The mountain was pink from the sun when I popped my head out of the tent early the next morning. It was cold enough to see my breath, but I was a morning person so I was ready to get up. I reached back into my sleeping bag and pulled on some warm clothes and my parka that I had put there just before getting up. I pulled my book out of an outside pocket of my pack and crawled out of the tent. My mind was on fresh coffee and the euphoria from the night before, but now it was coffee time, not euphoria time. I lit the stove, started the water and got ready to make coffee. As the water was heating, I scooted back into the scrub trees to take a morning leak.
I must have drunk coffee and read my book for an hour. As I read, my eyes lifted up to the mountain from time to time to watch it changing with the rising of the light. I heard Jake stirring. I reheated the pan and poured him a cup of coffee and handed it into the tent. Jake’s naked upper body was part way out of his sleeping bag. He had propped himself on his left elbow and was rubbing sleep out of his eyes with his right fist as I handed him the cup. His hair was mussed and his beard was now two days old, both making him look sexy.
“Morning,” I said. I sighed. “God, you’re sexy.” I said this, I am sure, too cheerfully for him before his morning coffee, because his response was a grunt and a shrug. However, I had to restrain myself from pulling off all my clothes and jumping in the tent with him. Alec, alas, would be up shortly, with the sun warming the tents. In fact, I could see movement already in his tent across the meadow. I did climb in far enough to give Jake an extended good-morning kiss though. It was a really extended kiss.
I walked down the path to Alec’s tent and did the coffee thing, but not the passionate-kiss thing with Alec, as I handed him a hot cup of coffee through the flap.
“Thanks, Dad,” he said.
“Oatmeal okay for breakfast?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. He knew that was the only choice on our camping trips, but he didn’t say anything.
After breakfast, we struck our tents and packed our gear and started north along the Pacific Crest trail. Without the climb from the pass level, the hike was leisurely. We took our time going through meadows, resting beside small lakes that lay under the huge backdrop of the mountain that floated like a cloud in the warm summer air. We saw conies and marmots, saw signs of black bears, and a few goat tracks. There were some lingering snowfields to cross or skirt, red algae occasionally growing on the surface of the snow, turning the whole into a light pink. There were wildflowers everywhere. We said hello to several backpack groups traveling south. We had lunch in this land of the gods, took time for a nap or reading a book, then continued north. But our emotions were still subdued from the revelations of the day before.
We arrived at our intended campsite in the middle of the afternoon. Alec and I knew from our experience that it was one of the best sites on the whole trail. Blessedly, nobody else was there because I don’t think we were in the mood for camping side by side with other people. I found a flat spot that overlooked a small lake. Alec moved down the trail 100 paces across a meadow and started to set his tent up, laying out the ground sheet. He came back for the rest of his gear. Jake and I had pulled off our boots and were sitting with our backs to a rock holding hands, enjoying the newfound peace among us.
Alec ambled back toward where we were and sat down on the grass. “Okay, Alec, my turn to ask questions,” Jake said. He looked across the meadow at Alec’s campsite. “Why is it you set your tent up so far away from ours? You did that last night, too.”
Before Alec could answer, I jumped in. I couldn’t contain a mischievous grin on my face: “He’s been doing that for a couple of years. That’s so he can jerk off at night without his old man hearing. He used to set up right alongside—till he was 12. You know what happens at that age, Jake. Then he decided the danger of bears was less than the danger of embarrassment and moved his tent away from the main camp.”
“Da-a-d, that’s not the reason.” But his crimson face betrayed him. Jake and I laughed. Alec sputtered.
“Okay, you guys,” Alec said, turning his head to each of our laughing faces. “You want war, you got war. You want proximity, you got proximity.” He stood up, moved across the camp and started counting paces, measuring the amount of flat ground right next to our tent, miming with his hands where he would pound his stakes, making sure we were watching what he was doing. “Perfect for my tent,” he announced finally.
He started off to his campsite, then turned, looked at me with an impish grin and said: “I think I may have seen a bear down there,” nodding his head towards his camp. “It’s far, far too dangerous for me to stay there tonight alone without the protection of two strong men.” He put his arms up, flexed his muscles and leered at us.
