times in order to cross the shallow streams that cut across their path running down from the mountains to the lake. The girls are intrigued by the sight of so many salmon along the shallow waters of the lake and streams.
“Wow, look at all that protein,” Kim comments staring at the turbulent surface of the water. “I sure wish I’d brought some fishing gear.”
“You would actually eat those?” Susan asks.
“I’m Japanese, hellooo!”
“Yeah I know that,” she smirks. “But those?” she asks wrinkling up her nose and pointing to the stream.
“That’s fresh fish. You can’t get any better than that! And since when did you start turning your nose up at fish? I’ve seen you eat plenty of fish.”
“Yeah in a restaurant or at your house, but that was cleaned and cooked fish.”
“Well who do you think cleaned and cooked it at our house?”
“Oh... I just never thought about it.”
Kim stops and stares at Susan questionably for a moment. “How is it we never did any fishing on our backpacking trips?”
Susan shrugs, “We always took enough packaged food.”
Kim gazes at Beth for a second and ponders this some more.That’s strange because I love to fish with my dad. I can’t believe I never took a pole with us,she thinks. Suddenly the thought hits her,oh, maybe that’s the reason... She considers the equipment and tackle she would have had to take and the limited space they always had in their packs. “Well after this I’m taking some fishing gear. I can get one of those collapsible poles and a few lures, but I am going to teach you guys how to catch, clean and cook fish.
Beth and Susan both turn up their noses at this thought.

Davidand Brian are talking about the weaknesses of the U.S. government and about their wish and desire for world peace some day. This is not a new conversation for them. In fact they have been having this discussion, or variations of it, for many years, ever since they were in junior high school.

David, as far back as he can remember has always been saddened by world hunger and wars. As a child he had many conversations with his father about wars and continually asked why people couldn’t just stop. His father had tried to explain that life wasn’t that simple and that people’s reasons and beliefs were sometimes worth fighting for, in the opinions of those doing the fighting.

Of course David now an adult fully understands the workings of the world, but he has never stopped hoping for, believing in, and praying for peace and a unified world. He even spends a lot of time self educating in hopes of one day being able to contribute to, or find some solution to, some the worlds biggest problems.

“Hey guys”, Susan interrupts, “what-cha talking about?” she asks, as she childishly skips up to them.
“World peace,” Brian answers.
She wrinkles her nose. “Ooh, a serious topic. Why don’t we lighten the conversation a bit?”
David glances over his shoulder at the rest of the group. “Anyone ready for a break?”
“I could use a little snack and a drink,” Kim answers.
They find a couple of logs lying near the edge of the lake and drop their packs. Each person searches out his or her own suitable resting spot and proceeds to get as comfortable as possible.
They’re all gabbing about this and that when they hear a noise in the brush along the lake a few yards up ahead.
Beth jumps up next to Kim and holds onto her arm startled, “what’s that?” she cries.
Kim shakes her arm causing Beth’s hand to fall loose. “Let go of me you pansy.”
Beth slides along the log closer to Brian.
Susan has been sitting next to David and now stands tightly against his body eyes wide staring at the brush.
With a raised eyebrow Brian stares at the two wimpish women.
David nonchalantly looks towards the noise and then back to the group. He scans their faces. “Relax,” he says seeing concern on some of them. “It’s probably just a small animal.”
“That was a pretty large noise for a small animal,” exclaims Beth.
“I thought you all were experienced backpackers,” Brian ribs. “I figured you’d be used to wildlife by now.”
“Ok, ok,” Beth replies exasperated. “I just can’t shake the idea of so many huge bears out here. That’s been on my mind since David told us about them. I thought that was one of them.”
They all laugh except Kim. She’s still in disbelief at her friends’ act of innocence and fear.I think they’re just putting on a show so these guys will take notice and shower them with attention.
David strolls toward the brush picking up a thin medium length branch along the way. Using the branch to part the brush he attempts to peer inside. Suddenly, “Whoosh!” A small red fox comes charging out of the bushes near David. He stands calmly motionless watching as it runs off toward the hillside.
Brian observes Beth eyebrows raised as David says, “see, just a small animal.”
Beth hangs her head and throws her hands up in the air as if to surrender.
They all chuckle and proceed to finish their snack of dried fruit, and water.

Peering ahead at the jutting structure in the
mountainside David figures they should be able to reach it before needing another break. “Everybody good for a few more hours?” he asks.

“Yeah, sure, no prob.” are the responses.

They take their queue from David and don their packs. They’re off again, this time heading slightly west to move around the brush lining the shoreline here. Moving west causes them to traverse a rolling meadow. The going is a bit slower but not at all debilitating. The ground is covered in a low, almost moss like, sparse grass. Up toward the higher reaches of the hillside in front of them they can see a few eagles flying in circles probably looking for food. These birds have a white head and tail with a dark brown body.

“Did you know that some nests are big enough to hold two full grown adults?” David asks as he points to the eagles in the sky.

“No way!” exclaims Susan.
“Yup, in fact some of their nests get so big and heavy that the tree they are in can not support the weight, and the branches break causing the nests to fall and be destroyed.”
“How do you know this?” Kim asks with a questioning tone.
“I travel here a lot, and I like to research in depth the places I travel to. Most of what I have already told you is in your travel guides and maps anyway. You should take the time to read them and educate yourselves of your surroundings,” he advises as he pulls his sunglasses down on his nose and looks over the top feigning an air of superiority.
Kim sneers at him.

It’s early evening when they arrive below the jutting mountain overhang, the sun still fairly high in the sky. The lakes shoreline is about a quarter mile east from this section of the mountainside. The bottom of the overhang is about 30 feet up and juts out about 15 feet. The profile of the overhang is similar in appearance to the profile of a person’s nose. The front face of the mountainside (under the overhang) resembles a person’s upper lip, the overhang being the nose, above the overhang the forehead sloping gently back and out of site.

Brian walks under the overhang and surveys the area including the ceiling. “Looks safe,” he says to David.
“What do you think sleeping bags alone?” David asks fumbling around in his backpack looking for the water filter.
Brian taps a stick against the wall. “Yeah we don’t need tents, this’ll give us enough cover.”
David agrees and then says, “I’m gonna hike down to the lake for water.” He pulls a fresh empty folded plastic bag from one of the many pockets on his backpack. “Anybody need a refill?” he shouts holding an empty water bottle above his head.
“Yeah I do,” Kim says.
“I do too,” Beth replies.
“Oh wait a minute!” Susan calls. “Let me get mine and I’ll come with you.”
The empty water bottles as well as the water filter are deposited into the plastic bag and a knot is tied sealing the bag. David then pulls out a section of rope approximately 6 feet long and ties the two ends together making an endless loop. Elongating the loop into an ellipse he squeezes the two sections of the loop together at the center and ties it around the plastic bag below the knot making a butterfly configuration with the rope.
Puzzled, Susan asks, “What are you doing?”
He glances up briefly, smiles and continues working. “Watch and learn.”
Finished he stands and lifts the bag full of bottles by the rope and swings it across his back as he shoves one arm through one loop and then the other arm through the other loop.
“Ah, a homemade backpack,” she deduces.
“A makeshift backpack,” David corrects. “As we’re not at home it can’t be homemade.”
She smirks and slaps him on the back of the shoulder. “You know what I mean.”
David grins and starts off toward the lake. “We’re off,” he shouts with a quick wave.
“Hey, wait for me!” she hollers jogging to catch up.

Surveying their surroundings Brian makes a quick assessment of the area in order to layout the campsite. “You girls going to use a tent or not?” he hollers over to Kim and Beth.

The two of them are sitting on a log about 10 yards away talking when they hear him call. They both glance up, then at each other wide eyed as if to say, “That’s a stupid question, camping without a tent?” Seeing that he appeared serious they jump up simultaneously, as if on queue, and hustle over to him.

“Of course we’re going to use a tent, why wouldn’t we?”

Beth says.
“You can use a tent if you want but with this overhang
and wall, along with a fire out front there, we are adequately
protected from the elements and wildlife.”
“What about bugs?” Beth inquires.
“What about bugs? We’re far enough away from the lake
so we shouldn’t be bothered by mosquitoes, if that’s what
you are worried about? Or just use your repellent that’ll
keep away any strays.”
“What about crawly bugs?”
Brian chuckles. “You think a tent keeps out... Never mind
where do you want it?”
Expecting continued banter Beth just stares at Brian.
Suddenly it dawns on her that he’s waiting for an answer.
She thinks back on the question and then looks around
quickly and points. “There,” she says.
“Ok, then I’ll make a fire there.” He points just beyond
where she indicated she wants her tent, but outside the
“Where are you going to put your tent?” she asks. “We’re not using a tent! I thought that was obvious from
the conversation we just had.” Brian just shakes his head
Beth shoves him. “Don’t be mean.”
“Ok I’m sorry but you make it too easy.”
She folds her arms and glares at him feigning a pout. He grins and gestures surrender. “We’re going to put our
bagshere.” He points to a fairly flat area on this side of their
tent location, opposite the side where the fire will be. Kim finally speaks up, “Why put the fire way over there?
Don’t you want it closer to you?”
“With the fire on that side of you and Davy and I on this
side you girls won’t have anything to fear. The wildlife will stay away from the fire, and if anything tries to come in this way one of us should hear it, especially if it’s of any significant size. Do either of you have any smelly food or
other scented items that are not in sealed containers?” “No, we use portable bear containers. We at least know
that much”, Beth sneers while bobbing her head slightly
from side to side.
Brian chuckles, than his laugh turns louder and more
pronounced. “Ok ok, truce,” he says. They all smile. Kim returns to the log she sat on earlier.
Beth gives Brian a little shove, “What’s next?” she asks.

David and Susan continue making their way down the rolling hillside and through the light brush that obscures the lake’s shoreline.

“So, how many times have you guys been to Alaska backpacking?” Susan asks.
“About seven or eight, I think,” David replies. “You must really like it here.”
“We do. Besides the solitude, we love the vast

diverseness of landscapes and the variety of wildlife. Both make for fantastic photo ops.”
“So, you like to be alone?”
“I like limited companionship when I’m backpacking, yeah. I like the sound of nature and the absence of city noise. It gives me time to think and reflect on my life. Don’t you backpack for the same reasons?”
“I like nature and exercise but I wouldn’t want to go backpacking with less than three people, in fact the more the merrier.”
“So you’re more interested in an outdoor party then getting in touch with nature?”
Just then they emerge through the last of the brush and stand on the narrow but smooth shoreline. About a quarter mile south is a stream that runs down from the mountain to the lake. A few bears can be seen splashing in the stream as they pounce on their unsuspecting prey.
Noticing the commotion Susan nervously scans the rest of the area.
“Looks like dinner time,” David remarks thumbing towards the bears.
“As long as they stay down there they can have all the dinner they want,” she comments.
David takes off his makeshift pack and removes the empty bottles and water filter. Connecting a dual hose adapter to the filter he inserts the two output hoses into two individual bottles. He finds a flat rock and sets it atop the filter to keep it from moving and drops the single input hose into the lake. He hands one of the bottles to Susan.
“Here, keep an eye on this as it fills so it doesn’t fall over.”
Susan obeys and the next thirty minutes are spent filling the containers. She takes this opportunity to not only flirt with David but to also interrogate him on his childhood and interests, trying to learn as much about him as she can.

