Kate Buffett and the Deep Blue Sea

Chapter Three: A Surprise on the Mountain

Giant drops of rain pounded against the window as Kate miserably looked out into the darkness. It was late Friday night and the hike to Green Lakes then all the way to the summit of Monkey Mountain was tomorrow. Clicking on her weather app for the hundredth time she saw that only 30% chance of rain was predicted for Saturday. It didn’t seem possible that the rain would stop in time for the trail to be dry enough to hike safely.

“Arghhhh,” she growled as she texted Kristy. Three rain cloud and sad face emojis later Kate heard her phone ring.

“Kate, don’t stress. Just go to sleep. My mom is fine with hiking in the mud. We have hiking sticks enough for you and we just looked at the radar app. She says it will be fine by the time we want to leave. Get over here by 9:00. And don’t worry so much,” Kristy pleaded, adding, “It’s my birthday hike and nothing will stop us from having a great time.”

Kate actually felt herself relax about the weather. Kristy was her best friend and always ready for adventure. Nothing seemed to bother her – or her mom. Even though Kate and Kristy were both in the 7th grade at Pacific Heights Middle School, Kate had turned 12 way back in 6th grade last May, Kristy was just turning 12 tomorrow. It didn’t seem to matter that Kristy was a bit younger, she was about the boldest kid Kate knew. Gathering her quilt up around her for cozy comfort she took Kristy’s advice and nodded off to sleep.

Because of the dark, rainy night Kate had never closed her curtains and she was awakened by – big surprise – sunlight beaming in onto her face. She leaped straight up and bouncing on her bed, cheered, “It’s a beautiful day! Yipppeee!”

From across the hall Kate heard her dad and mom laughing, “We thought you’d never wake up sleepy head. Hurry down for some breakfast. We need to get ready to drive to Kristy’s in a half hour.”

In no time, Kate had her boots on, her backpack stuffed with an extra fleece, a rain parka, snacks, two reusable water bottles, her phone and her surprise for Kristy’s birthday.

As they rounded the corner to Kristy’s house Kate saw that the dusty, old Jeep was loaded and ready. Kristy’s dad, Frank, was pulling out of the driveway in his truck. He rolled down the window and called, “So sorry I have to work today. You all have an amazing time. Kristy is inside finishing her breakfast. Be sure to take a lot of pictures, I know you’ll probably see snow in the altitude. Early snow always looks especially great against a bluebird sky,” he grinned pointing at the cloudless sky.

Thinking about the extra fleece in her backpack, Kate shouted back, “Oh, me too!!!” October was early for snow and Kate loved it.

Kristy had planned this mountain adventure hike months ago. Turning 12 on October 12 gave her the idea to do a 12 mile hike with her  friend, Kate. They had always been “kinda” friends but after a whole season on the soccer team together they had discovered a lot in common. Kristy thought Kate would be the perfect friend to bring on her 12th birthday adventure. The plan was to drive toward the mountains and begin the hike toward Green Lakes by 9:30. The 4.5-mile trek in should get them to the lakes before lunch time. Since hot dogs were Kristy’s favorite camping food the plan was to cook up some lunch. After lunch they would hike the last mile and a half up the north side of Monkey Mountain along a narrow creek. The return trip would get them back to the car before dark and with 12 miles under their belt.

The drive to the trail head was bumpy and muddy. Jostling around in the back seat of the Jeep got Kate and Kristy singing and giggling most of the way. Kate didn’t hike as much as Kristy and her family did, but she was sure she could make the full 12 miles. She had been training for soccer season by doing a lot of running since last July.  As they loaded up their packs and adjusted their hiking sticks, Kate unzipped the pocket where she had Kristy’s birthday surprise hidden away. Yup, it was still there safe and sound.