It dawned on me what he was up to. “Oh, no you don’t,” I said, getting up. Alec took off down the trail toward his tent site at a dead run, giddy with laughter. It took me a few moments to get my boots back on, and then I started after him. Before I reached him (the kid is getting faster every year) he was starting to pull up his tent stakes. I grabbed him by the waist and pulled him away from the tent.
“I’m afraid of bears! I’m going to be mauled if I stay here! I’ll be celibate for tonight, I promise.” We struggled some more. “They’ll arrest you for neglect if I’m hurt. You know that,” he said, struggling to get away from my grasp. I pulled him back, I tripped and we both fell on the ground. Jake was off in the distance, his head thrown back in laughter.
“Okay, imp. You’ve had it now!” I said, laughing. He struggled, but eventually I was able to use my weight and strength to turn him over on his back. I sat astride his chest, holding his wrists down over his head. Alas, it wasn’t going to be much longer before he would be able to turn the tables on me at wrestling like this, but I had him this time.
“Say Uncle!” I ordered
He looked at me and didn’t say a thing.
“Say Uncle!” I repeated, shaking his shoulders.
“Aunt!” Alec shouted to the wind.
“Mother!” he shouted even louder.
“Smartass! Say Uncle!” I kept holding him down.
“You’ve running out of family.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Say Uncle!” I held him more tightly to the ground.
He paused and drew in his breath and glanced across the meadow before turning back to me. He looked into my eyes. His voice was quiet.
Alec and I looked at each other for almost a full minute. “Jake,” he said even more quietly. His eyes were steady as I returned his look, digesting the meaning of what he was saying. “Uncle Jake?” he said impishly. I was overwhelmed (again) by love for this kid, but at a loss for the right words.
“You… You… You won’t give up fair and square.” I harrumphed, trying to maintain my composure. I let him go and rose to my feet. As I said, Alec was either 14 going on 10 or 14 going on 25. It never ceased to surprise me which age would emerge.
I extended my hand. He grabbed me on the wrist as I held his and pulled him off the ground. He brushed himself off. He looked at me again—an adult for all intents and purposes at that moment. “Dad, two days ago I was at the point where I would have done almost anything to break you two up—even though I knew it would hurt you. Maybe even yesterday morning I had lingering doubts about Jake. But then he opened his soul and heart, and I fell in.
“As I hiked yesterday afternoon and today I thought about what he had gone through—how hard it must have been for Jake to hold all that in for some many years and how much my presence must have rattled him, even though I had no clue what was going on. And I realized that he changed yesterday. And it’s my turn to change. I want to know him better.”
I was barely holding back my tears.
Alec kept on: “Jake opened himself to me for the first time, and I got a glimpse of what you see in him and how much the end of the relationship between Tran and Jake must have meant. And I realize I have to stop hating him. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I nodded, then reached over and pulled him to me in a hug. I was glad Alec couldn’t see the gush of tears that finally flowed. I let him go and started across the meadow. I called back to him. “I certainly don’t see any sign of bears over here. I think you should leave your tent where it is.” As I got half way across the meadow, Alec ran up to me, put his arm on my shoulder, and we walked up the trail across the meadow to where Jake was now sitting. I left Alec and went up to Jake and lay down with my head on his lap and just looked at the sky and mountain until my emotions settled down.
* * *
Jake fired up the campstove while I put some freeze-dried food in some pots and tried again to make what passes for a gourmet dinner on a backpack trip. My major concession to civilization while backpacking is wine. I had filled some canteens with pinot noir and chardonnay before we started, willing to suffer the extra weight in the cause of civilization. I pulled our cups out and poured some pinot for Jake and me—and a little for Alec.
We finished dinner, cleaned the dishes, packed our excess gear away, then sat, sipping the last of the wine, as the day wound down. Mount Rainier showed pink on the few western slopes we could see as the last rays of sun slipped below the horizon, and the moon was silently rising in the east. Definitely, sweet and mellow time.
“I’ve never seen anything so unbelievably beautiful,” Jake said as he leaned back against a rock face still warm from the day’s sun.
“What!? We have a city boy coming west to be awed by a minor mountain range—and a dormant volcano next to it. We have a goddam tourist in our midst, Alec. And he hasn’t even experienced one of the star attractions. What are we going to do with these tourist types, Alec?”
“I don’t know. But we could baptize him in that lake over there—if he knows how to swim, that is. They do know how to swim in Boston, don’t they? I would hope so. They have an ocean there, I think. I suspect water’s water everywhere, so maybe Jake will recognize a swimming opportunity in a lake when he sees it.”