About an hour and a half later they return to find the camp all set up, along with a fire ring loaded with unlit wood. A lonely tent sits under the overhang. Left of the tent and outside the overhang is the fire ring. To the right, two sleeping bags are laid out.

“Let me guess, bugs?” David indicates the tent. “Yeah, but don’t go there,” Brian replies as he passes

David heading downhill away from the campsite. Understanding that he’s not to mention the idea of bugs
to the girls he smiles to himself as he enters the campsite.
Un-slinging his makeshift backpack he sets it next to the tent. Accessing his own backpack he pulls out a tin of matches
and lights the kindling under the logs in the fire pit. The fire
catches and builds. He pulls out a camping pot from his
pack and fills it with water.
“I’m boiling water for all those who want it,” he calls so
everyone can hear. No one answers. He shrugs.
For supper he removes from his pack a package of dried
oriental noodles, a few strips of beef jerky, one of his many
small bags of dried apricots, a packet of cocoa, a candy bar
for dessert and a tin cup to break the noodles up in. I’ll attempt this one more time, he thinks and then shouts, “I
don’t know about the rest of you but I’m ready to eat.” Susan walks up after changing into warmer clothing.
“I’m starving. What’s for dinner?” she asks wondering what
it is David is preparing for himself.
“Noodles and Jerky. What are you having?”
She scrunches up her face as if considering something
important. “I’m not sure yet.” She heads back inside the tent
and begins rummaging through her pack trying to decide
what she’s in the mood for.
The fire now roars and crackles as it spews embers into
the dimly lit sky. Between the dancing flames and the setting
sun behind the western slopes Kim appears eerie as she
advances towards David.
Hands full David can see she carries an airtight bag of
fresh fruit and vegetables, a packet of some kind of powered
soup mix, a bag of tea, and a box of crackers, as well as a
camper’s mess kit consisting of the metal bowls and utensils
needed for the meal.
Dropping her contents near the fire she says, “Anyone
want some crackers? I picked these up in that little market
From the shadows they hear, “I’ll have some.” Beth
reaches for the box as she approaches the pair who now
shuffle around the camp fire preparing their individual and
varied meals.
Beth holds a small backpackers freeze dried meal labeled
‘pasta vegetable parmagiana’. She finds a small cup that’s
being used as a ladle and scoops out some of the boiling
water and pours it into the foil pouch. Folding down the end
of the package she shakes it for a few seconds.
“You eating your meal packs already?” Brian asks as he
ambles into camp from his visit with Mother Nature. “Don’t you try to eat the extraneous foods first to reduce the weight
you have to carry?”
“I mainly only carry packaged meals, along with power
bars and powdered fruit drinks. I like them better, they take
up less room and I can carry more of them. I have a very fast
metabolism so I need to eat more often than most. And these
are quick to eat and easy to get at while moving. Most of
them don’t even need to be cooked or heated.”
“Doesn’t that get pretty expensive?” David asks. “Yeah, but it’s worth it to me.”
Brian disappears for a few minutes and returns with
some sticks that he’s whittling on with his SCUBA knife.
“Anyone for roasted marshmallows?” He pulls a bag out
from under his arm and tosses it to David.
“I want some,” Kim states flatly.
Beth looks up. “Yeah, me too!”
Brian hands sticks to everyone. “Those two still need to
be sharpened,” he refers to the ones he handed to David and
“I got it,” David replies pulling out his hunting knife. He
then proceeds to taper a point on the end of his and Susan’s

Meals finished, the gang huddles around the campfire talking and singing songs far into the early morning hours. Finally exhausted from a long day, it’s time to retire. Darkness, being only four hours long is already gone, so the campers bury themselves deep into their sleeping bags in order to attain as much darkness as possible while they slumber.
Chapter Four

Five hours later with the sun already bright in the sky, the group awakes. Each camper still weary from lack of sleep stumbles around trying to freshen up. Typical morning chores are completed and breakfast is prepared. The morning air is cold. The group gathers around the smoldering camp fire bundled up and shivering while they consume the morning meal.

Brian and Beth sit next to each other on a log near the fire pit eating a shared meal of pancakes and dried fruit. A tin cup full of coffee sits on the log next to Brian. Beth’s beverage of choice is hot chocolate which also sits precariously on the log next to her.

“When we first met you mentioned that you are a business major and that you plan on taking over your parents store someday, right?” Brian asks.

Between bites of pancake Beth answers, “Yeah, they plan on retiring soon and turning it over to me. That’s why I’m getting my degree in business. Actually I have a dream to expand their store into a chain of sporting goods stores.”

“That’s a good idea. With your parents store as collateral you should have no problem getting a business loan to start another one. Once that one shows a profit you can continue the process, unless you already have enough money on your own to start additional stores.”

“No, what you just outlined is the general path I plan on taking.”
“Great, I hope that works out for you... I also majored in business, but I’m not sure exactly what I want to do with it yet. I just figured I’d take a corporate job somewhere and see where it takes me from there.” Brian and Beth continue discussing career objectives and desires.
David, Susan and Kim are on the other side of the pit lounging in backpackers folding chairs. Kim is saying...
“Wars will never stop completely.”
“I don’t agree... look how far we’ve come over the years,” David argues.
Kim draws shapes in the dirt unconsciously with a stick as she listens to David’s point of view. “Alright look, take for example the middle east... they’re never going to settle their religious differences... short of absolute proof of God, Heaven, and his great plan for man. And we all know that’s never going to happen.”
David chortles, “That would be ideal sure, but not necessary. If they just learn to respect each other’s right to believe in whatever they want, like we do, they could live in harmony with each other without all this conflict and fighting.”
“They haven’t learned to live in peace in all these years. What makes you think they’ll ever change?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to give up on the idea.”
Susan just sits quietly listening to David and can feel his passion. She can feel her heart breaking at the sadness and frustration in his voice over mankind’s suffering and the deplorable condition of the world. She begins to feel more than just a physical attraction to him. She wipes a tear from her eye.
“Are you ok?” David asks noticing the tears on Susan’s face.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just got something in my eye,” she lies.
Brian has been eavesdropping on the conversation from the opposite side of the pit. In an attempt to save the women from David’s obsession with his ideas and concepts for rescuing mankind from itself, he calls across the campsite to no one in particular, “...what about family, any brothers or sisters?”
“I have a younger brother, Tim. He’s still in high school,” Kim replies.
“I’m an only child,” Beth answers. “But I’m not complaining; my parents spoiled me.”
“You told me earlier you have an older brother, right Susan?” David inquires.
“Yeah Paul, he is eight years older than I am, married and living in Detroit.”
“You guys have any siblings?” Kim asks.
“I have a sister, Linda, who is one year younger than I am. But Brian is a loner like you Beth,” David states taking the liberty of answering for Brian.
Now satisfied that the mood has changed enough, Brian rises from the log on which he sits. He raises his arms over his head, stretches and yawns. Picking up his coffee tin he empties the last few swallows onto the ashes in the fire pit. “Alright, enough bonding let’s talk about our plans for the day,” he orders.

It’s decided that the group will camp here for a few days. This is a good site for various reasons, so they’ll plan their day trips from here and return in the evening to sleep under the protected overhang.

“Davy, when are you going to teach me how to climb so I can go with you and Brian on your rappelling adventures?” Susan asks.

David thinks for a minute. “I don’t need to teach you how to climb since we’ll be walking up the backside of the mountains. What I need to teach you, is how to rappel, and now seems like a good time.”

