Places: Vail, High Turk
By John Yager
Some time ago I posted a series of four very short pieces under the collective title Seasons.
Many readers have since written to ask if I would do more of these little vignettes. What follows is such a piece, part of a series called Places, based on my own memories of some of my favorite cities and locations around the world.
Andrew, thank you again for so much help, for good advice, for proofing and editing and, most of all, for making me look so much better than I am.
This work is copyrighted © by the author, 2003, and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
The trail was rough and a lot steeper
than I'd counted on. I realized that the hikers' guide meant what it said:
High Turk is an intermediate trail, not recommended for inexperienced hikers.
The trail is well marked and takes a more or less circular three and a half mile course, starting just above 8,500 feet and topping out a little above 10,000 feet.
Allow two and a half to three and a half hours to complete the hike and note that there are no conveniences or sources of water along the trail.
Coming from the much lower altitudes of the Central South, I found the thin air daunting. I'd thought two and half to three and a half hours seemed like a lot of time for a three mile hike but quickly realized that, with the altitude and often steep trail, it would take at least that long.
When I left my car at the trail head it was the only vehicle in the parking area. I wondered if I'd see any other hikers.
It was a crisp autumn day but I was ready for any unforeseen weather. I was wearing rugged hiking boots over heavy wool socks, khaki shorts and a heavy cotton flannel shirt over a loose t-shirt. I had a wide brimmed hiking hat on my head and a weatherproof jacket in my backpack, along with bottled water, my camera and field glasses.
I'd chosen to walk the circular trail in a counter-clockwise direction, but not for any logical reason.
As I walked along the rocky trail I was amazed by the views. For quite a while the trail followed the top of a ridge, and when there were breaks in the thick, dark, spiky spruce and the groves of golden aspen there were dramatic vistas of the Gore Valley far below.
Within half a mile the trail had climbed a couple of hundred feet and was beginning to make a slow turn to the north, away from the ridge and into denser, thicker forest. There were fewer aspens here and the sunlight was dim, filtered through the tall dark spruce.
I was getting warm, more from exertion than from any real increase in the air temperature. I removed my hat and outer shirt, wiped the sweat from my forehead and put the discarded garments into my backpack. I certainly didn't need the hat in the deeply shaded forest.
After another half mile I pulled off my t-shirt and put it in the backpack as well. Standing for a few minutes on the edge of a rise, I took a few sips from the plastic water bottle and contemplated the view.
A hawk circled slowly high above and a slight breeze moved through the trees. It was quiet, very quiet, and I felt very alone. It was good to get away from my usual hectic life for a few days.
"Do you have a smoke?"
I heard the youthful male voice say and turned to see a strapping teenager leaning against the trunk of a fallen tree. I wondered how I'd missed seeing him or, assuming he'd just come along, how I'd failed to hear his approach.
"Sorry," I said. "I don't smoke."
"Not many hikers do," he grinned, "but it's worth asking."
He was wearing baggy cargo shorts which hung loosely on his thin hips. Like me, he had removed his shirt, which was tied loosely around his waist. On his feet were appropriate hiking boots and thick socks, not unlike my own.
His bare torso was muscular but still overlaid with a thin layer of baby fat which gave him a youthful, almost childlike look.
"You startled me," I said.
"I was just sitting on the other side of the tree, watching for a guy to come along."
"A friend of yours?"
"Nah, any guy. You know," he grinned slightly, "somebody who might be interested."
"Interested?" I said, not sure if I understood him.
"Yeah, somebody who wants to play."
"Oh," I smiled, finally getting the point. "What games do you like?"
"Whatever's going down," he grinned. "Going down."
"I think you look a little young for me," I said, returning his smile.
"Bobby," he said, "my name's Bobby."
"How old are you, Bobby?"
"Jail bait," I grinned.
"That's what I tell my uncle, but he plays anyway."
"Yeah," Bobby grinned, stroking his crotch. "He loves my ass."
"Your uncle, you said?"
"Yeah, my mom's kid brother. He's twenty-seven."
"So you come up here looking for guys who want what you're offering," I said, looking him over more closely.
He was a great looking kid; sun bleached hair, cut a little long but not too extreme, deep hazel eyes and an incredibly clear complexion.
He was shorter than me by several inches, probably five-eight, I figured. His body was muscular and toned, his chest and shoulders and arms all well developed. In another year he would lose that last vestige of adolescent fat. Then he'd have the cut body of a man, but his current youthfulness was charming.
I was sure a lot of men would pay well for what the boy was selling.
I wondered if he needed the money or if he was just another kid of Yuppie parents whose tastes exceeded his allowance. It occurred to me that he might have a drug habit but he didn't look like the type.
"Yeah," he grinned. "You'd be surprised how many tricks I turn on the trails."
"Probably not. Surprised, I mean." I took a long drink from my water bottle and held it out to him.
"Thanks, I've got my own," he said, nodding toward the backpack lying behind the fallen tree. I'd not noticed it before as it was almost hidden by the huge trunk. It was big, the kind of pack you'd carry on a three day hike. A bedroll was lashed to the top and the backpack itself was bulging.
"Looks like you're equipped to spend the rest of the week in the woods," I commented.
"I come prepared, ground cloth, sleeping bag, whatever."
"So you could stay out overnight."
"Yeah, some guys want me for the night, but even if it's just for an hour or two, it's a lot more comfortable than fucking on bare ground."
"You do that?"
"Fuck? Sure, whatever the customer wants."
"I hope you're careful."
"I'm always careful," he said, raising one eyebrow in a questing manner. "Interested?"
"I think I'll pass."
"Suit yourself," he said with a grin and no sense of rejection.
"You do that?" I said, finding it difficult to ask the questions I really wanted answers to. He was a beautiful kid. Why was he doing this? Maybe it was because he could, because he'd figured out that it was easy money. Maybe he really enjoyed it. "Have sex for pay, I mean."
"Sure, does that shock you or something?"
"Yeah, I guess it does," I said as I nervously passed the plastic bottle back and forth from one hand to the other. "I mean," I started again, "you look like a great kid. It seems odd that you'd sell yourself."
He stiffened a little. Maybe I'd gone too far.
"I don't sell myself." He looked down at his feet and dragged his heavy hiking boots through a little patch of dry, dusty soil. "I just rent myself out on a temporary basis."
He looked up at me and smiled.
"It's an important distinction?" I said. To me it seemed like splitting hairs.
"Damn right. My body's my own. I let guys use it but it's still mine and the pay's good."
By asking I realized I probably sounded to him as if I were interested after all, but I really was only curious.
"You can suck my cock for twenty or I'll suck yours for forty."
"You mentioned fucking."
"Yeah, I'll do you or let you do me, same price, two hundred."
"And if you stay all night?"
"Five hundred, camping up someplace in the woods or going back to your place."
"How do you explain that to your folks, being out overnight, I mean?"
"A hundred of the fee is for my friend. I tell my folks I'm spending the night with him and he covers for me."
"How do you tell your folks you aren't coming home?"
"My mobile phone. It's in my pack."
"Well," I said, hoisting my own small backpack onto my shoulders, "it sounds like you thought of everything."
I held out my hand to him and he shook it.
"See you," he grinned as I started out along the trail. Then, as an afterthought, I turned back and asked, "your uncle, does he pay you, too?"
"Nah, he just buys me stuff."