“Okay, you guys,” Jake said. “Enough! Besides, water isn’t water everywhere, idiots. If I were you I wouldn’t go swimming in anything near Boston, except in a public pool that’s half chlorine.”
“There’s no chlorine in the lake over there, I assure you,” I said. “Let’s go.”
Alec and I stripped to our underwear and ran to the lake—an opportunity to get our bodies and some of our clothes clean at the same time. In a couple of minutes Jake joined us. Mountain lakes are often shallow and, in late summer, the water can get toasty warm. We played and splashed each other till it was almost dark and the moon was threatening to take over the lighting duties. The gathering mountain chill made us reluctant to get out of the water, but eventually we high-tailed it back to camp.
“G’night dad, g’night Jake,” Alec said as he grabbed his clothes and headed off across the meadow. “If I’m eaten by a bear, it’s all your fault.”
“Good night. What dangers our children won’t face for a little right-hand freedom!” I said to Jake, loud enough for Alec to hear.
“Gross!” was the last thing I heard from Alec that night.
Jake was laughing quietly in the background. “Come on. Let’s get in the tent before the bugs eat us alive. Hand me your underwear and I’ll hang it up,” I said. “If I hang it up right, the sun might dry it out in the morning before we get up. If not, you’ll have to go commando or freeze your nuts off tomorrow with wet boxers.”
Jake and I slipped our boxers off and I hung them up. We were naked, with nothing between us and an enormous sky—and swarms of mosquitoes that started to descend as the breeze dropped off. I picked up the rest of my clothes and walked to the tent. Jake did likewise. I kneeled down, unzipped the tent, put my clothes at the foot of my sleeping bag and started to crawl through the opening. After the hiking, the sun the swimming and the emotions, I collapsed into my sleeping bag and was asleep in a few minutes.
I was being shaken awake. Through bleary eyes I saw a naked Jake, aroused, with his hands on my shoulder illuminated in the soft moonlight outside the tent. “Time to go skinny dipping,” he said.
“Sawyer, you’re nuts. It must be two in the morning.” I turned over.
Shake. Shake. “Robbeeeee. We’re going skinny dipping. There’ll be no cars to interrupt us this time.” Jake giggled as he upped the ante by unzipping my sleeping bag and exposing my naked body to the night air. He can be a real charmer, at times.
“Grumble. Grumble,” I grumbled. Then he started to tickle me. “Okay, you are in for it now.” Rising to the occasion, I got out of my sleeping bag and started to go after him, but he had the tent unzipped and was outside in a trice. I crawled after him, but he was already on his way to the lake. All I could see was a beautiful naked backside running in the moonlight and a final jump into the lake. I zipped the tent back up and was right behind him.
We swam, dived, grabbed ass and dunked each other like small boys—or young men in Mississippi. The water felt warm and wonderful—for about half an hour—until the cold mountain air drove us back to the camp. We pulled a towel from the line and dried each other off in the moonlight before starting back into the tent.
I was on my hands and knees crawling into the tent when I heard Jake cry: “Bare. Look, bare,” I started to turn around to see what he was looking at, when I felt a set of teeth nipping on my butt—plus a hand gently but firmly reaching through my legs and grasping my genitals. I yelped. “Hurry! Bare. It’s getting hard to bear. It’s getting hard,” said the voice from behind me. “Moreover, the mosquitoes are coming, and its getting nippy.” Jake’s teeth lit on my butt once again. I groaned and was ready to zip him out of the tent for the lousy puns. I crawled further into the tent, Jake crawling right behind me. But he never let go of my genitals and never stopping nipping. I turned around and crawled back to the entrance so I could zip up the tent.
“Thanks for zipping up the tent behind you.” I said in mock displeasure. He never let me go. I turned around once again and crawled on top of my sleeping bag and pad, a last attempt to escape (ha!) this now-giggling, butt-nipping monster.
By this time, I was getting really hard, but it was pretty clear that Jake had taken possession of that part of my anatomy, his mouth lightly biting the back of my thighs, then nipping my butt again, before he slid his tongue down the crack.