“Great, how far do we have to go?” she bubbles as she heads for her gear.
“No where.” He points to the overhang above them.
Susan stops. “We’re going to climb that? It’s not very high.”
“We are not going to climb it, we’re going to rappel it.” In a fatherly tone he adds, “You have to learn to walk before you can run.”
Brian sees that David and Susan have plans for the next few hours and turns to the other two and asks, “You gals want to go explore a bit and possibly do a little fishing?”
Kim’s mood brightens immediately. She hops out of her seat and looks wide-eyed across the small campsite at Beth and grins. She then turns her gaze to Brian. “Fishing? You brought fishing gear?”
“Just the bare essentials,” he says pulling a small plastic bag from his pack containing a package of fish hooks and split shot, a folded section of aluminum foil and a small spool of fishing line.
“What about a pole?” Kim asks.
“Don’t need one. There are plenty of sticks out here. Just find one you like and use it. Don’t worry about getting one right now though we can find one as we get closer to the stream.”
Kim turns to Beth and smiles. “Looks like you’re going to learn how to fish sooner than I planned,” she taunts. “I just wish Susan was in on this also.”
“Hey I’m not the one that said anything derogatory about fish. Don’t take it out on me!”
“Don’t think of it as punishment. This is something all backpackers should know how to do. I take the blame for you guys not knowing this. But now we’re going to remedy that!” Kim exclaims jubilantly.
“Yeah great, Susan’s the one that started this and I’m the one that has to pay for it,” Beth sulks. “Let me get my camera. I might as well try to get some pictures out of this.” She shuffles off moping.
“What else should we take?” Kim calls to Brian.
Brian thinks for a minute, “Just some water and snacks if you want, we won’t be gone too long. Oh, bring your tennis shoes also; we may have to wade out into the water a bit.”
“What about cleaning the fish? Are we going to clean them here?” Kim asks.
“No, we’ll clean them at the edge of the stream.”
“Ok.” Kim rummages through her backpack and pulls out a military style pocket knife and shoves it in her pocket.
Both of the guys have large professional backpacks that include a smaller daypack that fastens to the bottom of the larger packs. Brian removes his and empties some of its contents. He then stuffs it with the basic fishing gear, some water and dried fruit and jerky. He also removes a few large plastic bags from the roll in his backpack and shoves them in his daypack. (These will be used to carry back the cleaned fish.) He finishes by transferring his SCUBA booties to the daypack also.
Knowing the girls don’t have packs as sophisticated as his and David’s he glances over in their direction. He sees that they are both wearing shorts and stuffing their water bottles in the multiple side pockets. Their cameras they carry around their necks.
“Bring me your stuff,” Brian calls. “I’ll put it in here,” he says indicating his daypack.
Obligingly they present their small cache of supplies to him and he adds them to his. Both women keep their cameras around their necks.
Kim totes a professional 35mm camera with a telephoto lens already locked in place.
Beth’s is a cheaper model with a built in zoom. Her camera doesn’t allow for attachments, but this suits her just fine as she only uses the photos in her personal photo album. One hobby she enjoys is photographing and documenting points of interest and indigenous plant and wildlife of the places they hike.
Brain throws the daypack over his shoulder. “Ready?” he calls.
“Yup,” Kim says.
Beth says nothing she just scurries up next to Brian and walks with him. They wave to David and Susan and head southwest inland toward the rolling treeless and brushless hillside, which is also host to a bountiful stream that flows from the glaciers to the lake.
David removes his daypack from his rig which is mostly filled with climbing equipment already. He dons his pack and together he and Susan head up to the top of the overhang above their campsite.
They go south along the face of the hillside about 50 yards where it slopes down and levels out. Making a u-turn they head up towards the top. It’s a gentle gradual incline up to the top of the overhang.
David drops his pack and removes most of the gear. He locates the new beginner style climbing harness with leg loops. This particular one is unpadded and inexpensive; it’s the one he bought in town as an extra for the girls before they left. After assisting Susan into the harness he fishes through the stack of equipment on the ground for a locking carabiner. He scoops up the few that are lying in a pile together and shoves all but one of them in his pocket. Then he fastens the carabiner in his hand to one of the rings on Susan’s harness.
“How’s that feel?” he asks as he jerks on the harness assuring a snug fit.
“A little tight, and it’s bunching up my shorts.”
“It’s supposed to be good and snug,” he says as he grabs hold of the bottom of her hiking shorts and gives a good tug freeing the bunched portion of her shorts from the harness. “Better?”
“Much. Thanks.”
The 165 foot of coiled nylon climbing rope he removes is of the kernmantle construction type. It’s superior to the more traditional laid rope (three large strands twisted together) because the outer sheath protects the inner core, where most of the strength lies, from the elements.
Susan picks up a portion of the rope and inspects it. “This is a pretty fancy rope,” she remarks noticing that each strand is a different color.
David continues laying out the rope and answers without looking up. “Yeah, it’s a special rock climber’s rope. It’s designed to stretch if someone falls which helps prevent serious injury.”
Scanning the area he finds a nice size boulder that’s partially buried in the ground and ties one end of the rope around the boulder. He then throws the rest of the rope over the overhang to the ground below. Walking over to the edge he pulls a bit of the rope back up and proceeds to tie a small loop and knot into the rope near the edge of the overhang.
Another locking carabiner is pulled from his pocket and attached to the small loop that he has just made. He then tugs and pulls quite aggressively on the rope to test and evaluate the strength of the knots, and the boulder’s sturdiness.
Susan stares in silent awe at David’s obvious mastery of this sport.
Without hesitation David puts on his harness which is a professional and padded model. He hooks another carabiner to one of the rings on his harness. He then locates his figure eight belaying device among the stack of equipment still lying on the ground and sticks it in his pocket temporarily.
He calls to Susan, “Come here a sec. You see the loop I tied in the rope there?” He points to the loop and knot in the rope next to the edge of the overhang.
“Yeah,” she replies.
“When I get to the bottom I’ll call for you to pull some of the rope back up, like this, and fish it back through the carabiner that is attached to the small loop.” He
demonstrates. “Now, with this new adjustable loop you just created, you’ll fasten it to your carabiner like this.” He again demonstrates. “This type of carabiner is a locking type. All you have to do is pull this nut back, it’s spring loaded, and then push the gate in, it’s also spring loaded.”
“Wait a minute! Are you just going to take off and leave me here?”
David sneers, “Of course not. We’ll go over everything before I rappel down. David drops the rope over the edge once again. “Go ahead give it a try.”
She stands back a safe distance from the edge and pulls up some of the rope. She grabs the carabiner that’s tied onto the small loop in the rope and continues pulling more of the rope up. She takes some of the slack and pushes it through the carabiner; then like a pro and using one hand she unlocks her carabiner and pushes the loop of rope against the gate and into the carabiner.
“Good, now let’s go over rappelling techniques.”
While still connected to the rope via her carabiner David turns her back to the overhang, still a safe distance from the edge, and standing next to her tries to demonstrate proper position and technique.
“After you get below that point...” he says, loosely pointing to an area below the edge of the cliff. “You’ll need to hold your feet at that spot and then start to let your body fall slightly back so that you are positioned almost horizontal to the hillside.”
Susan nods, but says nothing.
“Plant your feet hard. Once you get your body mostly horizontal start walking down the rock face. You’ll see how I do it in a few minutes. I’ll be on the ground holding the other end of the rope and letting you down slowly. This is known as belaying. Any questions so far?”
“Nope, it sounds easy enough,” she replies.
“Ok, after that I want you to continue down the face about ten feet or so and then stop and hang there for a few minutes. Get use to how it feels and then try to walk back and forth along the cliff so that you get comfortable with horizontal movement. Once you’re comfortable with that let me know and I’ll have you attempt to walk back up the face a ways. You may need to do this in some cases in the future so I want you to be familiar with it.”
He unhooks the rope from Susan’s carabiner and lets it fall out of the other carabiner and drop back over the side of the hill. Walking closer to the edge he grabs the rope and pulls it up. He fishes the belaying device out of his pocket. He fastens one end of it to a section of rope (below the small loop and knot) by looping another section of rope through one of the holes in the device and then up and over the other end of it. He then attaches the other end of the device to the carabiner connected to the ring on his harness.
“What’s that?” Susan asks.
David continues fiddling with the positioning of the rope but answers with, “It’s called a belaying device and is used to slow and control my decent.”
From David’s comment earlier Susan is pretty certain she doesn’t need one but wanting to verify asks, “Where’s mine?”
“You don’t need one. Like I said – I’ll be belaying you down.”
“Ok, just making sure.”
David stands there and pulls on the rope again testing it. He then tugs on the belaying device, shifts his harness a bit and without warning runs backwards a few steps, hops twice and is gone.
Susan not really paying too much attention at David’s testing of the rope gasps as she sees him disappear over the edge. “Hey,” she calls excitedly. “Where are you?”
“Don’t fret I’m right here, just below the edge. If you walk north along the cliff a few yards, there’s a vantage point forward of this spot where you can see me. I noticed it earlier.”
“Oh yeah I see it. Hold on a minute.”
“No hurry.” David just relaxes, feet against the side of the hill with locked knees, as he looks around. He makes a few minor comfort adjustments to his harness while he waits.
Susan makes her way to a point where she can see David from the right side. He sees her come into view. “Ok, you see how I am standing here?”
“Yeah,” she nods.
“Make a mental note of my body position and the angle it makes with the hillside. This is proper position. My feet won’t slip and my weight is distributed evenly across the harness which prevents it from being uncomfortable.
“Ok got it.”
“Now watch as I move across laterally. See how I kind of bounce? My legs are relaxed and my knees aren’t locked. You can lock your knees if it’s more comfortable while stationary, but try not to when moving. You’ll prevent injuries this way.”
She notices that David is holding the rope in what appears to be a specific way. “Hey, is that how I am supposed to hold the rope?”
“No, not for this lesson, we’ll get to that later. For now you can use your hands to help guide you down the hillside or leave them loose if you wish. If you do have a tendency to grab the rope just remember that the two ropes in front of you will be moving while you are moving, and they’re going in opposite directions. If you pinch or grab the ropes you will probably stop your decent, and may burn your hands. Don’t try to control your decent, I’ll do it.”
“Ok, I’ll try to remember that.”
David takes a few more steps down the hillside while checking to see if she is watching.
Susan nods as he proceeds.
He stops. “OK, you think you got it?”
“Ok, head back over to the rope. I’ll drop to the ground.” Before she can move he takes a couple of hops down the face and appears to free fall the rest of the way to the ground.
”Wow,” she exclaims as she works her way back to the rope. She yells down to David “Hey, how do you do that bunny hop, and free fall thing?”
He chuckles, “The bunny hop I’ll show you later. The free fall thing, I won’t!”
Susan frowns.
“Ok, pull up some rope and loop a section of it through the carabiner that’s attached to the small loop in the rope, like I showed you.
“Ok done,” she calls over the cliff.
“Now, that loop you just pulled through, hook it to your carabiner.”
“Check!” she shouts.
David sets himself below and just slightly off to one side. “Ok now, just like I showed you, start backing down the hillside. Good, now stop your feet, lean back, a little more, there. Hold that for a minute. Relax your body. Bend your knees and bounce slightly. Ah, perfect just like a pro. Now keep that position and start your decent.”
Susan takes a few steps backwards and yells, “This is great!”
David snickers, “just pay attention. Come down a bit more, good, perfect. Ok now, stop.”
Of course every time she stops he stops the rope from continuing through his hands. This is no real effort for a good belayer. The belaying device does all the work. David doesn’t even have to anchor himself down. Since her weight is quite a bit less than his there’s no chance of her pulling him off of the ground.
“Play around there for a minute,” he calls.
She walks left, then right, then left again. She stops bounces a bit and repeats her exercise. While she spends a few minutes getting comfortable on the rope, David eyes the face and sees a good spot for her to practice her ascent.
“Hey, move right and you’ll see an outcropping. Try to grab hold of it and pull yourself up onto it.” She does it with ease. He pulls the slack out of the rope. “Good, now look around the cliff face above you and see if you can find any divots, rocks, cracks, or anything else to use as handholds. Then try to climb up the cliff a ways, don’t worry I won’t let you fall.
It takes her a few minutes but she finally starts an ascent. She gets about eight feet up before she slips. “Ah,” she cries. She only falls about two inches and bangs her knee slightly on the side of the hill, but it doesn’t hurt. She now sits comfortably in the harness hanging about 50 feet above David.
He lets her get her bearings for a minute and then asks, “You want me to bring you down or do you want to get your feet back against the wall and continue your descent?”
She snaps her feet forward and just as her feet connect with the wall David gives a little slack. She immediately goes semi-horizontal again. “Cool,” she mutters. David gives a little more slack and she continues her descent.
Once she reaches the bottom of the wall face, which of course is the ceiling of the overhang, David shouts, “coming down,” and lets the rope slip quickly about four feet.
Susan gasps as her buttocks drop rapidly below her feet which are still in the same spot against the wall. She’s in a “V” shape when her feet finally clear the wall. Suddenly she is sitting once again comfortably in the harness, her head about two feet from the ceiling edge. “What was that?” she cries.
“The easiest way to get you off the face without swinging you,” David calls back. “It also prevented your head from hitting the edge which could have happened if you were to try to clear it yourself.”
Slightly irritated she answers, “Oh, you could have warned me first.”
He smiles, “This was more fun.”
A large log lays close by. He walks over to it and pretends to start tying his end of the rope to it.
“Hey,” she yells. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Giving you time to get used to the harness.”
“I don’t think so.”
He laughs and lowers her slowly down to the ground.
“That was great, what’s next?”
With aninquisitive look he suggests, “Why don’t we take a break and let some of this new knowledge sink in?”

