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by Theresa Garrido
Category: Young Adult
Description: An afternoon hike through the Olympic Peninsula rainforest turned into the adventure of a lifetime for two fifteen-year-old cousins. While Hannah's parents took a Caribbean cruise, she accompanied her aunt, uncle and cousin Jonah on their vacation to the Pacific Northwest. The splendor of Olympic National Park beckoned, and Jonah convinced his cousin to explore the area by hiking some of the nature trails. Hannah had heard the legends of Lake Crescent, and was curious about the region so she agreed. They set out for a short walk before dinner. The trails took them deep into a forest full of awesome trees--gigantic Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, and western red cedar. Like a scene out of Middle Earth, one particular behemoth stood as a monument to a time before time began. Jonah found a small totem wedged in the tree's roots--a Native American artifact that looked too bright to have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of years. Convinced he might find more treasures hidden in the tree, he ignored his cousin's warning that they should head back to camp. Hannah wasn't happy but she waited--and waited. Jonah disappeared. Did he go off and leave her as a joke? No, he wouldn't do that. Maybe he climbed inside the tree and got hurt? Nothing but silence. An eerie primordial silence. And a strange mist began swirling and ebbing around the lichen covered tree trunk. Hannah circled the tree and found a hollow area then climbed deep inside, searching for Jonah. He wasn't there. Angry, and now convinced that he'd left her all alone, she headed back. Only, she couldn't find the trail. Or the cabin. Or any sign of modern civilization. Nothing looked familiar. It was getting late, and she tried not to imagine what might be lurking around the next tree. Maybe Bigfoot himself. Lost. In the forest. And it started to rain. She took shelter in a hollow log and stayed there overnight. What Hannah discovered when she awoke the next morning was something so unbelievable she thought she was still dreaming?
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2009 Spring, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [230 KB]
Reading time: 143-201 min.
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"Jonah. For crying out loud. Wait a minute, will you? My shoe's untied."
My cousin ignored me as usual and kept on going--headphones on and Walkman turned up to the loudest his ears could tolerate. He'd been plowing right ahead, climbing over immense trees lying across the path like he thought he was Daniel Boone or something. Now he was leaving me behind without so much as a backward glance. Typical.
Quickly tying my shoe, I straightened and couldn't see him. Of course he'd already disappeared through the impossible underbrush of this impossible forest. I might as well have been the last person on earth.
"Jonah. You're a brat. You know that? Will you just hang on a sec?"
Fine. This was the last time I'd go on a stupid walk with him. Next time he could go alone. As if.
I looked around. The forest closed in ... suffocating. Downright scary. Impenetrable vegetation and towering trees covered everything in sight. The Olympic Peninsula was a jungle. That's the only word I could think of to describe it. And it was old. Older than old. Older than life itself. Created so long ago that it seemed older, even, than Eden. Just standing here made me feel like time didn't exist, and it gave me the creeps.
I remembered reading somewhere that time isn't linear. It doesn't travel in a straight line, but loops around, in and out, over and under, like a ball of yarn. As I struggled through the labyrinth of shoulder-high ferns, salal, nettle, and salmonberry, I could almost believe it. Almost.
After rounding the millionth fallen tree, I finally got a glimpse of Jonah ahead. By the time I caught up with him, I'd had enough. "Jonah." I panted, "Let's turn around. I'm beat and I want to go back to the cabin." He ignored me. "Jonah. I know I agreed to go exploring with you ... to see the moss and stuff, but, come on, haven't you seen enough moss to last a lifetime? Let's take the rowboat out on the lake. Okay? Jonah? Jonah!"
Of course he couldn't hear me. His music was too loud. The idiot. Anger and frustration won and I lost it. "Jo-nah." I yelled. He still didn't hear me so I lunged forward and punched his arm. "Jonah. I want to go back. C'mon. I want to do something more civilized. I hate these woods."
He tore off the earphones and glared at me. "What're ya hitting me for? Jeez. What's eating you, anyway, Hannah?"
"I'm tired of tramping through Middle Earth, that's what. This place is straight out of Lord of the Rings. I half expect to see a Hobbit walk by. And it's boring. Nothing happening. Come on, Jonah. Let's turn back and take the boat out or something. And besides ... aren't you getting hungry? We're having barbecued hamburgers tonight."
Jonah, two months older than I, took fiendish delight in making an issue out of everything. Now, sighing like a martyr, he feigned injured dignity, "Dear, dear little Hannah, if you knew you weren't up to it, why did you tag along?"
"Tag along!" I exploded. "Tag along. You've got to be kidding. You wouldn't have stuck a toe past that first trail marker if I hadn't tagged along, and you know it."
He turned crimson. "Well, I know more about the Olympic National Park than you do. I read. There are bear, and elk, and, and things out here that can be dangerous."