Somehow he managed to get in front of me, without letting go of his, no, my prized possession. He slid his teeth across my abdomen. His right hand started to knead my abs before moving up to the hair on my chest, sifting it through his fingers. His little finger started toying with my nipples, sending unbelievable electric pleasure waves into my brain and cock. His left hand had never left my genitals the whole time. I wouldn’t call it a death grip, but it didn’t appear he was about to let go for a while.
Somewhere in this seduction we got face to face, his nips changed to kisses, then to caresses as his lips and tongue dropped down my chest and began to circle the area around my penis, never touching my erection directly, but grazing it from time to time with his breath. Soon, I was writhing, waves of pleasure running through my body. I ran my fingers through his hair, still damp from swimming. His lips moved to the inside of my thighs. I opened my legs to accept his attentions. He kissed up my thighs, then, loosening his grasp of my penis, caressed my testicles with his tongue, before kissing his way up the shaft, ending at its head. Then he enveloped my whole mushroom glans with his mouth. I drew in a sharp breath. The sensations going through me were unbelievable.
Jake’s mouth and tongue toyed with my cock head as my hips rose and fell in response to the ecstasy I was feeling. His fingers danced through my perineum. I finally could hold off no longer, the sounds of pleasure coming from my lips and back of my throat becoming more intense and frequent. The head of my penis started to swell and grow harder and I started to push more urgently into Jake’s mouth. He sensed my building pressure, let go of my testicles, reached between my legs to grab the cheeks of my butt, pressing firmly with his arm and wrist against my balls and perineum and sliding a finger around my anus. That was all it took. I grabbed his sleeping bag, pulled it over my head and screamed a muffled scream as my cum surged again and again through my penis into Jake’s waiting mouth. A few moments later, Jake lifted up the edge of the sleeping bag that covered my head.
“Are you alive under there?”
“No. I died and went to heaven.” I was panting in absolute sexual stupor.
The sound of fabric rustled as Jake moved up along side of me. He grinned at me. “You must have liked that?” I turned my whole body to him and kissed him deeply as my answer, tasting my cum at the corner of his mouth.
I moved my right hand and began to caress his shoulder, his arm, his side, his hip, his inner thigh and finally his needy cock, all the time hearing soft hums of pleasure coming from the back of his throat. I moved my mouth down and sucked him to orgasm.
Sexually spent, with a final passionate kiss, we climbed into our sleeping bags and fell asleep. Later in the night as I woke momentarily, my finger traced “I love you, too” on his naked back.
“I love you more,” he whispered quietly.
* * *
It was light. I could hear the clatter of pots and pans and the hiss of the stove. Twenty minutes later, I heard the zipper of the tent being pulled up. “Here you go, lovebirds,” Alec said, and a hand reached in with one hot cup of coffee followed by another.
The smell of the coffee—Starbuck’s was a small Seattle chain then—filled the tent as I took the cups and set them down on the uneven ground at the head of my sleeping pad. Jake was just stirring as he pulled his arm out of the sleeping bag and threw it across me. “Mmm,” he murmured. I couldn’t tell whether it was me or the coffee that pleased him more. Probably me.
The sun had come up and had warmed the tent, and I sipped my coffee in contentment. “Alec, would you hand us our underwear, please,” I called to him. How romantic!
“Dad, I don’t know how you manage to always find the place where the sun hits first to hang your wet clothes,” he said as he handed our boxers through the tent flap. “Mine were cold and damp. They’re still damp.”
“Son, I’ll tell you something my father told me that your great grandfather told him. It’s a matter of locating the North Star, estimating where the sun is going to come up, stringing your line in exactly the right spot, then hanging your shorts to catch the first ray of sun.” I heard Jake snicker as I lectured Alec in my most pedantic voice.
“Go fuck yourself, Dad. They’re dry because you’re the luckiest person I know.”
“Such language for a child!” But, I looked across the tent to Jake and thought to myself that maybe Alec was right. At that moment I felt like the luckiest person alive.
We packed up our camp, lighter by one liter of wine and started north. The day again was glorious—sunny and mild, and we could see all the peaks of the Cascades south to Mount Hood and north to Mount Baker. Most of the time we were above timberline, walking in the warm sun through alpine meadows showing off the last wildflowers of summer.