“As long as you have a little fishing line with you it’s easy to catch fish. There are other ways besides using line to catch fish but most of them involve a hunter’s mentality and skill,” Brian explains leading the two women across the barren tundra in search of a stream.

“Are we looking for a particular stream or just hoping to chance upon one?” Beth asks.
“The one I’m looking for is on the map and should be a fairly large stream,” he answers.
“Can I see the map?” Kim asks following a few steps behind the other two.
Brain pulls it out of his rear pocket and hands it back to her.
Keeping stride and remaining sure footed, Kim studies the map. A moment later... “If I have our campsite pegged correctly then we should be getting pretty close.”
“Good instincts,” Brian complements. “I think that’s probably it up there.” He points to the top of a brush line just in view over the crest of the shallow hill they’re traversing.
The brush line runs perpendicular to their approach ending partly up the rocky mountain range to the right, and disappearing out of sight towards the lake to the left. They continue towards it and Brain surreptitiously scans the area looking for two things: an area with easy access through the brush, and bears.
As they near the thicket the area seems void of any wildlife which raises a caution flag but Brian remains silent about his concerns. A short distance from their present location towards the mountains he spies an area of sparse brush. He aims for it. Moments later they break through the vegetation and stand on the edge of their objective.
The stream is fairly wide at this point and its flow steady however not excessively fast or forceful. The section of ground they are on is mostly flat and level for about thirty or so yards in each direction. Vegetation runs along both banks and varies from sparse tumbleweed looking brush to thick dense thickets and berry bushes. Brain scans the waterline for a few moments. Finally he sees what he’s looking for, splashes in the surface where none should be; an indication of fish.
“This will do nicely!” he exclaims. Sliding his daypack off his shoulders he lets it fall down his arms to his elbows. He then frees his left arm snagging the pack with his right hand and swings it around and sets it on the ground in front of him. “Ok, first things first, remember what Davy told you. Always spot for bears when fishing. So, with that in mind look around for a few sticks that we can use for poles.”
The gals head in different directions in search of the perfect substitute for a fishing pole. Neither of them strays far from Brain. Kim returns with a small log about two inches in diameter and eighteen inches long. A moment later there’s noise coming from the brush about fifteen feet downstream. Kim and Brain both shoot glances in the direction of the noise. It’s Beth snapping a branch off one of the few trees that intermix with the brush in this area. A minute later she approaches toting her prize, a six and a half foot long crooked and forked branch.
Kim does a double take as Beth arrives. “What are you going to do with that, scoop them out of the water?”
Beth sneers. “Just watch!” She rotates the branch in her hand looking for extraneous limbs. Placing these against the ground she cries, “Hiya!” as she karate kicks a few of them free from the main branch.
Brian hearing the commotion glances over from his new location near the waters edge and chuckles.
“You coulda just done that with your hands,” Kim smirks as she starts to mosey over to Brian.
“It’s too thick!” Beth leers back.
Always eager for a challenge Kim grins, spins on one foot and returns snatching the branch from Beth and with three quick snaps severs the remaining limbs with her bare hands. “There, now you can either sharpen the end of it and use it as a spear, or use it to pole vault over to the other side of the stream.” She turns once again and strolls toward Brian.
Beth again leers at Kim. “Or I can use it as a fishing pole!” she retorts.
“Here’s some line,” Brian offers as Kim approaches and hands her about a twelve foot length of twenty-five pound test fishing line. “Let me see your stick a minute.” Kim offers it to him. He doesn’t take it; he just inspects it from her hands. “When you tie on the line, tie it behind that knot there.” He points to a protrusion near the end of her stick. “That way it won’t slide off when you hook a fish.”
“Ah, I wouldn’t have thought of that,” Kim remarks.
“You would have after loosing your first catch,” he assures her. She nods.
As Beth approaches she hears Brian’s comment about the knot. She inspects her stick. “I don’t have any knots at the end of my pole,” she remarks to Brian who is now fiddling with the aluminum foil.
He looks up. “Let me see what you’ve got.” Beth presents her stick as if she’s presenting a trophy. “Whoa, ok let’s see here.” The knots on her branch are nearer to the middle. “First of all it’s a bit long for what we need. Let’s fix that.” He grabs the shaft in both hands and sticks his knee against it right behind the series of knots and pulls. With a ‘CRACK’ it separates in two. He hands Beth a straight and smooth two foot length from the thickest part of the branch.
She stares at it as though someone had destroyed a prized possession. “Now there are no knots on it at all!”
“Right, so here’s what I want you to do...” He pulls out his SCUBA knife from the sheath on his ankle and uses it to indicate two places on the end of her stick opposite each other. “Cut two ‘V’s’ or slits here and here. Make them about an eighth inch wide. We’ll tie your line into these slits. That’ll prevent it from coming loose.”
“Oh,” she replies simply as Brian returns to his spot near the water.
“Uh, I don’t have a knife with me,” Beth states sheepishly.
He pauses to consider his next task. He turns back to Beth. “Here use this.” He flips the knife in his hand so that he’s holding the blade and throws it to a spot about three feet to her side. It sticks perfectly into the ground. Beth stares wideeyed at the knife and then at Brian. He sees the expression on her face. “Don’t start, it wasn’t even close.”
Her eyes widen even more, “oh yeah?”
“I can get it closer!” he says and pretends to be coming back for it.
“Don’t you dare!” she warns.
He laughs and returns to Kim who now squats near his gear apparently working on something. He looks over her shoulder and finds that she’s already fastened one of the fish hooks, from the package that he brought, to the end of her line.
Knowing something about fishing and lures she guessed that Brian was attempting to create a makeshift lure with the aluminum foil and decided to attempt it herself while he was busy with Beth. She now wraps two thin strips of foil together at the middle. Pressing those against the top of the fish hook on her line she wraps two more strips of foil around the first two and the hook. She pulls and arranges the individual strands until the contraption looks like a hula skirt covering the hook.
Brian watches as she finishes the lure. “Nice job. Can I make one improvement?”
“Sure.” She offers the lure to Brian.
He takes each strand and crumples it up tight and then pulls it straight again. “There, the crinkles will now refract light in multiple directions helping to better attract the fish.”
“Cool thanks.”
Quickly Brian assembles a lure for himself similar to Beth’s except it has a bulbous head to it. It loosely resembles a tiny silvery octopus, although it’s not really meant to be anything in particular. The head portion is crinkled similar to the strands on Beth’s lure and for the same purpose. The strands are much thinner then Beth’s allowing them to move in the water and emulate flowing tentacles.
He quickly attaches his lure to the hook and his hook to one end of his length of line. He then swiftly ties a loop with a slip knot in the opposite end of his line. He briefly scans the area near him and spots an eight inch long dead and dried branch near the shore line. He snags it and slips the loop of line over the end of it. He slides the line up towards the middle of the branch and tightens it. His last addition to his tackle is a couple of small split shots which he attaches to the line about twelve inches from the lure. He crimps them tight to the line with his teeth. Susan walks up as he finishes.
“How’s this?” she asks and shows him the modifications she’s made to her stick. He winds the entire length of his line around his stick in order to prevent it from tangling and sets it on a small boulder near him.
“Let’s see,” he says. She hands him the branch, he inspects it. “Very good! Now let’s get some line on it for you.” He picks up the last section of fishing line lying on the boulder next to his contrivance and ties it around the slits she cut into the end of her stick. He then attaches a hook to the end of the line. “Now get yourself a piece of the foil there and make a lure to cover the hook.”
“Make a lure?” she asks puzzled.
“Yeah, take a look at mine and Kim’s. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just something to attract the fish and cover the hook. As she starts fiddling with that task, Brain removes his shoes and puts on his SCUBA booties.
Kim follows his lead and changes her shoes also. She sets her camera on a boulder where she can reach it quickly in case a good photo opportunity presents itself.

As David and Susan finish a light snack he explains that what she just went through is known as a belayed descent.
“Now we’ll practice rappelling, are you ready?” he asks.
“Yes, I can’t wait to try this on my own,” she states enthusiastically.
They begin their walk back around the side of the hill and up the gradual slope once again. Upon reaching the top David notices that he can use the same boulder that he used previously, for this exercise.
“This time... we’re going to go down the way we just came up,” he informs Susan.
She looks confused, “That’s not very steep.”
“No, and that’s just what we want for a beginner.” He pulls the rope up from the overhang and rotates the knot around the boulder approximately 90 degrees. He then throws the rope down the gradual slope. It lands and slides briefly, but mostly sits in the same pile that it landed in. He then adds an ATC belaying device to her carabiner.
“What’s this?” she asks.
“The same as this.” He points to his figure eight device.
“Why does it look different?”
“It is just a different style. It’s better for the type of rappelling we will be doing later.” He takes his time and shows her the differences between the two styles of belaying devices, and then teaches her how to set it up herself.
They continue for about another hour practicing hand position, body position, and braking techniques while going backwards down the gradual sloping hillside. They repeat this numerous times until David thinks Susan has it down pat. There is a short section where the incline is a little steeper and it’s here that David teaches her the “bunny hop” decent procedure. After watching her carefully he decides she’s a quick study and believes that she can probably handle the “free fall” technique as well.
“Ok, are you ready to graduate?”
Wide eyed, she chirps, “Yes! Absolutely!”
“Alright then, go back to the boulder.” He gathers up the rope and repositions it correctly around the boulder and tosses it over the overhang once again. He leaves the loop and knot that he tied earlier in the rope; he has plans for it later.
“Hook up!”
Susan picks up the ATC belay device that she had previously laid on top of the boulder and pulls up a section of rope beyond the small loop and knot. She creates a new loop through her belay device and attaches the rope and device to her carabiner.
David gives her some instruction on the ‘free fall’ technique and reminds her of her body position and braking procedures. She recites everything back to him.
Feeling confident in her ability, he barks, “In position!”
She obeys and sets herself near the edge.
“Ok, before you go all the way to the ground I want you to ‘bunny hop’ half way down and stop while I watch you.”
“Check,” she snaps as if in the military.
David smiles and moves over to the vantage point Susan witnessed him from earlier. “Ready?”
Susan takes a couple of steps backwards, then “bunny hops” about halfway down and stops.
“Perfect!” David exclaims. “How do you feel?”
“Great,” she calls back.
“Ok, it’s all you,” he remarks meaning she is now in control. He sees her push off as if in slow motion. He holds his breath.
Slightly faster than a belayed descent she glides effortlessly down to the ground.
“Ah hah!” David yells. “I don’t think I could’ve done it any better. Great job! I’ll be down in a minute.”
Back at the boulder David gathers his gear and stuffs it in his daypack. He grabs the rope and pulls it up until he has hold of the small loop and knot with the carabiner attached to it. Slipping a section of the rope through the loop like he did earlier when belaying Susan over the ledge, he attaches his daypack to it using another carabiner.
“Susan,” he calls.
“Do me a favor, grab the rope and belay my backpack down.”
Curious and surprised she answers, “Ok, you ready?” “Yeah, go ahead.”
She starts letting out the rope. A few seconds later she sees the daypack coming into sight.Why didn’t he just carry it? she wonders. “Ok it’s down!”
David hooks up to the section of rope still fastened to the boulder and rappels down. “Thanks,” he says as he grabs the pile of rope as well as his daypack and carries it over to the inner wall of the shelter.
“You just going to leave the rope hanging like that?” “Yeah, we can use it to hang our gear. This’ll keep the animals out of it.”
“Oh, good idea!” Susan replies in awe of his creativeness.

