A Weekend in AppalachiabyJagFarlane©
The rays of morning sunlight finally penetrated the fabric walls of the tent and Bryce stirred on the mat, covering his eyes with an arm. A few more minutes he thought, just a few more minutes of sleep would have been a nice reprieve from sore muscles. Finally he relented to the inevitable and folded up the lightweight sleeping bag that had served as a blanket. Into its compression sack the bag went and he turned his attention towards the foam mat, deflated it and stuffed that away. Not wasting time was the name of the game and he liked to have sleeping materials packed away as well as his clothes back on before exiting the tent.
A small multi-fuel stove was lit and a fresh pot of water placed upon it, when the temperature was right a bit of instant coffee was poured inside and the mixture stirred. It was one of the few luxuries he allowed himself on the trail, many other hikers went without coffee but he enjoyed the morning ritual though the flavor could use major improvement. As he drank the coffee, Bryce kept himself busy with dismantling the tent and stowing it away then taking the shirt and pants off the small line strung between two trees, shaking them out and putting them on. He'd need to stop off at a stream later today and take a bandanna bath, those he usually reserved for areas where few cared to go, or at least the short distance hikers never went.
That really wasn't a bad idea, he knew of a spot not much more than half a day's trek away and it wouldn't take him terribly far out of his way. A little grin crossed his lips as he thought of the cold spring-fed stream that spilled over the rocks and had formed a small pool just perfect for soaking in. Sure the weather wasn't like summer would be but it was close enough in temps to make the water tolerable. His plan for the day decided the rest of the coffee was swallowed down, the cup rinsed out, and camp was finished with being packed up. He picked up the trekking poles and hit the trail, whistling lightly to himself, setting a quick pace to try and beat the rising temperatures.
Bryce had grown up hiking, his parents were such avid hikers that they had named him after their favorite national park, Bryce Canyon National Park. In a lot of ways he felt much more comfortable on the trails than he did around most people, a good and bad thing as far as he was concerned. The ability to just up and disappear was always nice but there were times when he got a little lonely, unfortunately most people just weren't as interested either that or they tended to be a bit elitist in his opinion. The last time he had a somewhat serious relationship had been with a writer from Backpacker magazine when she spent some time with him for an article on generations of outdoor enthusiasts. That had been fun for a while but she constantly had this need for the latest gear and seemed rather uppity when folks showed up with what she thought of as subpar equipment. That wasn't the way his parents had raised him and so the relationship had come to an end, about the only thing he really missed was her ability to suck a golf ball through a kinky hose.
Such is life and thankfully there was this nifty invention called an iPod Touch that he preloaded some favorite porn onto and charged with a roll up solar mat. The added weight was well worth it in his opinion, particularly lonely nights deep in the wilderness. He let his mind wander towards the summer hiring season, the parks service would be looking for the usual seasonal workers soon and he was debating where to put in an application this year. It wasn't much money but he usually got to draw one of the deep woods slots and being paid for doing what he did in his free time was a bonus. Perhaps this year he'd go for Rocky Mountain National Park, it had been a while since he spent some time out that way and since summer was promising to be hot the cooler nights would be very welcome.
As the sun rose higher into the sky the warmth was a welcome change from the slight chill of morning mist. The rays slowly burned away at the hanging moisture revealing the forest and the mountains that surrounded it. The scratched and slightly battered walking sticks were extended and Bryce wrapped his fingers around the duct taped handles and started down the path towards Whispering Falls.
About halfway through the morning he began to roll his shoulders, dealing with the pack digging in despite the well tightened hip belt. A pause in the hike was called for just to take out a small notebook and make a few notes about how long he'd been hiking, the approximate weight, the terrain covered, and that the pack was already starting to dig in. This wasn't looking like the pack would be getting a great review back to the manufacturer and it wasn't looking like he'd be enjoying the rest of this hike but considering that it paid the bills he was going to have to deal with it. Still you'd think that manufacturers would have figured out making the support system a primary thought. He sighed and adjusted it as best he could, mind already wandering to the thoughts of cool mountain water.