Occasionally, we would cross snow fields, at the edge of which beargrass, heather and paintbrush would be defying the late summer season. Alec continued to lead us, but it was a different type of leadership from the first day of the trip. Even Alec’s body language was different. He would slow down to share with Jake the considerable amount he knew about the geology, flora and fauna of the Cascades. He was a natural teacher, and Jake was the eager student. Some of the darkness of Jake’s last days in Vietnam seemed to have receded as he forced himself to face this truly innocent 14 year old.
We stopped for lunch on some rocks at the crest of the ridge, then lay in the sun enjoying the view before setting out again. About 4, we stopped once again at an alpine lake about 200 feet in diameter. We worked quickly to set up our tents and cooking area, finding a spot where we could relax. Alec, as usual, set his tent up at a distance from ours. He came back to the main camp, and I opened a canteen of chardonnay, offering some to Jake and my son.
Apparently, I gave Alec a bit too much, for soon he announced, giggling: “It’s swimming time.” I started to say something, but a quick mischievous glare silenced me. He then started to strip down to his under shorts. Jake followed suit, and Alec kept signaling me to do the same. Finally, with all three of us in our boxers, Alec shouted: “See that flat rock over on the right. There’s a deep spot just off it. Last one in’s a rotten egg!” and he started to race toward the lake, with Jake and me right behind. Now knowing what was about to happen I held up, as Alec let Jake “win” the race and plunge headlong into the lake.
“HOLY SHIT!” Jake shouted as his head rose to the surface. “The water’s is like ice.” As fast as he jumped in, he scurried out. By this time, Alec and I were rolling on the ground in tears of laughter. Unlike the small lake the night before, this was fed by a snowfield 100 feet above it; the trickle of a creek at the other end of the lake ensured that the water would never get very warm.
“Okay, who was responsible for that?” Jake said as he emerged from the lake, looking directly at Alec, who started giggling like a 10-year-old.
“Cross my heart, I thought the lake was going to be warm. Besides, you ran so fast,” Alec said “Otherwise, I would have tested the water for you.”
“Cross your heart? Bullshit!” Jake said.
A grinning Jake went over to Alec, grabbed him by the arms and started to wrestle him to the lake. Knowing it was going to be a struggle, Jake indicated to me that I should take Alec’s feet, which I did, and we carried this wonderful but soon to be revenged boy twisting and turning in terror (ha!) toward the lake.
“One! Two! Three!” Jake called, as we swung Alec off the outcropping into the water, laughing as he splashed into the cold mountain lake on the count of three.
“HOLY SHIT,” Alec sputtered from the cold as we continued to laugh. He too was out of the water almost as fast as he went in.
“You know,” Alec said as he slyly sidled up to me, “all my knowledge about these lakes comes from my father. Apparently, his instruction about mountain lakes was seriously deficient—even downright misleading. I think we should teach him a lesson.” I started to back off. But before I could move three steps, Alec had tackled my legs, and Jake had grabbed my arms.
“Unfair! Unfair! Alec lies. He knew the lake was freezing. It was his trick. I just went along.” But my protestations were too late as I heard the 1-2-3 count and felt the strong arms of my son and my lover flinging me through the air—alas, too temporarily—over the ice-cold water. HOLY SHIT, my thoughts echoed, it was bitter cold, and I was out of the lake as fast as I could fly, to a giggling Alec and Jake.
We laughed so hard we all fell to the ground. We then lay in the warm sun to dry off before heading back to the camp, Alec between Jake and me, slinging his long arms across both our shoulders. At that point, I realized how fundamental the change in our relationships was. I was overwhelmed with happiness.
Later that evening—dinner being done, the wine polished off, the camp cleaned up—Jake and I lay atop our sleeping bags in our tents, holding each other as closely as we could. Our embrace was warm and emotional, skin against skin, flesh against flesh, but it was not overly sexual. We just enjoyed the warmth of each other. After a while, Jake began to weep, and I held him tighter. “It’s not sadness any more. I’m so un-fucking-believably happy,” he said, “for the first time in years.” He then kissed me with as deep a passion as he had ever done. We kissed and caressed each other until Jake drifted off to sleep. I threw his sleeping bag over him, knowing that he would have to crawl into it sometime during the night. I climbed into my bag and listened to the sounds of the mountain—the wind whirring through the scrub trees. If I listened closely enough, I’m sure I would have heard the sounds of bears devouring my son in his tent across the meadow. And then I fell asleep.
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