Beth still fumbles with the creation of her lure. Brian wades out into a calmer portion of the stream where a section of shore line protrudes out into the water. This causes a small pool of slow moving water to develop

and salmon to gather. Brian tosses his lure out into this pool. The split shot attached to the line acts as a weight and causes the line to sink to the bottom. The aluminum foil lure is attempting to float away but is held below the surface by the heavier split shot.

Brian’s fishing technique is to hold his stick with his left hand at the center allowing the fishing line to run out from between his two middle fingers. It doesn’t take but a few moments before ‘POW’ a fish hits the lure. Brain jerks quick setting the hook into the fishes lip. The large sockeye fights back and heads for deeper water. Brian pulls hard against the departing fish and the rushing water. He raises his hand slightly behind and above his head so that his arm is completely outstretched. Reaching down with his right hand he snatches the fishing line at the surface of the water. Holding the line in place with his right hand, he brings his left hand down to the surface and wraps a section of the line he is holding with his right hand around the end of his stick. He pinches this section of line against the stick with his left thumb preventing it from slipping and once again raises his arm above his head. The fish approaches the surface. Still just out of reach he repeats the technique and an instant later he’s holding the fish by the gills.

“Yea!” Beth cries as she hops up and claps.
“Turn around and hold it up I want to get a picture,” Kim calls. She picks up her camera and is just starting to look through the view finder when suddenly from the brush on her right, ‘CRASH’ “HUFF, HUFF, HUFF.” A blur rushes past knocking her sideways. “Whoa!” she cries.
Susan screams!
Brian spins to see what the commotion is, when in a flash he is hit straight on by a large rushing hirsute brown bear. Six feet through the air he sails like a rag doll. An instant later a large splash and he sinks out of sight.
Susan shouts, “Brian, where’s Brian?” The bear thrashes around in the water where Brain previously stood.
Kim yells, “Hey, get out of there, get away from him!” She picks up a handful of stones and chucks them hard at the bear. He grunts but continues splashing about in the water. He swipes with both hands at the surface. It’s impossible to discern whether it’s the bear the fish, Brian or a combination of the three causing the turmoil on the waters surface.
Susan now picks up some larger rocks and begins throwing them at the bear. It turns towards her and rushes a few yards on all fours. She throws another rock. The bear stands upright and growls. Susan and Kim both yell and scream! It advances slowly on its hind legs.
Kim gets an idea, she kicks the auto flash switch on with her thumb and starts snapping pictures as fast as the motor can wind the film.
At the same instant a loud, sharp whistle is heard coming from behind the bear. It turns and suddenly ‘SLAP’ the bear is hit square in the face with a seven pound two foot long sockeye salmon. It takes a quick step back in an attempt to size up its attacker. Looking straight ahead it sees Brian flailing his arms and approaching aggressively. An inviting meal thrashes around on the ground in front of the bear, a high pitched whining sound accompanied by multiple and frequent flashes of light and two women screaming come from the side. The bear’s had enough. With its large sharp teeth it snatches up the free meal and hightails it back up the stream running as fast as it can.
Dripping wet and shirt torn, Brian approaches the women.
Beth runs up and hugs him.
Kim still watches the brush where the bear exited.
“Are you gals alright?” he asks smiling.
“You scared us to death!” Beth exclaims.
Kim walks up. “Where did you come from? I didn’t see you get out of the water.”
“As I was knocked under, the current was pushing at me and the bear was dancing all around me. I decided that in order to escape I would let the current carry me away and emerge downstream. As I was floating away it dawned on me that I was still holding the fish. I decided I could use that to my advantage. It worked, and I even saved my fishing gear.” He holds up his stick with his tackle still attached.
“Well I thought you were dead, don’t ever do that again!” Beth scolds.
“Me? What did I do? It was the bear who attacked me... and if I remember correctly I talked about spotting for bears earlier.”
Beth changes the subject. “You’re soaking wet. We have to get back and get you out of those clothes.”
“Hold on a minute,” he says. We came here to fish and we’re going to fish.”
“But you’re wet and that bear may come back. Or possibly even more bears!”
“Than we’ll shoo them away as well. Don’t let that incident scare you. You need to stay in control of the situation. Besides he was only after the fish. As for my clothes, it’s not really that cold out here. However we can warm things up a bit.”
Brian proceeds to gather a pile of dried brush and place it close to the waters edge away from any other brush. He then takes a small tin of matches from a small side pocket on his daypack and starts a small fire. He builds a simple and quick tripod of branches and drapes his shirt over it and near the fire to dry.
“What about your pants, do you want to take them off to dry also? We won’t look.” Kim says.
“That’s not necessary. You two go down and catch some fish. I’ll stay here next to the fire and dry off while keeping an eye out.”
Beth is about to protest when Kim, who likes the idea of staying to fish, snags her stick and tackle and rushes out into the shallow portion of the stream. Beth remains next to Brian and watches Kim throw her line in.
“Go on! Grab you gear and go catch a fish,” Brian demands.
“Nah, that’s alright. I’ll just watch Kim.”
“Ok then, you’re the one that’s going to cause me to get sick, because we’re not leaving here until each of us catches a fish and cleans it.”
Kim hears Brian’s comment and smiles to herself.
Beth gazes at Brain for a minute formulating a complaint in her mind when Brian waves his hand shooing her away. “Go, go catch fish. I’ll be out after I dry a bit.”
“Oh all right!” She says as she drops to the ground to change her shoes.
“Did you get your lure finished?”
“Yeah it’s right there!” she retorts.
Brain picks it up and inspects it. It looks kind of like a stick figure of a person with two arms, two legs and a head. Brain decides not to tease her about it and instead opts to attach it to her hook for her. After he finishes shaping it around the hook it appears more like the skeleton of a minnow.
She grabs her stick and tackle from Brian and heads out to the stream. Just as she reaches the shoreline Kim snags a whopper and flings it up and out of the water. It flies right towards Beth and lands with a thud in front of her feet.
Startled she yells, “Hey watch it!”
Kim is climbing up the slippery shoreline in a hurry to claim her prize when she hears Beth’s cry. “Oh sorry! I didn’t see you there.”
“Well... be careful next time,” Beth orders.
Kim pays no attention to her. She’s already removing the hook from the mouth of her fish and holds it up for Brian to see. “Looks like I may have you beat!” she calls displaying a very fat sockeye salmon easily weighing in at eight pounds. It does however appear a bit shorter than the one Brian landed.
“I think mine was bigger,” he brags as he turns his front towards the fire in an attempt to dry off evenly.
She walks up and drops it on the ground next to him. “Prove it!”
He peers down at her trophy catch and then to her. He pats his trousers front and back determining that they are dry enough and accepts the challenge. He picks up his gear, untangles the mess that his little fiasco with the bear caused and returns to the stream. As he nears he can see that Beth seems to be having some problems. “How’re we doing?” he asks.

Susan and David lounge under the overhang near the tent. David offers tips and warnings about the sport of rock climbing and rappelling but Susan seems more interested in flirting. She teases David about something as the rest of the group arrives.

“Hey girl,” Beth calls. “We saw you jump off that mountain. You looked like a pro.


“It’s so neat, you guys should try it!” Susan suggests.

“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough excitement for one day,” Beth replies.
Brian drops his pack and removes two plastic bags, both filled and tied shut. “We’ve got fish for lunch!” he announces holding up one of the bags. “And for desert... blackberries!”
“Great, I’m starved!” Susan replies.
David gives her a look, “You’re still hungry?”
“Hungry again. I worked up another appetite running your little rappelling exercises.” She moseys over to scrutinize the proposed meal when she notices Brian’s shirt. “What happened to you?”
“A little accident,” he says simply.
“A bear attacked him!” Beth blurts.
Shocked and uneasy Susan says, “What? Are you ok?”
David glances up quickly.
Kim smacks Beth on the back of the arm. “I told you not to tell her. You’re just going to freak her out even more than she already is!”
“Ow!” Beth cries. “She has a right to know...”
Brian interjects, “I’m alright! The bear was after the fish not me.”
David stares at him questioningly.
Brian shrugs and responds, “If someone would have been spotting bears like they were supposed to... ”
David smirks and glares disapprovingly at the gals.
“Hey it wasn’t our fault!” Kim argues defensively. “We were just...”
Susan cuts her off. “Was it big?” she asks nervously.
“Huge!” Beth responds.
“I got pictures of it, although I’m not sure how well they’re going to turn out since I was really just trying to scare it away with the flash.”
“Alright, enough with the bear story,” Brian bellows. “Check out the fish we caught. These are some beauts!”
Kim sneers at Brian, “Yeah and I caught the biggest one!” she says playfully.
Teasingly Brian waves a hand dismissing her comment. “My first one was bigger.”
“Hah, you can’t prove it so it doesn’t count!” she retorts. Brian smiles and walks over to Beth.
Beth is emptying her belongings from Brian’s daypack when Susan asks, “Did you catch any Beth?”
“Oh I almost forgot, yeah I caught two.”
“You did?” Susan asks surprised.
“Yeah and it was actually kind of fun. Brian taught us some tricks.”
“He taught them to you... I already knew them!” Kim hollers from the other side of the camp.
Beth continues, “He helped me catch the first one but I caught the second one by myself. He even made us clean our own fish, or he wouldn’t let us come back to camp.”
Susan scrunches her nose. “Ooh yuck!”
Kim hollers again, “He madeyouclean your fish! I was already cleaning mine!”
Brian takes their catch and heads to the fire pit.
The fire’s already ablaze when Brian walks up next to David.
Kim rinses the berries and pours them atop a flattened bag for all to enjoy.
Susan and Beth continue their discussion:
Susan asks, “So how did you clean out the insides of the fish, with a stick?”
“No, he made me scoop out the guts with my fingers.
“Ooh disgusting!”
“Yeah I thought so at first, but the second fish wasn’t so bad. You just do it fast and don’t really look at what comes out.”
“Not me!”
Beth chuckles, “You’d better wrap your mind around it because I understand that your turn is surely coming.”
“Not if I can help it! Besides, now that you and Kim are both experienced fisher people there is no need for me to worry about it.”
Beth grins. “Somehow I don’t think you’re going to get off with that excuse.”
Chapter Five

The days pass, all members of the group are becoming close friends.
Susan is becoming quite a rappelling expert. She and David are becoming more than just friends.
With Brian as their mentor the other two women are becoming more self sufficient in the outdoors. Both women now carry with them everywhere, knifes, fish line, hooks and makeshift lures that they learned how to make out of just about any kind of shiny trash.
Beth continues her photo collection. She now has pictures of caribou herds wandering the tundra, packs of Dall sheep traversing the rocky ridge lines and even a few good shots of Moose as they feed on aquatic vegetation in the streams and rivers. Porcupines, snowshoe hares, and red foxes are among some of the other small wildlife she shoots periodically.
Kim has also managed to snap a few magnificent shots of expert quality in hopes of selling to a magazine or two.
They’ve crossed the paths of many bears now with only one additional minor encounter with a slightly aggressive female trying to protect her cubs. The incident ended with the group backing up and taking a longer route around the ferocious family.