Although the trail was a bit soggy, it wasn’t too slippery except on the moss-covered rocks. Each time they turned a corner toward the dozens of rushing waterfalls along the Crescent Creek they were careful not to step on any wet spots. Kristy’s mom, who preferred that Kate call her Emily, kept a close eye on the girls. Emily wanted them to learn how to be bold and cautious at the same time. Hiking in the river and mountain terrain was her favorite pastime, but she knew that accidents could easily happen.

As they were all taking a rest after crossing the huge log that served as a bridge across a narrow point in the creek, Emily suddenly whispered, “Shhhhh, girls look over to your left.”

There in the meadow was a mother deer and her small baby. They were nibbling on the tender grass, knee deep in the water. Just overhead through a break in the trees the sun beamed softly on their backs. Kate could hardly breathe, it was amazing. With no sound at all she moved her phone from her pocket and focused to take a picture. Just then a branch snapped to the right. All three humans whipped their heads in the direction of the sound, and so did the deer. There crouched in the shadow of a bed of ferns was a gray wolf. 

For a moment no one moved. Then in a flash the two deer sprang to life a bounced off across the creek and began running up the side of the hill. Emily shouted to the girls, “Jump up, yell and wave your arms.”

Immediately the quiet of the forest was interrupted by the chaos of three yelling, screaming people. The gray wolf looked their way for only a second then took off in the opposite direction.

Kate’s heart was beating so hard it seemed it would burst from her chest. Emily grabbed the girls in a hug and praised, “You guys were amazing. I know the wolf was beyond scary, but you did the right thing. Running away would have been exactly the wrong thing to do. We must have looked big and frightening to the wolf, all bunched together with our arms waving. It was his own instinct to run away from something like that. I did have this bear spray if it started approaching us, but I am very glad I didn’t have to use it.”

Kate knew that hiking in the fall was different than hiking in the summer. The animals were preparing for winter and were moving around a lot. Just the same she’d never seen a wolf in real life.  Sadly, she didn’t get a picture of any of it.  Looking around the meadow she wondered if the rest of the pack was nearby. The thought of more than one wolf freaked her out a bit.

Kristy saw Kate curiously looking toward the trees where the wolf had scampered off. Kate always like to have some pictures to share with her family so Kristy suggested, “Hey, let’s go over what we just saw while we finish the rest of the hike up to the meadow by Green Lakes. Let’s see if we can remember every little detail and store what we saw as a ‘mental picture.’”

Emily could not have been happier to hear that, so she started the detail collection. Really being present and savoring each part of being in nature meant a lot to Emily. As they tossed fresh details to the conversation, it seemed like no time before they were rounding the last rise of the hike. It was right there that the forest opened up to another large alpine meadow where the Green Lakes spread like blue jewels against the green.

As Emily set up her small backpacking grill to cook Kristy’s birthday hot dogs, the girls rushed off the explore. Their hiking boots and wool socks were quickly tossed onto the shore as they waded in the super cold lake. Collecting small pieces of basalt and obsidian tossed into the lake from ancient volcanoes, they barely minded their freezing toes.

Emily shook her head at the sight of the girls so intent on collecting rocks while freezing their feet. “Get out of the water you silly Eskimos. Come dry off your feet and get those socks back on. It’s time to fuel up.”

It seemed like no time had passed before they had eaten lunch and were all packed up, heading toward the last waterfall of their day. It was a 100 foot high cascade of water spilling off the side of Monkey Mountain.

Huge boulders lined the trail that followed the right side of the waterfall. Snow patches began to appear ahead as they approached the 5th mile of their hike at 6,000 feet in elevation. As the temperature dropped, they donned their fleece parkas and excitedly climbed on. For two reasons, there was very little conversation at this part of the hike. The steep climb and the elevation made them breathless. The loud rushing of the waterfall would have drowned out talking anyway.

Suddenly a loud booming crash broke into the sound of heavy breathing and the waterfall. The sound came from just ahead of the trio and to the left. They instinctively ducked into a crouch behind the nearest boulder as they looked up. Two other cracks and booms followed the first one as they watched, stunned, as an avalanche of snow pounded down and into the waterfall.