It was taking him much longer to reach his goal than at first anticipated and so lunch had been postponed in order to have time to enjoy the falls. Winter hadn't been kind to the area this year and there had been a number of obstacles in his way. At each he'd stopped, taken co-ordinates and written down the location and the problem in a small notebook to let the park rangers know later. It was a trivial thing, usually a crew would be coming up by May time to clear the paths in preparation for the coming summer hikers but he liked to do it and it gave him something to keep his mind occupied. Some days he enjoyed being alone, today wasn't one of those days and so everything that kept him busy helped. Sadly though, these sort of days seemed to be coming more and more often.
"Old man," he chuckled to himself, Bryce had taken up calling himself that last year when he turned thirty. Well, it wasn't like he didn't occasionally feel a bit of soreness in the mornings and his joints weren't quite as good as they used to be due to so many miles of pounding hard trails. His parents just shook their heads when they heard him say that. A brief smile, they were making their way through Germany right now with the idea of ending in Poland. It seemed they never stopped exploring, Bryce hoped he had half their energy when he was in his fifties, and with any luck in a relationship as lasting as theirs. Yeah, now he was getting old thinking like that. Another chuckle to himself and shake of his head, the miles fading into the distance.
It was mid-afternoon by the time he finally reached Whispering Falls and quietly he chided himself for the slow pace before allowing the pack to be shrugged off his shoulders and eyes to drink in the sight. It was a small location, a couple of streams fed into the main branch not too far up, he'd actually hiked to the sources previously. The stream came to a rock outcrop and dropped down a few feet into a small pool about the length of a pickup truck before coming back into a stream and making its way down the mountain. There wasn't much sound produced due to the low drop and thus the name Whispering Falls. It was just large enough to be worth the trip out here but small enough that it was generally missed by thru hikers and most section hikers that didn't want to give up the extra day and a half worth of hiking.
After stretching his muscles back out, Bryce settled into setting up camp. First thing up was a four season two person tent from Mountain Hardware, a bit weighty but mountain weather was notoriously unpredictable and there was the old joke that a two person tent was really for one person and a fanny pack. He loved the new poles though, they made the setting up of the tent ever so much easier. Once the last guy line was tied down, he settled his pack into place, ran a string between a couple of trees to use as a clothesline, and figured he was more or less done as everything else would come out and go back as needed. He pulled off his t-shirt and threw it over the line, the pack had hugged a little much for his comfort and the back was drenched with sweat.
A couple of pats to his tummy as it reminded him he'd skipped lunch to make it here on time, noting he still had to get rid of some of the winter flab. A granola bar was going to have to make due for now, the water was calling his name. Bryce unzipped the sides of his pants and pulled them off, throwing those over the clothesline as well. He didn't anticipate anyone making their way out here this time of year and in the middle of the week, besides his boxer briefs were almost as good as a pair of shorts and they could use the rinse. The only thing left one were his boots, Bryce wasn't a huge fan of walking barefoot where people might leave garbage. If there was one thing he really loathed it was folks who carelessly littered, he tried to leave as little of a footprint as possible. Granted it was fairly impossible to leave no footprint, he tried to keep the impact minimal, just something he felt was right.
Once at the pool Bryce paused to untie his boots and slip them off, looked into the water to make sure he couldn't see anything problematic on the rocks and stepped his first toe in. Lips twisted to a little grin as he felt the warmth envelope his toes. A secret kept closely guarded by most who came to visit the falls was that there was a little bit of warm water that leaked in from a vent below the pool and diffused through the rocks. The water in the pool was usually only a bit above that of a warm bath but considering the chill in the air it was a welcome feeling. Hands were placed on the edge of the pool and slowly he lowered his body into the water, sighing as sore muscles felt the heat. He had let himself go a bit too much this past winter and it was telling, normally he'd not be so sore. Too many damned cookies he supposed, curse you Toll House.
