The hiker scowled at his map. Where had this mountain come from? According to the paper, it was nothing but gentle tree-covered hills for miles around. The only elevations of note were a good fifty miles to his east, well beyond sight and consideration. It simply was not supposed to be here.

And yet, there was no denying the cliff before him. It stretched a hundred feet from the forest floor like an indifferent giant, caring nothing for the inconvenience it caused him. “Well, this’ll add several hours to my trip.”

The winding gravel path he’d taken came to a sudden stop at the wall. It was not a gradual fade. There was no sign telling him that the trail continued to the left or the right. No, it dead-ended at the foot of the cliff, almost like any traveler were expected to ascend somehow. The hiker crumpled up the map and gawked at the sheer rock face. It was the smoothest he’d ever seen. He put his hand against it and felt no holds, nothing more than slight ripples in the rock surface.

It would take a lot of equipment to climb this beast, equipment he did not currently have.

He sighed. What was he supposed to do now? The land to the right and left was bumpy from roots and scattered rock. Neither direction promised easier going. He needed to get to the campsite before dark. They locked the gates at thirty minutes after sunset, and he was not keen to spend the night in this part of the woods. The creatures that came out at night were not to be toyed with.

And the weight on his back wasn’t getting any lighter. He groaned. “Just my luck.”

A bird chose that moment to chirp. The melody snapped him from his darkening mood, and he stood at attention, listening. There it was, a bluebird more than likely, coming from his right. He pondered this for a moment and nodded. That seemed like a good way to go. It had been a while since he’d last done any birdwatching.

“Maps make life boring anyway,” he said as he shoved the wadded paper into his pocket and hoisted his back pack. “I needed some adventure.”

Bark at me