When Mom’s paws get itchy in the middle of the week, she goes trail shopping with The Witch and puts the best ones on a special list. Then, when we have time for an adventure she looks at the list, picks a trail, and builds an adventure around it. This trip was built around a place called Glass Mountain.
“What’s special about this place, Mom?” I asked as the trees spread out to nothing and The Wagon turned its nose toward the sky.
“Hush,” Mom said. “I’m concentrating.” Then she did the thing behind the driving wheel that means we’re about to get out.
“Are we there…?” I started to ask, but she slammed the door in front of my nose. I watched through the front window while she picked up rocks the size of bulldogs from the road and threw them off the edge of the mountain. They rolled and jumped, and some of them split into smaller rocks the size of cats, and squirrels, and chipmunks. When she got back in I noticed her paws were shaking a bit. I said, “It’s a good thing this road is so narrow and you didn’t have to carry the rocks so far to throw them off a cliff.”
“I don’t think we should be driving here,” Mom said in a voice that wanted to scream. “But it’s too narrow to turn around and I don’t think I could back straight down this.” I looked out the window again.
The further we drove, the taller the road got, and I too wondered how we’d get out of this one. Finally the road got a little wider and less cliff-y and Mom stopped the Wagon in the flat spot. She took a deep breath to wash the shanking out of her hands and legs before we got out for good.
I jumped into the wilder-ness and looked around. “Mom, this trail looks just like the road.”
“That’s because it is the road. We’re still more than a mile from where we meant to be, but we will definitely get stuck if we try to keep driving on this. It’s not that much farther. Come on!”
Up close Glass Mountain wasn’t really a mountain made of glass like its name said. It was more like a very, very large pile of rocks. As a team they made a big mountain, but each rock wobbled and slid as I walked on it like it was just waiting for a chance to roll away and do its own thing. When I looked down at the rocks to plan where to put my paws, I saw big, pointy spiders skuddling from the sun into the dark cracks between the rocks. They moved so fast that it was like seeing something out of the corner of my eye, even when I tried to look right at them. Most of the rocks were grey and scratchy and made sounds like dishes when they clinked against each other, but the other half of the rocks were black and smooth and looked like modernism. Far away the black rocks sparkled in the sun like a full car kennel in the summer, but as I got closer they looked like black trash bags stuck on the rocks. When I got close enough to sniff them, I saw waves of color inside and the broken places were shaped like seashells. These were curious rocks indeed.
“What is it?” I sniffed at one of the modernism rocks. They were evil, I could tell that.
“It’s glass,” Mom said. “Volcano glass.”
“It’s not glass!” I said. “This isn’t what they make windows and cups out of. It looks like what they make pianos or the bathroom sinks in fancy bachelor pads out of. You keep saying we’re going to volcanos, but I don’t think you’re watching enough movies because there is never, ever any lava in your volcanoes.”
“This was lava once. You know how ice and snow and water are all different shapes of the same thing?” Mom said in her teacher voice. “Well this whole mountain is like a fountain or a wave that was flash frozen. All the frothy bits would be like these pumice rocks,” she kicked one of the rough rocks and it went further than most rocks would have with such a wimpy kick. “…But this obsidian is like an ice cube: rock flash frozen solid.” I looked around and tried to picture the landscape as a giant wave, but it still looked like a big pile of rocks to me. Either Mom was pulling my tail again, or volcanos aren’t as exciting in real life as they are on TV.
We tottered and stumbled through the maze of roads that all looked a lot like each other, and twisted up on themselves like they wanted to go nowhere. After awhile we found the trail, which looked a lot like the not-trail we’d been hiking on before. A little while later Mom stopped and looked around. “Dog doo,” she said. “I made a cairn where we joined the main trail, but I forgot to mark the way to the car. I sure hope we don’t get lost.” I looked around again at the sameness of the rocks, and the senseless lines of the road striping the mountain. The roads were easier to see from a distance than close up. Suddenly the interesting spiked rock towers that had been exciting before looked mominous, like hooded doom-owls waiting to fulfill and ancient curse. Also, Mom was listening to a story about owls and curses, so maybe it was an eery coincidence.
The mountain came on all of a gradual, but then again we were also hiking gradually. Both of us had to plan every step, and sometimes the rocks we were standing on wobbled and dumped. Every time the nobbly part of Mom’s ankle dumped into a sharp rock, she made a loud bellowing noise like the lady on YouTube that dove nose first out of a bucket of grapes. We climbed and climbed until the road we were on ended in a wall of rocks the size of suitcases.
“This is it,” Mom said. “We’re here.”
“But the top of the mountain is up there,” I said, even though I didn’t want to give her any ideas.
“Yeah, but the trail doesn’t go to the top, and with how rough it’s been to walk on trail I don’t even want to try going off trail.” We both looked up at the crown of doom-owls guarding the summit, and then we turned around.
I must have climbed too close to the doom-owls, because their black magic got into my legs and hexed them. Usually Mom is the one doing the teetering and stumbling while I hike sturdily on my four legs. But these rocks made me pitch and roll this way and that just like Mom, and it was tiring, thirsty work. Sometimes I felt my legs wind down like the wind-up easter bunny Mom gave me for Easter. I waited for the huge paw of doom to come down and rip my legs off like I did to the bunny.
The way down felt like half the distance but twice the work. I thought about lying in the sun and letting Mom go while I waited for the owls to take me. Then Mom’s teakettle voice came to me over the rocks. “Look, there’s the van. We’re almost there!” I looked down the hill at the Covered Wagon, whose black windows were glittering in the sun just like the ice-rocks. For a moment I thought about giving up anyway. While Mom was waiting for me to make up my mind to walk over the last few rocks, she picked up a black boulder the size of a raccoon and started walking with it.
“What are you doing?” I called down the hill after her.
“Souvenirs!” Mom shouted.
“But it’s so big…”
“That’s what she said!” Mom snickered, but when she realized that dogs can’t laugh at clever grown-up jokes (even if they get them and want to laugh to show how sofishticated their senses of humor are) she said, “You’re right.” She stood over another pointy rock and dropped her rock on the point. “Damn, it didn’t break,” she said. Then she picked up a smaller black rock. This one was the size of a large cat. She dropped it on another rock. “Ow!” she said sucking on her finger. “It bit me!”
Luckily, now that we had sacrificed some blood to the mountain, it let us go. Mom turned The Wagon’s temperature to its penguin setting, and we jostled and rolled down the hill toward our next adventure.
Oscar the Glass Kicking Dog