Bryce ducked his head under the water for a moment, when he came back up he grabbed a small bottle of camp soap and proceeded to begin to wash up his hair. Almost time for the Spring fade cut he noted, winter time he allowed his hair to grow out but come warmer weather it was usually trimmed short. He made sure to soap and rinse out the couple of days of stubble on his face, then settled into a little indent in the rocks to lean back and close his eyes. This was worth the entire trip and in short order he drifted off into sleep.
The cracking of a couple small branches brought Bryce out of his peaceful nap. He didn't open his eyes at first, letting his ears figure out where the noise was coming from and if he could get an idea of whatever it was. The rhythmic stepping told him that what was approaching was a human, coming along the path he'd come in on. Just to take a little precaution he slipped lower into the water and rinsed his eyes off. Over the edge of the pool he peered at the person approaching, while it was uncommon for something to happen so deep in the woods it was better to be ready for anything. Every now and then a hiker had to deal with others who took advantage of the fact few hikers had more than a pocketknife. Bryce actually had a small can of pepper spray with him, partially to help try to ward off bears, but it was foolishly still in his pack. Damned rookie mistakes indeed.
A little breath of relief when he watched as the figure approached in a fairly normal fashion, not at all like they were trying to sneak up on someone. By now he presumed they would have seen the blaze orange material of his tent and figured out that they weren't alone. As such he allowed himself to slip a little back out of the water and resume his place upon the rock, waiting for the person to come into a clearer view. Their footsteps were fairly light so he was figuring a woman or a slimly built guy.
Julie had noticed the fabric, well who couldn't notice it considering the color and sighed a little to herself, oh well looks like the time where she had the pool just about all to herself was coming to an end. Thankfully she'd packed something to change into for the water, normally in the winter she skinny dipped since no one ever came out this way in the snow. All good things came to an end she supposed and the weather had been on a bit of a warm streak as of late. Still though, she could have used one more quite afternoon alone in the pool. Julie just hoped that whoever had gotten here ahead of her was at least mature enough to not gawk at her or make some sort of half assed pass in hopes of getting a little deep woods action.
Into the clearing she stepped, making her way towards the pond while looking around to see if she could spot the other person. Eyes laid upon the figure in the pool a few seconds before he called out a greeting to her. A moment was spent analyzing him and the situation, judging by the equipment she could see he was probably fairly serious about hiking and from his appearance didn't seem to be a well off college kid who spent too much time at REI with their moms credit card. Well, that was at least a relief she figured, and walked over towards the pool to drop her own fairly worn pack down. "Well I guess the secrets out about this place," she offered.
He just laughed at her comment, "Oh I've known about this place for a while, just don't get enough time to visit it often. Don't worry though, the secret is safe with me, I don't tell anyone about this place." He took note that she seemed to be in her mid-20's, maybe a little older, it was hard to tell as she seemed in pretty good shape. Her equipment looked like it had seen quite a bit of mileage but was still in rather good condition. She at least didn't appear to be new to this and by the tone seemed at least to have been here before so he guessed she'd been around the block a few times.
"Good, I'd hate to see it get crowded, mind if I use your tent to get changed?" She was taking a bit of a chance asking, but for the most part hikers were fairly generous folks as far as she'd experienced and figured it wasn't much to ask. That and she'd jogged about halfway up the trail and really wanted to rinse off the sweat as soon as she could. When he told her he didn't mind, Julie offered a smile, picked up her pack and happily made her way towards the tent, being sure to take off the trail shoes before entering in it.
Bryce was a tiny bit surprised at the forwardness of her question, but had been ok it with, his pack and supplies were outside in his view and so there really wasn't much to be concerned over her using the tent. He let his eyes linger over the slick material of her pants pressing against her rear for a few moments when she turned to the tent. The view caused a bit of stirring down below and brought to mind the fact that he was sitting there in a pair of underwear and that while they looked like shorts they were still underwear and thus clung a bit to the frame. It really wouldn't do to be sporting a hard-on now and so he dunked himself back under the water in hopes the swelling would eventually go back down. When he came back to the surface and wiped the water from his eyes, Bryce found his efforts had been in vain.