On their present excursion up a beautifully jagged tree covered mountain top they come across a shallow cave concealed in the mountainside. From this vantage point a large section of the lake can be seen with many twisting rivers and streams flowing into it from the mountains. They can see out over the rolling hills and across the tundra. The view is spectacular. Also visible in almost any direction are the many species of wildlife. From this location they are offered quick access to three different streams, a large selection of great rappelling opportunities, and a vast array of day hike potentialities; each of these leading to a different type of landscape and scenery with excellent photographic potential.

Directly above the cave is a massive tree growing out of the side of the mountain housing a large eagle’s nest which Kim loves for great telephoto shots. Unanimously the group decides to make this their camp for a few days. You couldn’t ask for a better view while sitting around visiting, or a better point of origin for the multitude of possible jaunting experiences. It’s a little colder due to the altitude, but well worth it for the excellent view, location and protection from nature’s elements.

After five days at the mountain cave they’re all sad to leave it but they still have at least ten miles (as the crow flies) to Nondalton. The guys only have four days left of their vacation. The women have a few extra and plan on spending them sightseeing in Anchorage before they head home.

The shelter cleaned and backpacks donned they head southeast down the mountain until they reach the lake. They proceed along the shoreline since the terrain is easier and faster to traverse. Not needing to rush they keep a constant pace toward their destination. From this point on they average a little over three miles a day which still leaves them plenty of time for site seeing along the way.

On the evening of the third day, since leaving the cave, they arrive at Nondalton. Arrangements are made for the flight back to Anchorage the next morning. Two rooms in an old makeshift hotel provide accommodations for the night.

An hour later and after a much needed shower David and Brian meet up with the ladies at a local eatery in the small village. A simple meal devoured the five of them spend the remainder of the evening walking around and talking. Phone numbers and addresses (email included) are exchanged with promises to stay in touch. Sadness is already felt in each of them at the thought of leaving their new friends. The evening ends and they retire.

Morning arrives a few short hours later and each group gathers their gear and makes their way to the airport. A small wheeled plane takes them on the one hour trip back to Anchorage. Shortly after touchdown they each say their goodbyes.

The ladies head for a hotel.
David and Brian head straight to the international airport to check on flights out. Finding that there is one leaving in a few hours they buy tickets and wait in the airport restaurant where they scarf down a large brunch.
Chapter Six

Two days later back in Pittsburg David and Brian are resting from their vacation. David receives a phone call. Brian can hear from the living room...

“Hello, ... yes this is David ...ok ... yes...ok great, yes, I look forward to it, ...yes ... thank you, ... goodbye. ”
Brian sits watching TV and waits for David to come back into the room “Who was that?” he asks as David enters.
“The National Space Agency, I got it!”
“Way to go, congratulations,” Brian says as he stands up and shakes David’s hand. “I figured you’d get it, I was praying for you. I knew how much you wanted it.”
David smiles, “thanks... hey let’s celebrate.”
“You read my mind. Where do you want to go? My treat.”
David thinks for a minute, “How bout sea food?”
“Sea food it is! Let me get ready.”

A while later they catch a cab and head to David’s favorite sea food restaurant.
Once inside and seated Brian flags a waiter, “I’ll have a long island ice tea and my friend will have...”
“I’ll have a draft,” David orders.
“So, what did they say exactly?” Brian asks.
“The woman on the phone was from Human Resources. She said that it was a unanimous decision among all the interviewing department heads and that they wanted me to start as soon as I was ready. She also said that they had mailed out the formal offer a few days ago but that she wanted to contact me personally to let me know it was coming.”
“Did she give you any idea as to what you’ll be working on?”
“Not really. She said it’s a fairly new project and that she thought it was a telescope or something similar.”
“She sent out the offer package and doesn’t even know where you’ll be working?”
“I got the impression that she was a secretary and not the person that actually put the package together.”
“Ah,” Brian remarks.
The waiter returns. “Here we are,” he says as he distributes the drinks. “Now what can I get you gentleman?”
“I think I’ll have the steak and shrimp combo,” David orders.
Brian takes another quick peek at the menu. “I’ll have the lobster special.” He closes his menu and hands it to the waiter. David relinquishes his also. “So any idea when you’re going to start?”
“Well it all depends on the offer, but...”
Brian cuts in, “Get real... it doesn’t depend on the offer,” he smiles. “You’ve wanted this job for awhile and you know you’re going to take it either way.”
David laughs, “Yeah you’re right. Who am I kidding? I guess I’ll plan for the first of the month.”
“No that would only give me a few days to get out there. August, providing they’ll allow me that much time.”
“You said the decision was unanimous, right?”
“They’ll wait!”
David takes a drink of his beer and then asks, “You going to stick with the plan and continue looking for prospects from here?”
“I was going to,” Brian grins. “But I didn’t really figure either of us would land something this quick. Now I’m thinking I may just return home and apply from there. I’m kind of hoping to land a job in Florida anyway, and it would make it easier to interview if I’m living there. Besides, that would allow me the opportunity to get back into SCUBA diving on a regular basis again.”
“Yeah that’s probably a better idea,” David agrees. “Then if that’s your decision there’s no reason to hang around here any longer. You should probably head home so that you can start hitting the pavement.”
“Well since we should give at least 30 days notice on the apartment and that’syourtime frame for relocating, I think I’ll use the same time table. Besides, we both have a bit of furniture and other items we need to get rid of, or pack up and send home, before we can leave.”
The waiter returns again this time with their dinner. The two enjoy a quiet meal, both contemplating their own futures.

The following day David receives the formal
employment offer in the mail. He peers over the details of the offer, focusing not so much on pay or benefits but more on the actual project that he’ll be working on. He learns that he’ll be working on the Big Bang Origins Telescope and that he will be assigned to the infrared camera division. This telescope is planned to be launched in 2015.

He was hoping for more information on his actual job. Oh well I guess I’ll just have to wait until I get there,he thinks.
He also learns that there is housing available on base and that rent is cheaper compared to outside housing. He reads from the packet:Another benefit of on-base housing for employees is that the longer you serve with the company the more of a reduction you get in your rent. Also, as a person advances in rank, his housing costs decrease. A single new employee would be entitled to a single bedroom condo or apartment. A married new employee would be entitled to a two bedroom condo or apartment. In the advancement of time and rank a person would move up to a larger apartment and then a house, and or, at the same time reduce his portion of the rent. David thinks,this is pretty good.
He continues reading and locates the contact information for approving or rejecting the offer. They would like him to start within 30 days if possible. Additional contact information is provided in case he needs helps with housing, or an extension on his start date. The offer includes compensation to pay for his move: all furniture, automobiles etc. They will also pay to fly him out. This they also did when he applied for the job.
He thinks,well they’ll surely save some money on me since I really don’t have anything to move. He considers his SCUBA and backpacking gear but figures he’ll just send them via air freight and that he may try to get reimbursed for that. He finishes reading the rest of the letter and goes through the pamphlets and brochures they sent. From the pictures, list of activities and entertainment available throughout California, he decides he already likes it.
Mulling over the information he thinks,like Brian said, I am going to take it anyway.He glances at his watch and decides it’s too late today to call and accept the offer. Instead he decides to call Susan to fill her in, when he thinks,Oh yeah; she may not be back from Alaska yet. So he sends her an Email updating her on all that has transpired.

Two weeks pass. David and Brian have given notice to the landlady of their apartment who is sad to hear that they are leaving.

“You are such good boys,” she says. “I hate to see you go, but I wish you good luck. If you’re ever back this way stop by and say hi to an old lady.”

“We will,” They both agree.

Most of the few furniture items they own they’ve given away to other college students. The rest of the furniture belongs to the apartment.

David is now about ready to leave for California to secure housing. He has two stacks of packed items. One he will take with him, the other Brian has agreed to send to him once he gets settled. After forwarding David’s belongings to him Brian will head to Florida. David calls a cab and carries his luggage out to the porch. He takes one last look around the apartment assuring that he’s packed or given away everything belonging to him. Brian who has been out running errands returns. He carries a box as he enters. David hears him come in.