I had to laugh. "Oh, pooh. You read, all right. Too much, if you ask me. That last story about Lake Crescent taking lives and not returning them is all a bunch of nonsense. Just an old legend handed down over the years and growing bigger and bigger in the telling."
Jonah pursed his lips and shook his head. "All legends, my dear little walnut-brained cousin, are based on truth. It happens to be a fact that Lake Crescent is deep. So deep, that until around the mid-fifties, everybody thought it was bottomless. The Clallam Indians wouldn't even cross it in their canoes. They said the evil spirits that lived at the bottom of the lake would reach up with icy-cold hands and drag unsuspecting fishermen down into its awful depths. That's fact. Plain and simple. You can Google it yourself."
I just brushed his words of doom and gloom aside. "Pooh. If it's so dangerous around here then how come you're wearing your headphones and listening to your stupid music? Hmm? Seems to me you'd be better off paying attention to the things around you. One of your so-called bears could sneak right up behind you, and you'd never be the wiser. C'mon, let's turn around and head back to the cabin. Aunt Patricia and Uncle David told us not to stay away too long."
As usual, Jonah didn't listen to me. He only nodded, muttered for me to hold on, replaced the headphones, and continued to plow through the thick undergrowth toward a magnificent tree that was big enough to house the Swiss Family Robinson. Registering just how immense this tree was shut me up for a minute. I'd never seen a tree as big in girth or as tall. It boggled the mind. In fact all the trees in this rain forest--the Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western red cedar--were so huge, so gigantic, that I couldn't describe them, if you'd paid me. I hadn't brought my camera with me, but even if I had, it wouldn't have done any good. A single tree was so huge, I wouldn't have been able to get the whole thing in a picture, anyway. I'd only be able to take sections at a time. As I said, it boggled the mind.
This particular old-growth tree was a really imposing monument to a time before time began. As Jonah approached the giant, he actually appeared to shrink right before my eyes. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought he'd stepped through a time warp, into a Jurassic Park where, at any moment, a t-rex would come crashing through the jungle to devour his puny body.
"Okay." I called to him. "What are you going to do now?"
Jonah ignored me and circled the behemoth. He looked mesmerized by the giant, and it was obvious he couldn't care less what I was doing or feeling. I sat down on a lichen-covered stump with a grunt and crossed my arms against my chest. I was really peeved. It was times like this that reinforced my total revulsion toward the male of the species. Except for Peter Adamson, who'd sat behind me in math class last year. But that's another story. I didn't want to think about him right now. I wanted to savor my peevishness for a while.
When Jonah had made one complete circle he came to a standstill, looked at me, and gave me the OK sign with his left hand. He removed his headphones, wrapped the cords around them and stuck them in his jacket pocket. Then he waved and started skirting the giant tree again. When he came around for the second time, he was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
"So, what are you grinning about?" My impatience was swelling. "You look dumber than Larry Beasley did when his pants ripped at our eighth grade picnic."
"I just wanted to give this big fellow a closer look." Jonah made a face. "And, man, it paid off. Look what I found. It's cool." He lifted his arm over his head and waved what looked like a toy of some sort.
"What is it?" I yelled back. My curiosity piqued but I didn't get up. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
"Heck if I know." he returned. "But it's really tight. And I think it's old. Looks like something early Native Americans would've made. Come and see."
I sighed, then scrambled to my feet, brushed the dried needles from the seat of my pants, and ambled over to where my cousin was beaming like he'd just unearthed King Tut's tomb. "Okay," I tried to sound indifferent. "What is it?"
"Here." He shoved the wooden thing up to my face, almost hitting me in the nose. "Isn't it sweet?"
I examined the odd little wooden piece, trying hard not to appear too curious. It looked like a small totem pole. Or, to be exact, half of a small totem pole. It was in the shape of a bird with outstretched wings and a pointed beak. I had to admit that it was kind of neat--painted in vivid red, black and green. "Yeah, it's nice, Jonah, but it's too colorful to be really old."
"Oh, I don't know. It was wedged behind a humongous root and kind of protected."
"Whatever. What do you think it's for? I've never seen anything like it."
"I don't know but look what happens when I pull the string." He demonstrated by tugging at the slender piece of braided grass, making the brightly painted wings move. "Isn't that awesome?" he asked with a grin.
"Yeah," I grudgingly admitted. "It is awesome but let's go back, now. Okay? Please, Jonah? I'm tired of standing around looking at a bunch of trees, no matter how big they are. This place is giving me the creeps. It's weird in here. Don't you feel it?"
He looked over his shoulder as though expecting to see something creeping up on him and then shrugged. "Yeah, it's sort of creepy in here, but that's why I like it. The silence is cool. Like we're on another planet or something." His grin widened.