She made it a point to change quickly in the tent, not wanting to abuse the kindness. Out of her trail pants and shirt she went, opting to leave on the purple sports bra, panties went off and were replaced with a pair of shorts. Julie made sure to tie down the waist tie then closed up her pack and exited the tent. Over the clothesline went her pants and t-shirt, careful to use a spot not occupied by his clothing. She dropped her pack not too far from his, figuring they could both keep an eye on each other's belongings. She couldn't help but smile a little to herself, she'd caught a glimpse of the look on his face when he opened his eyes but he'd quickly hid it. There was something nice about that, obviously he liked how she looked but was polite enough to not stare or otherwise make her feel uncomfortable.
It took him a couple of seconds to regain his composure and rearrange his face to not feel like a young man seeing a pretty woman for the first time. Pretty though, wasn't the word for it, she was like a damned vision to him. He figured she couldn't be much taller than five feet, maybe less, with a light brown or dirty blonde hair, he wasn't sure due to the sweat darkening most of her hair. What really got his heart going was her body, toned didn't do her justice, ripped was probably a better word. It was very obvious she worked out and he could see the faint outline of a six-pack upon her stomach. Muscles were there, but not so large that she didn't appear feminine, and he marveled as they moved beneath her skin. What could he say, there was a fair bit of attraction to a woman who was dedicated enough to her body and her sports to look the way she did. In a tiny way it shamed him for the bit of flab on his body, but in a major way it had him in instant lust. As soon as he managed to shut his jaw, Bryce turned away and resettled himself into the niche, "I'm Bryce."
She crouched down and slowly began to slip into the water, taking her time to ease in. Once she finally was standing on a ledge, pale blue eyes turned towards him. He wasn't too shabby looking himself, she thought, maybe lose a couple of pounds but she did like the scruff and slightly long hair, just enough to grab. "Julie, but people tend to call me Valkyrie's Kiss." She reached back and undid the tie holding up her ponytail, fingers helping to shake loose the strands. Her head ducked under the water and she rinsed the water through her hair, trying to wash away the salt. While under the water she opened her eyes, just a habit of hers to look around and make sure that the pools were kept clean of human trash. As she looked around her eyes glanced past Bryce, noting the same underwear she'd seen displayed at a few outdoors stores and getting a little smile as she saw the outline of a very hard cock pressing against them. While she wasn't looking for any it was still nice to see that she'd had that effect on him, most guys didn't like girls with muscles. When Julie finally resurfaced and wiped some of the water away from her head, she found a spot to settle into, leaning back to enjoy the water.
After Julie got settled in, Bryce finally decided to ask the question that had bugged him. "So, does the name Valkyrie's Kiss come from the trail?" He'd heard the name before and since it was a bit on the more unique side he was rather curious if she was the same person.
She quirked a brow, "Well yes, it does. I did the Appalachian Trail twice, once the summer before I went to college and the summer after I graduated. Perhaps you've been on a portion of it before?"
He had to hold back a laugh, "Aye, I've done it both ways. Always a nice way to clear my mind. I think we crossed paths once at a shelter in New Jersey..." Bryce paused as he watched her eyes begin to go wide.
"Y...yo...you're Bryce Calladon!" she blurted out, eyes wide as she recognized the face she'd seen in a couple of outdoors magazines but more remembered from being part of the Mountain Hardware athletic team. Her cheeks flushed a light red as she realized who she was sitting near and just sat in a bit of awe, a little embarrassed at such a fan reaction but still just surprised that he was here.
A sigh and a soft laugh escaped his lips, "Damn, of all the places to be recognized. Yeah...I'm him." He wasn't quite sure how to react, very few really ever recognized him especially since it seemed magazine photographers were quite liberal with the airbrushing these days. He swore that in one photo his biceps had grown twice their size, Bryce could only wish they'd get that big. Primarily competing in foot races and hiking competitions, his frame was generally more towards lean instead of bulky and that was rather advantageous in not having to consume as many calories so he didn't know why they insisted on airbrushing the larger muscles.