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The Great Eppling Ridge
By Claire Engstrom
Genre: Fiction Level: Elementary 4-6
Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

 

Prologue

Nobody considered the possibility that it could happen, especially to a Hahnfeld. Where could they have gone? Back then, Northbrooks, Colorado was one of the safest places in the United States. Northbrooks used to bustle with friendly neighbors and wildlife. Douglas firs peppered the ridge to welcome you to this peaceful Colorado city.

The jewel of the city was Hahnfeld Ropes. A father and son duo, Joe and Craig Hahnfeld crafted each rope by hand exactly how their ancestors had done 50 years earlier. They had a monopoly in the west, and their cables were now becoming popular in the east too. Their ropes were indestructible. Every time you entered the Hahnfeld store, the smell of fresh coffee and cream wafted through the standard-sized shop. Free cookies waited for you right by the cash register, next to a picture of Hahnfeld and his young son.

As you came to this humble valley, you would be greeted with smiles and laughter. It felt like home, but after the incident, the area became infamous and died down to a cell of nothingness.

This dreadful incident happened on August 1st, 1987, a date that would live in the minds of those that had once called Northbrooks home. A calm breeze rolled into the valley as the sun arched high into the sky. Bees hummed as the trees gently swayed back and forth in the wind. The chickadees fluttered as the majestic city peered up at the great Eppling Ridge.  Mr. Hahnfeld and his son, Craig, decided to climb Eppling Ridge on Colorado Day. The two had done this strenuous climb several times and were confident they would be done and back in town for the annual BBQ celebration.

The mountain steep, Hahnfeld told his son, "Awright son," he exclaimed, while dropping a rope from his harness, "Tie the rope on real tight. Remember to double back an' put a safety in it."

            Craig grinned, slipped on his helmet, and tightly tied the Colorado renowned Hahnfeld Rope on to his belay loop. As father gingerly squeezed each boulderous mound of earth, a distant scream rang in his ear. Hahnfeld glanced down, only to see a mangled rope dangling in the breeze.

 

~ ~ ~

 

            Helena ‘Gypsy' Wilson was determined to defeat Eppling Ridge. She was a feisty young woman who had climbed every mountain in Colorado state. Gypsy could defeat every cliff, ridge, mountain in a heartbeat. Overhangs had become her signature in the climbing world. It had been 5 years since she had used safety gear and entered the universe of free-climbing. Fearless, Gypsy suited up in her lucky sweatpants and a T-shirt, sped out the door, and glared at the mountain before her.

            "Ha!" she called, teasing the ridge, "You call yourself a mountain? This is child's play. Gypsy will show you a thing or two!"

            Gypsy heroically placed her feet on two masses of land as she traveled up the mountainside.  She moved with ease as if she were half gecko. Her short hair came alive in the breeze like leaves on a quaking aspen. A noise trickled in her ears. A miniscule pebble gently plopped on her head when she looked to the sky. Suddenly, a gigantic boulder slammed down on her leg; she screamed in agony. Her rough hands slipped and flew up, crying tears of desperate fingers, seeking something to grab onto.

Three months later, after 8 weeks of painful physical therapy and training that almost defeated her, Gypsy convinced herself that she was ready to face the mountain once again. She arrived at the same exact spot the Mountain Emergency Team had loaded her onto the ER helicopter. She greeted the mountain with a hint of disdain, "Gypsy is ready to face you again!" She sat herself down in a squat, boosted her body up, and quickly ascended up the Western slope. Halfway up, she wiped sweat off her brow. Miniature rivers trickled down the mountain. This was odd. These clouds definitely weren't nimbostratus clouds. Suddenly, a gush of water flushed under hand, forcing Gypsy to descend down the mountain and return home, her determination uncrushed but definitely bruised.

Gypsy was not ready to see the mountain win. Months later, after rigorous training, Gypsy commenced scaling up the rock to thrash Eppling Ridge. She was surprised after climbing three-quarters of the way up without any dangers at all.

"Gypsy must be reaching the top any minute now," she whispered to herself.

Her right hand grasped the somewhat-flat summit as she mantled herself onto it; she was finally at the top! To catch her breath, Gypsy kneeled on the sun-kissed rock. To take in her surroundings, Gypsy pushed herself up and leered at a tiny cross about fifteen feet away. She scuttled across the rocky area to read, ‘Here lies Craig Hahnfeld. He never reached the top and lived to tell the tale. Nobody else will either. 1978-1987.'

A large shadow eclipsed the sun just before the wind stopped whistling a tune. Gypsy slowly spun around to gawk at this strange, elderly man wearing a ratty t-shirt with ‘Hahnfeld Ropes' printed across the chest.

He scowled at Gypsy growling, "Ahh... so I see you've met Craigy Boy. What it says on his grave is true. You should have read the signs I gave you. Pleasant dreams, girly."

The ancient man clutched Gypsy's sleeve and yanked her to the edge. She kicked high and bared her leg down on her captor's head, knocking him unconscious. The mysterious elder collapsed onto the rocky exterior. Gypsy felt tired, but proud. She knew that old man couldn't defeat the mighty Gypsy. With too much confidence pulsing through her veins, she turned to admire the view for the first time since she had reached the top. She felt a sudden tug on the back of her collar. The old hermit was right behind her. He smirked for a second. Gypsy knew this was the end. The senior drove her body down the one-thousand foot ridge maniacally as if the very act would bring his son back to life.

Gypsy Wilson's corpse was never found. The news reported it an odd coincidence that she disappeared the same day Joe and Craig Hahnfeld vanished twenty-seven years ago.

~ ~ ~

If you are brave enough to climb up Eppling Ridge, your last sight might just be a rocky landscape including two graves belonging to Craig Hahnfeld and Helena ‘Gypsy' Wilson.   


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