“Hey Bri, I think got everything but if you find anything I missed just send it along with the other stuff, will ya?”
“Sure no problem... Listen Davy, I got you a little going away present.” Brian hands the ribbon wrapped box to David.
“Ah man you shouldn’t have. I didn’t...”
“Stop, it’s nothing. Besides it’s something that already belongs to you anyway. Please just open it.”
David unties the ribbon and tosses it on the coffee table. He lifts the lid and peers inside. “Wow our medallion. What’d you do to it?” he asks instinctively glancing up at the wall where the two piece gold medallion set in a brass ships wheel, used to hang.
“Well I figured since we both own it that we both might as well have a piece of it until the day we get our boat. We can reunite the two pieces then.”
David lifts the brass ships wheel out of the box. But now instead of the large gold coin that used to set in the center of the hollow medallion, there’s a handsome bronze encased formal desk compass. It fits perfectly snug in the newly vacant space in the medallion.
David stares at the exquisite gift and remembers the day they both found it as teenager’s SCUBA diving off the coast of Key West Florida. He remembers thinking that due to the markings which include a treasure chest, jewels, swords and a ‘scull and bones’ that it must have belonged to pirates long ago. He also remembers thinking that he and Brian had guessed that since the two piece medallion was mounted in a brass ships wheel that the captain of the ship must have had it hanging in the wheel house or in his own cabin. They decided right then and there that someday they would buy a boat together and start a SCUBA school and that they would then hang this medallion on their boat.
“I can’t believe you actually found a compass to fit this hole perfectly.”
“Well I didn’t. I had it custom made,” Brain confesses.
David is chocked up. His eyes water and his voice escapes him momentarily. Finally he asks, “What did you do with the coin?”
“Here, take a look.” Brain hands him the newly modified coin.
David smiles, “A money clip, how appropriate.” He flips it over in his hand inspecting the elegant barbed wire gold plated housing that the coin is set in.
“Yeah I figured since it had all these markings on it reminiscent of currency and that it itself is currency, that I might as well use it with currency. Actually though I don’t think I will use it everyday. I don’t want to devalue it by wearing it out. And I certainly don’t want to loose it. I figure I will just use it to keep my bills secure while at home. Or if I want to impress the ladies,” he laughs.
Just then the taxi pulls up and honks. David puts the gift back in the box and secures it in his luggage.
“Well I guess this is it. I’ll miss you,” David says sadly.
Sullenly, Brian answers, “Me too.”
“Make sure to let me know when you get to Florida,” David demands.
“Of course I will. And you get to know California, because I am coming to visit next summer and you’re going to show me around.”
David smiles, “You got it,” he says with a heaviness in his heart that he doesn’t ever remember feeling before.
Brian grabs David and hugs him and then steps back and wipes away a tear. “Here let me help you with your stuff.” He and David pick up the luggage and carry it to the taxi. The driver opens the trunk and loads the luggage.
“Take care and call when you get there.”
“I will. Good luck on your job hunting. Let me know when you land something,” David says while shaking hands with Brian.
“Will do.”
David gets into the taxi and waves while forcing a smile to his face.
Brian waves back and then turns and walks back inside. Chapter Seven

It’s been two days since David left Pittsburg. In his short time here in California he has already checked in with Human Resources and Housing, secured a small one bedroom apartment on base, and rented a car. He’s also contacted Brian and updated him on his status. Brian informed him that his equipment is on the way.

Susan and David have stayed in touch via phone and Email. She misses him terribly and since she’s still on summer vacation from school decided that she will come out and spend a few weeks with him.

David looks at his watch. She’s on the plane now,he thinks. He calculates the time remaining before he has to leave for the San Francisco airport; he has about an hour and a half. He spends that time organizing his new apartment which really doesn’t take very long since it’s already furnished. All he really has to do is finish putting away his clothes and rearrange the furniture to suit his taste. His laptop he places on the small desk located in the far corner of the living room. He then swaps the location of the sofa with that of the arm chair and lamp table, he’s done.

Knowing that Susan was coming, he stopped by the store last night after renting the car and picked up a few groceries. The refrigerator was already stocked with beverages, a complimentary gift from the housing department, so all he had to do was pick up was the basic staples.

Davidarrives at the airport about a half hour before Susan’s flight lands. Locating a parking space was unexpectedly easy. However, finding her gate was a different matter. Across from her gate is a small cafe. With a little time on his side he grabs a cup of coffee. From the table next to him he picks up a discarded newspaper and flips through it familiarizing himself with resources of the bay area. After scanning the paper for ten minutes or so he gulps down the last swallow of coffee, folds the paper and sticks it under his arm and strolls to the gate. He still has about five minutes before her plane arrives. Checking the status board, it reads: “On time”.

Minutes later Susan enters through the gangway holding the hand of a young boy and steps to the side out of the way of other incoming travelers. Peering about the concourse intently she scans the crowd.

David figures it’s him she’s looking for and starts to approach when suddenly the boy let’s go of Susan and throws a hand up in the air waving and calling to someone near an exterior window. He pauses momentarily thinking that maybe he made a mistake and this wasn’t Susan after all.

Then she turns and spots him. “Ah, I’ve missed you so much,” she squeaks as she runs up and hugs him really tight.
“I’ve missed you too,” he feigns, although not really lying. On the way to baggage claim he asks, “How was your flight?” although he is secretly wondering about the youth she arrived with.
“It was fun; I sat next to a boy about seven years old. The one you saw me with there.” Glancing back she thumbs to the lad who now hugs two elderly people. “He flew out here to visit his grandparents. He was kind of nervous about being on the plane by himself but calmed down after I started talking to him. We played ‘old maid’ and ‘tic-tac-toe’ together. The flight went by quick.”
Staring at the empty carousel David listens to her story while awaiting her luggage. Ten minutes later with her suitcase in tow they stroll to the parking garage. On the way she updates him on the rest of her trip with Kim and Beth in Anchorage. Both are now at home in Colorado trying to decide what they want to do for the rest of the summer.
“Beth is working part time in her parents sporting goods store. Kim hasn’t decided what she wants to do yet. She is however spending a lot of on the internet trying to hone her skills,” Susan explains.
“Here we are.” David gestures toward a small sports car.
“This is yours? I saw you more as a truck or S.U.V. kind of guy.”
“It’s a rental. I do prefer SUV’s but this seems fitting for now. The California summer, fresh air and it’s not a gas guzzler. Besides,” he says with a smirk on his face, “the guy at the rental company told me it was a chick magnet, I couldn’t resist.”
She punches him on the shoulder as she slides into the passenger seat.
He closes her door and moves around to the other side. Pointing to the top he asks, “Up or down?” as he drops in behind the wheel.
“We’re not going anywhere fancy right now are we?” she asks considering her hair.
“Not unless you want to.”
“Then down will be fine.”
On the trip to Mountain View they discuss potential plans for their two week vacation together. Thirty minutes later they pull up in front of David’s on-base apartment. He opens her door and hands her his keys. “Here just let your self in, I’ll get your bag.”
Susan unlocks and opens the door. David follows her inside.
“Cute,” she remarks after walking about halfway into the living room, which is all of about three steps.
“I know, it’s small but I don’t need much and rent is cheap. I’ll get something bigger later. Hungry?”
“A little thirsty.”
“Coffee or soda?” he asks stepping into the small kitchen.
She sets her purse on the bar between the living room and the kitchen. “Soda will be fine.”
He opens and pours a cola into a glass and sets it on the counter in front of her. “I must say you look quite a bit different from the last time I saw you.”
She sits on a stool and pulls her drink closer to her. “Is that good or bad?”
Taking a swig of cola from the bottle he just opened he responds, “Oh, definitely good. It’s just different seeing you carrying a purse and wearing such a nice dress after seeing the real you in mountaineering garb.”
Head slightly tilted she looks at him with raised eyebrows. “The real me?” She stands and approaches him. “You don’t yet know the real me.” She wraps both arms around his neck and kisses him passionately on the lips.
“Oh... I could get to like this!” He kisses her back.

The next two weeks are spent traveling and taking in the sites. Their escapades take them along the coast from San Francisco to Ensenada Mexico. All of the popular tourist attractions are visited along the way.

While in Pacifica they tour the Sanchez art center and pseudo science exhibit. From there they take a leisurely drive along the coast to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz where they spend the rest of the day enjoying carnival rides while being entertained by various rock bands in concert on the beach.

In Monterey after breakfast one morning they cruise the famous “17 mile drive” past Pebble Beach. A couple of hours in the afternoon are spent kayaking from Fisherman's wharf to Lover's point along cannery row. With the cool breeze against their faces and the sun sparkling off the tips of the gentle waves they paddle slowly and effortlessly while watching sea otters playing in the kelp. Seals and sea lions are perched on almost every rock outcropping and many starfish cling to the sides of rocks. Seagulls fill the sky above with their cries for food. The vistas are remarkable to view along this calm protected bay. After returning the kayaks they enjoy a light and early dinner of clam chowder in a bread bowl on the Warf.

Late afternoon finds them a few miles down the road in the city of Carmel amidst the picturesque view of the clam shaped cove. Romantically they sit on the sand talking and watching the sun as it sets below the blue and pink sky that is mirrored off the ocean.

The next morning as they stroll around town they pass by some of the fairytale style cottages and admire the architecture. This reminds them of childhood stories such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the three little pigs.

A popular walkway runs along Scenic Road on the bluff above the Pacific Ocean. This area is blessed with a multitude of views, from lavishly decorated houses on one side to the ever-changing ocean coastline on the other. Gallery quality photo opportunities abound here. Susan gets her share of pictures along this pedestrian route.

After a nice brunch in the heart of the quaint little village among the various shops and art galleries, they continue their trip and head toward Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

The Big Sur region is the 89 mile section of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon. The state park lies within the Big Sur river valley. They spend half the day hiking the trails up to the various waterfalls. The climate and environment here is remarkably calm due to the protection given by the canyon walls and large trees. A much needed lunch at the Espresso House is savored while considering plans for a future return trip.

The next couple of days are spent seeing Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, Solvang, and Los Angeles.
Upon arrival in Los Angeles they rent a hotel room and spend three days visiting various sites and attractions like: Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive, Catalina Island and various clubs and lounges during the evening hours.
The last leg of their trip is spent in San Diego, Tijuana and Ensenada Mexico.
The return trip home gives them time to reflect on the various places they have been to and seen.

David and Susan return to David’s apartment. Susan still has three days left of her two week vacation. Together they spend the next couple of days just hanging around the base allowing David time to get familiar with everything.

Their second day back they amble hand-in-hand aimlessly around and eventually find themselves in front of the on-base Space Camp. They decide to check it out. A sign on the outside of the door reads: “Volunteers needed!” Susan glimpses it briefly as she follows David inside.

They meander around investigating the various displays and Susan notices that there are quite a few computer stations and that they appear to be networked.They’d need a pretty hefty server to run all of this stuff,she thinks. She also notices a few computerized exhibits that are still being assembled and installed.

David stares at a spacesuit display and fiddles with the sleeves apparently considering the material. He then proceeds to casually stroll around the center and inspect various scale model aircraft and other space vehicles. As he crosses the room he notices a scale model along with posters and even a computer display of one of the various telescopes being used in and for space.

Susan sees that he’s totally absorbed in this and disappears from view. Unaware of her absence David remains engrossed in the replicas of the type of equipment that he will be working on. A few minutes later she returns.

“This center is really something,” he remarks watching a group of school age children interact with the various displays. “I wish we had something like this when I was growing up.”

