For my 50th birthday, I bought a bottle of Balvenie Portwood 21 year-old Scotch and sought out the people who’ve been important in my life to offer a toast of thanks. Some weren’t close enough to clink a glass, so I started writing virtual toasts. That’s where this piece came from – the easiest, most pleasurable writing I’ve ever done.

I decided I needed a hiking partner – I wanted the moral encouragement a well-matched companion might provide. In high school, Champ had been on the football team, while I was a decidedly unathletic music geek…In 2012 we hiked Algonquin, followed that up with Marcy in 2014, then we hiked Esther and Whiteface in 2018. I proposed the Traverse shortly thereafter.

Jim had been concerned about bears as the trip approached; he’d read about several close encounters on the message boards he followed. I wasn’t too worried, because I’d never actually seen a bear in 35 years of hiking in the Adirondacks. I’d camped before in areas where the NYS DEC warned visitors to be cautious, and I followed their rules, printed on bright yellow signs at most trailheads.

Recently, a friend ran into an old classmate, who said she remembered me from school. I looked her up on Facebook, and although the recent profile shot rang a bell, I couldn’t place her. That sent me back to a much earlier facebook, the 1987 FHS (Fairport, NY) Hourglass.

He awoke in the dark, instantly alert. Curious, he sat up and listened. The pale glow from the bedside clock blinked 3:48 am. The house was still; the neighborhood was quiet except for the rustle and last drips of rain through the trees and on the roof. Nothing else moved, but anticipation sparked the edges of his consciousness. What had called him?