Trish has one last chance at an adventure before she starts college, so she decides to go with her friends on a small hiking expedition to a remote Indian Reservation. There they learn that the area was once considered a gathering place for spirits and gods. Trish has a feeling some of those old stories may not be entirely untrue as she starts to feel a strange presence around her. Her troubles only amplify when her friend Anna decides she needs some extreme adventuring and dares Trish to find out if one of the stories is true. What will she find at the Sacred Pool? Nothing, or something much more than she could ever have dreamed?
I could never have imagined a lover such as him, nor the depth of the emotions I felt for his touch.
It was the middle of summer when my friends and I decided to take the road trip north into the Indian Reservation. We’d graduated from high school in the early summer and were enjoying our last month as youths before the fall swept us away to our futures. Some of us would go to college and a few lucky ones had jobs waiting for them come Monday. I was one of those set for college, but little did I know my life was going to travel in a very different direction
We piled into a rental van and plodded our way up the long highway into the heavily forested woods of Canada, home of maple leaves and lumberjacks of questionable gender identity. The trees were thick on either side of the road that twisted and wound its way deep into the heart of no-reception.
“Guys, can we put a little more speed on this thing? I’m not getting any reception on my cell phone,”
my best friend, Anna, complained. She rode shotgun. That is, the front passenger seat.
“We could, but I think it’d fall apart,” our driver, Tom, joked. Fortunately, the van looked a little sturdier than that. There were only a few dings and scratches on the outside. Maybe a loose wheel or two.
“How much farther?” our resident whiner, Clarisse, moaned. She sat beside me in the center of the van so she couldn’t distract Tom. They were a couple, and sometimes Clarisse had a hard time not distracting Tom with ‘declarations’ of love.
“Another hour,” Tom replied.
“Pipe down. Some of us are trying to sleep,” Tiffany spoke up. She sat in the back seat with her arms wrapped around her own boy-toy, Alex.
Alex was your typical nerd with an ego the size of my soon-to-be college football stadium, but he was useful. He was the one who told us about this great lodge we were going to. It’d been part of some archaeological paper he’d done for one of our history classes. He pushed his thick glasses against his nose and glared at the rest of us. “Yes, you’re all a little too loud,” he complained.
Anna turned in her seat to face me. “Trish, can you get anything on your phone?” she asked me, ignoring Alex’s complaining. That was my name. Well, my pet name. My full name was Trisha.
I glanced at my screen. There were no bars. “Nope,” I replied.
Anna frowned and faced forward with her arms crossed and her lips pouting. “Don’t the squirrels know enough to set up cellphone towers?” she commented.
“Were you expecting the five-star treatment here? Never forget that we are out in the middle of territory hardly crossed by modern man,” Alex scolded her.
She rolled her eyes and glanced over her shoulder at the rest of us. “We know, we know, the Indians revered this place as some sacred religious site. You’ve told us that a million times.”
“Then you will hear it a million and one times because you can’t seem to understand that we are traveling to a very important and sacred site for the Native Americans,” Alex told her. He swept his hand over the trees that flew by and Tiffany glared at him for moving. He was oblivious to her Evil Eye. “Every summer the scattered tribes would travel through these woods to the holy mountain to pray to their gods for a good year of hunting and fishing. They would feast and tell stories, and during this period all crimes were taboo. To break the taboo meant death.”
Anna groaned and faced forward. “Please gods be merciful and give me death,” she muttered.
“Does anyone else have to go to the bathroom?” Clarisse wondered.
One pit-stop and thirty miles later the road changed from a shallow up-and-down, side-to-side path to a curvy, winding, inclining route. We drove by a large, wooden, weathered sign. “Sacred Pools Lodge,” I murmured, reading the contents of the sign.
“That’s our turn, so that means only thirty more miles,” Anna comforted us all.
Tom turned right onto a road that was part gravel, part dirt, and half pothole. If there weren’t potholes trying to swallow us then we had to contend with washboards or washouts. The trees rose up either side of us and were pressed so close against the road that another car would have trouble passing ours. Large rocks dotted the few patches of land between the thick trees, and the scent of clear water invaded our vehicle. The van rattled its way up the winding driveway, and after a few sharp, slow turns we bumped over a wooden bridge that spanned a small but lively creek. I glanced out the window of the van and into the crystal-clear water. It looked cold, and I couldn’t help but shiver.
Soon the trees cleared enough that we caught our first view of where we were staying. Sacred Pools Lodge was a rectangular, two-story building hewn from large logs cleared from the site. The front had large windows that looked down on the road and us, and there were several steep peeks in the roof to keep off the notoriously heavy Canadian winter snow. A large chimney stuck out near the front of the building, and there were several smaller ones at the rear and peeking out from the roofs. I glimpsed several trails that led from the front of the lodge up the rocky, pine-covered hill behind the building.
The driveway wound its way to the pair of front doors, and Tom parked the car there so we could unload. A small parking lot stood to the side of the lodge and in front of where Tom parked the van. The area was empty except for our vehicle.
We piled out and stretched our weary, cramped limbs. The doors of the lodge opened and an old fellow stepped out. Judging by the dark skin, hair, and facial features I guessed he was an Indian. His long, gray-speckled hair was tied back in a braid that stretched down most of his back. I was jealous. Mine wouldn’t even stay out of my face, much less grow that long.
Tom, as our unofficial leader, stepped forward and shook hands with the gentleman. “Hi, we’re the group who rented the three rooms,” he explained.
The Indian bowed his head. “I give you greetings. My name is Chiniki, and I am the owner of Sacred Pools Lodge. Your rooms have been prepared for you if you would follow me,” he invited us.
We followed him inside and were all pleased to see there were clean carpets over the real hardwood floors and there wasn’t a speck of dust. The entrance hall was a large, open-rafter room that occupied the center and left-front half of the lodge. A wide staircase at the back led to the second floor, and to our right were a couple of doors that led off into the kitchen and dining hall. The large chimney I noticed over the roof ended in a wide hearth against the far left wall. A roaring fire crackled beneath the mantel, and couches and chairs were positioned close to the heat.
Chiniki led us over to the staircase and a desk that stood close by. He offered us the sign-in book while Tom pre-paid our bill. “Is the hiking good this year?” Tom asked the proprietor.
“As good as any,” Chiniki replied.
“No trouble with falling logs or mudslides?” Tom wondered.
Chiniki smiled and shook his head. “No, the gods do not tolerate the destruction of their paths,” he told us.
“Will we be able to see the ancient meeting grounds?” Alex spoke up. His reason for coming was a free ride to the archeaological funland at the top of the mountain. Room and board not included.
Chiniki nodded. “Yes, they are open, but I will need to guide you there myself. The trails are numerous, and one can easily get lost.”
“Don’t you have any maps or pictures of the trails?” Tiffany asked him.
“No. We do not allow cameras on many of the trails. The gods wish to remain hidden,” he explained.
“That’s fine. When can we go up the trails?” Tom wondered.
He, like Anna and I, were here for the hiking part of this little adventure. The trails around the lodge were legendary for their scenic views, wildlife, and flowers, ane we weren’t about to miss out on a chance to see those sights. Clarisse was along for the ride to enjoy Tom, and Tiffany was there to lend moral support for Alex.
“It is too late today to hike, but there are many trails that loop around the top of the lodge which you can travel on without a guide,” Chiniki replied. The long drive had taken most of the day and the sun set early among those forested mountains. It was early September, and the days were already preparing for Fall by shortening themselves and being on the slightly chilly side.
“Then I guess we’ll take our rooms and sit by the fire,” Tom suggested.
Chiniki handed us three room keys and we headed up the stairs.