Susan smiles, “Me too,” she agrees.
On their walk back across base to the apartment David remembers seeing a sign earlier on one of the buildings that read: ‘Pennsylvania Institute of Space Science West’.
“Would you mind if we made a quick stop?” he asks.
“No not at all. Where to?”
“I think my alma mater has a department here. I’d like to stop by and take a look.”
David leads the way as they deviate from the intended path and cut through a group of buildings and across a small park. Susan follows David up the steps to the brick education building and then immediately enters as he holds the door for her.
David introduces himself as an alumni and a recent employee of the National Space Agency. He is welcomed and given some brochures that explain the school’s purpose and mission here in Mountain View.
“Could you wait here a minute?” a young woman asks of David and then disappears down the hallway. She returns a minute later accompanied by an older gentleman dressed in a business suit. She introduces him as Robert the coordinator for “RoboTech-West”. He spends a few minutes getting to know David and Susan and reiterates the points presented in the pamphlets about the institutions role and service to the community. He also introduces some of the special programs they have developed for high school students.
“One program we offer allows students to build vision based autonomous robots called Ubiquitous Mobile Robot’s (UMR’s),” Robert comments. “The students spend nine weeks during the summer months in this program. They design and program the robots for a variety of missions and even participate in weekly competitions. They also have the opportunity to earn credit towards the undergraduate program at Pennsylvania Institute of Space Science.”
He goes on to explain that they are in need of qualified volunteers and especially if they are alumni of the school.
“How would you like to participate in this program in order to benefit our youth and help in the support of the new outreach program that we’ve designed to attract talent from around the Bay Area?” Robert asks David.
Ecstatic for the opportunity to contribute to something, anything, David answers, “I was hoping you’d ask. However, I’m pretty sure I’ll be working day shift. Is there anyway I can help out in the evenings or on weekends?”
“Certainly! Most of the students stay after class to continue work on the robots and to seek guidance from the staff. This is where you’d come in.” Robert continues to explain the specifics of the program to David and what areas of help they could use from him.
David likes what he hears and is excited to be a part of the program and to help shape the minds of some of today’s aspiring youth. He thinks,even if it’s not on a global scale at least I’ll be helping someone.“Great,” David responds. “How bout I stop by sometime next week after work.”
“We’ll look forward to it.” Robert and David shake hands.
Due to the constant frustration of his inability to contribute to a solution to the world’s problems David is at least hopeful that the donation of his time here will alleviate his depression and fill the void within him. Upon exiting the building he decides it will and smiles to himself as he and Susan walk back to his apartment under the starlit sky.

Back home the couple talk about David’s interest and future involvement with “RoboTech”.
Susan waits until the conversation dies down. “David, you know I told you that I don’t have any real plans once I get back to Colorado.”
“Yeah,” he replies with his head stuck inside the refrigerator in an attempt to find something to snack on.
“Well I’ve been thinking. What do you think about my staying for the summer and finding a hobby here? This would give us a chance to spend more time together.” She remains motionless and holds her breath hoping she hasn’t overstepped any boundaries.
David returns to the living room. “That would be great but the summer could be over before you find something to do and I’ve just volunteered most of my free time away.”
She smiles. “I’ve already talked to the people at the space camp and they are looking for volunteers also. Their primary need is for someone with a computer science background and I of course have that.”
David plops down in a chair across from her and stares back with a blank look on his face as he recounts mentally the last few hours. “When did you talk to... anyone?” he inquires. He pops the top of one of the two sodas he took from the fridge and holds it up in the air offering it to Susan. She takes it. He then opens a can of nuts that sit on the coffee table and pops the top on his soda.
Susan chuckles at his confusion. “While you were playing withyourtelescope,” she mocks playfully.
“Oh,” he says feeling kind of lost for a moment. “I didn’t even realize you walked away.”
“I know. That’s why I left when I did. I figured you wouldn’t miss me for a few minutes.”
They continue discussing the idea of Susan staying and decide that she will leave on schedule to pick up more clothes and a few personal items and return in a couple of days.
Susan calls the lady she spoke with at the space camp and lets her know that she would like the position if it’s still available. She is assured that it is and that she can start as soon as she returns.
Chapter Eight

Having gotten all of thepaperwork out of the way at the H.R. office the day he arrived, David enters the lobby of the main engineering office complex and approaches the receptionist. He explains that he is starting work today and that he is looking for Mr. Thompson.

The young thin blond smiles, “Please have a seat and I’ll let him know you are here.”
A few minutes later the project director, Mr. Thompson, comes out. He is a stout gruff looking man in his mid fifties.
“Welcome David, glad to meet ya!” he exclaims with a semi-hoarse voice. “Follow me; I introduce you to some of the other department heads.”
He leads David to the back offices where he introduces him to other upper engineering management that he’ll be working with. He is then led to Mr. Thompson’s office and given an orientation to the program he’ll be working on. Mr. Thompson explains:
“You’ll be working on the Big Bang Origins Telescope (BBOT) system. The telescope itself (the Observatory Section) is just one segment of the BBOT system belonging to the ‘Big Bang Origins Project’. The department you will work for designs the infrared camera for the telescope. This is a new telescope that will help study the origins of life. The present belief in the origins of life is the belief in the Big Bang theory.” He continues, “The Big Bang Theory is the theory that between 10 and 20 billion years ago the universe was created from a cosmic explosion of a primeval atom that propelled matter in all directions. The basis for this is that observation shows that distant galaxies in every direction are moving away from us with speeds that are directly proportional to their distance.”
David nods indicating that he is familiar with this theory already.
Mr. Thompson sees that David appears to be aware of this and states, “Great, let’s move on. This new telescope will allow scientists to see light sources from the beginning of the big bang. It is planned to be ready for launch in 2015.”
“How will an infrared camera help?” David asks.
“Ah good question Davy. As galaxies continuously move farther away from us the wavelength of the light that reaches us from them is stretched and thereby shifted into the red part of the spectrum. This is known as ‘redshift’ and at large red shifts all of the ultraviolet light and most of the visible light is shifted into the infrared part of the spectrum by the time it reaches our instruments. Thus, we need infrared cameras and sensors to see and measure this light.
David is very attentive and takes in all of the information Mr. Thompson presents. “What are the main objectives of the program after gathering these light sources?”
“Ah, I’m glad you asked I was just getting to that. The main scientific objectives for the ‘Big Bang Origins project’ are: The formation of galaxies, the formation of stars and brown dwarfs, and the formation of planetary systems.” He goes on to explain, “In the first half of this century astronomers will complete the study of cosmology. This new telescope will finally allow us to tell the story of the galaxies. We will be able to document the actual birth of these clusters of stars. We will also be able to study and depict the birth of stars, planets, comets, etc. Our universe is full of matter and structure from the giant galaxy to the single living cell. The purpose of the ‘Big Bang Origins project’ is to understand how this started and developed. We are trying to understand how planets form, how all of the existing chemical elements came to be, and of course how life originated.”
Mr. Thompson takes a few minutes to inquire into David’s personal and educational background, trying to get a sense of David’s experience, strengths and interests.
David informs him that ever since he was a child he was mechanically inclined and very interested in space. He goes on to explain that, though not really knowing why, he has also always been interested in the unification of humanity on a global scale; that his true interests are in trying to come up with and develop concepts that would help lead to world peace.
“With the lessons we’ve learned from history and the insights that society now has, as well as the advancements we’ve made technologically, it is very surprising to me that we still have wars, world hunger, selfish political agendas and religious conflicts. I believe we have all the pieces we need for world peace, we just don’t know how to put them together.”
Mr. Thompson listens intently. “I see you’re very passionate about what you believe in David, that’s good, we need people with passion. I hope to see that passion come out in your work,” he comments.
David not quite knowing how to respond to that just smiles and nods.
“Alright, back to my speech. Other systems on this telescope that you may lend a hand in occasionally include an infrared spectrograph, Guidance sensors, lightweight optics, and a deployable sunshield. But let’s move on to the telescope itself. ‘The Big Bang Origins telescope’ (BBOT) is a system made up of three sections: the Observatory Section, the Ground Section, and the Launch Section. The Observatory Section is the portion that will be in space and the portion that you will be helping to design. This portion is made up of the telescope unit, the spacecraft, and the Instrument unit.”
He pauses briefly. “Would you like a water?” he asks as he reaches for the handle on the small refrigerator behind his desk.
“Yes, thank you,” David responds.
Mr. Thompson removes two bottles and hands one to David. Then picks up where he left off. “Our telescope will be an orbiting infrared observatory that will be joined in the future by other observation stations of varying
technologies.” Looking through the window outside he watches as someone passes his window, but continues with his speech. “This telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. Due to the target objects having a high redshift from the vantage point of the telescope we have to design the instruments to work in the infrared range primarily, but will design them with some capability in the visible range also.”
He takes a sip of his water and then asks, “Any questions Davy?”
David shakes his head a couple of times briefly, “I’m with you so far.”
“Great! Our telescope will focus mostly on the infrared light coming from very dim and distant objects. All objects emit infrared light. In order to avoid detecting the unwanted light and having it interfere with and over power the faint signals, all of the observation equipment must be very cold. We therefore use a large shield to block all light coming from the Earth, Sun and Moon. In addition to this we will place the telescope in the L2 orbit. The L2 orbit is an elliptical orbit around the second “Lagrange point” and is about 1 million miles from Earth. This orbit is ideal in that it positions the telescope so that the Earth, Sun and Moon are all in about the same direction from the telescope, allowing all of these objects to be on the correct side of the sun shield.”
David takes a drink from the bottle of water and then asks, “What is a ‘Lagrange point’?”
Mr. Thompson thinks for a minute as if having to change his train of thought. “It’s one of five solutions that were devised by Joseph-Louis Lagrange, a mathematician in the 18thcentury. The problem he was trying to solve was where in space 3 bodies could mutually orbit each other staying in the same relative position to each other. He found 5, 3 in which the bodies are in line and two where the bodies are at the points of equilateral triangles.”
David nods, “Ah, I see.”
A young man and woman walk up to the opened door and knock on it lightly.
Mr. Thompson puts up a finger signaling them to wait a minute and reaches across his desk and picks up something. He hands David a media package and other spec sheets which appear to have been created by his group. “Look these over for a minute, I’ll be right back.”
One of the pages from the spec sheets contains the following information:

BBOT - Observatory Section


Basic Design Spec’s

• The mirror will be 25 feet in diameter with a sunshield

size of 38 feet x 80 feet. Due to the fact that the large components will not fit onto the rocket fully open, they will be designed to fold up and open once deployed in space. The primary material for the mirror will be beryllium. The operating temperature of the equipment needs to be 370 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

• The complete package payload weight including all

necessary equipment essential to deployment and the operation of the telescope will be approximately 16,534 pounds.

• The mission duration will be 15-20 years. • The launch vehicle will be a medium class expendable

launch vehicle. Various suppliers are being considered, each having vehicles available in this class capable of payload weights up to 21,164 pounds.

David scans the document and looks briefly at a few of the pictures of launch vehicles. He continues to read a bit of information from another spec sheet in his packet on the special design of the primary mirror, as follows:

• BBOT requires a large mirror for the collection of vast

amounts of light in order to see galaxies that are over 13 billion light-years away.

• In order to measure the light from these galaxies, the

requirement is for a mirror that measures 25 feet in diameter. Building a mirror this large is a great challenge, and the problem is magnified by the fact that this mirror will have to be designed in sections and a supporting structure designed to hold each section as well as allow them to fold up for transport into space, and unfold upon deployment.

• Another challenge is to make the mirror light enough to

be able to be carried by the launch vehicle, but also to be strong enough to maintain its shape.