As the sheets of snow hit the water and quickly vanished the area became quiet, except for the rushing of the falls. Emily broke the spell, “Can you even believe what we just saw. I know that early October snow is often precarious and unstable. That rain we had last night dropped 18 inches of snow up here on the mountain. I guess as the bottom layer started to melt off it caused the avalanche to break loose. What an incredible sight!”

Emily went on the explain to the girls the reason they had chosen the boulder covered trail they were on., “This trail is on the south side of the mountain where the rocks are warmer, and I saw there was very little snow over here.”

Kate couldn’t stop staring at the avalanche snow still piled to the side of the waterfall, amazed at how much had simply disappeared down the waterfall. She was extremely glad that Emily was so experienced. Instead of feeling scared, she was just so excited at what this hike had brought. Then, as a cloud moved away and the sun beamed down on the snow pile, Kate spotted something out of place.

It was a plastic water bottle, shining in the sunshine. “Noooo!” shouted Kate, “I cannot believe there is a water bottle way out here.”

“Summer hikers, boy that makes me mad, “added Kristy, “How hard is it to bring a reusable bottle like we do? Really???”

Kate thought back on the beach cleanup the Blue Team had done last Saturday, on the beach where the Salt Creek river, fed by Crescent Creek, flowed into the ocean. Was it even possible that this water bottle could eventually ride on melted snow, into the creek then into the river and finally out to sea? She decided it was time to give Kristy her birthday surprise.

“Hey,” she said as she winked at Emily, “Let’s finish our last half mile up to the summit. I have something for you, Kristy, for your birthday.”

Well, in anticipation of a surprise Kristy hustled forward and they made the summit and completed their first 6 miles in record time. The sun had warmed the flat rocks where the entire valley spread below with breath-taking views. “Sit down, Kristy! Here’s your birthday surprise.”

With that, Kate rustled into her backpack and pulled out a small box. Kristy opened it as the smell of fresh cupcakes filled the air. In the box were three chocolate cupcakes, Kristy’s favorite, with bright yellow icing covered with sprinkles. In the box were 12 small candles and a book of matches. As Emily arranged the candles and lit them, the robust sound of “Happy Birthday” filled the air.

“But wait,” announced Kate, “There’s more.” She pulled a pink envelope from her backpack, then waited breathlessly as Kristy opened it.

“No way!!!!” screamed Kristy as she leaped in the air dancing around holding the letter that had been tucked into her birthday card.

The letter read, “Dear Kristy, We are pleased to accept your short film, ‘Snowball Saves the Sea’ into our Mountain Film Festival. As the youngest filmmaker in the event we will be celebrating you and your film as a special filmmakers’ event. Because of your film, we will be adding an environmental category in every Mountain Film Festival in the future.”

No birthday surprise could have meant more to Kristy. She had worked long and hard on her film, trying to keep it at 3 minutes. She figured a story created by a kid should be short and really catch attention. The theme of her film was based on exactly what Kate had just seen. Her plan had worked, she was going to be in the Mountain Film Festival. (See the film that inspired this chapter here)

Bubbling with excitement with all that had happened over the amazing hike, the 5 ½ miles back to the car flew by.  Sweaty, dusty and tired the trio was stoked to have completed all 11 miles as the afternoon sun dipped behind Monkey Mountain. Kristy knew that turning 11 was just the start. It was going to be a great year!

And there is more! Check out our “Reader’s Guide Page” for Chapter 3

Each month we will be adding a new Chapter to the book Kate Buffett and the Deep Blue Sea here on the Blue Life Connections website.  If you would like to own your own copy of THE QUEST FOR BLUE PLANET SUPER HEROES that includes the first two chapter of Kate Buffett and the Deep Blue Sea, CLICK HERE.

If you would like to see the film by a real-life person from which we created the character Kristy, go to our page for REAL LIFE SUPER HERO, Julia A.  You can watch her film, “Snowball Saves the Sea” from there.