Part Two: “Look At That Nice Clean Road” or “The Hike up Mount Doom… I Mean Barad-Dur"
Characters chosen, our group realized that
we had a lot to deal with. Not only was one of us playing the leader
of the entire evil army, but four of us were complete rookies to Ring Game.
We all needed to know the lay of the land in Governor Dodge park better
than we did.
So, on the weekend of the second meeting, we took Friday evening and Sunday as scouting trips. Megan drove this time, which I was thankful for.
The Friday trip consisted of Megan (playing Sauron), Creighton (playing Ar-Pharazon), Margaret (still playing a Black Numenorian at this point), Sarah (playing a Nandor Elf), and myself (the other Sarah, playing the other Nandor Elf). We met on campus at 2:30 and went out to the park. Once there, we made our way toward campsite H for a hike up the mountain that was normally Mount Doom but was Barad-Dur for the Second Age Game.
It was about 3:30 when we came to the road-side parking lot at the beginning of the Shire.
“Look at this nice clean road!” Megan chimed from the driver’s seat to which we all agreed.
“Not a cigarette butt to be… hey, wait, what’s that!” Creighton joked from his seat in the back, pointing along the side of the road.
“No, you may not pick it up!” Megan told him.
“Is that an order from Sauron?”
We spilled out of the car at campsite H and went up the hill toward the tent grounds and picnic tables there. After slathering ourselves with bug spray, we began our hike up the mountain.
“Okay, look for a path along the side of the campsite,” Megan instructed.
There was nothing but green foliage.
“There’s a path here?” I asked.
“Well, sort of,” Megan responded, “it’s kind of like a water runoff or something.”
This was something I could deal with. As a kid, I had followed similar paths through the woods near my house, tracking home more mud and dirt than my mother ever knew what to do with and carting home more walking sticks than my father could tolerate. So, I figured I had a pretty good idea of what the trek was going to be like.
It’s a shame there aren’t any really big, rocky mountains in the woods near my house.
We were about half way up when my lungs started burning and, luck of luck, that was when we came across the first set of really big rocks we had to clamor over. Somehow, I managed to make it up them without passing out and I found a large stick to help me make the rest of the trek.
Megan was in the lead. She took us up a water runoff that began at the very back of campsite H and ran up the mountain. Unfortunately, it petered off to nothingness, leaving us to fend for ourselves among the trees and thorns. Megan, confident that she knew the way to the top, pressed on, veering in the direction she figured the peak was.
Soon, we hit a horse trail and spilled out into its open space.
“Um, this isn’t it,” Megan said.
“I thought we passed it already,” I gasped out, finding a seat on a nearby rock and hugging the stick that had saved my life to me.
“No, that was the false crack of Mount Doom,” Megan said.
“You mean Barad-Dur,” said Creighton.
“Yes, that’s what I mean.”
“Did we go too far to the right?” Margaret asked.
“No,” said Megan, looking about, “I think we didn’t go far enough. We should go back down the path this way.” She pointed to her right and the rest of us, being little lost newbies, shrugged and agreed with the assessment.
After a short rest for those of us who were hopelessly out of shape, we struck out along the horse path, looking for the rock that was sticking out of the trees and being hit by the sunlight.
We were going downhill for quite a ways and Sarah and I both stopped in our tracks when we realized that the path simply kept going down.
“Are you sure this is right?” Sarah asked of Megan who also stopped, bringing Creighton and Margaret to a halt as well.
Megan whipped out her Second Age booklet and turned to the map there. “We should be right about there,” she said pointing to it, “which means that Mount Doom should be right over that way somewhere.” She pointed back toward the woods.
“Mount Doom or Barad-Dur?” I asked.
“But then aren’t we way off the track, then?” Sarah asked.
“I mean Barad-Dur!” Megan corrected herself, shaking her head slightly.
“This game’s Barad-Dur?” I asked for clarification.
“Yes, this game’s Barad-Dur.”
“But then, why are we going downhill?” Sarah asked.
Megan consulted the map a bit more and looked around some. “Okay, it should just be over that way a bit.” She put away the booklet and once again led us into the woods, off the horse path.
We wound around among the branches and brambles for a considerable amount of time before we, once again, spilled out on a horse path.
“Wait a minute,” Megan said, puzzled, “we should have run right into it. Where’d this other horse path come from?”
“Are you sure it’s not the same horse path?” Creighton asked.
“It can’t be, we went straight in,” said Megan.
“But we turned to the right quite a bit,” I put in, “maybe we doubled back.”
“That looks kinda familiar back up that way,” Sarah said, pointing up the hill along the horse path.
“It’s a path, of course it looks familiar,” said Margaret.
“Well, if we went straight in, then it can’t be the same path,” said Creighton.
“I think that it is, though,” I stated.
“Why don’t I go and find out,” said Megan.
“I’ll go with you,” Creighton volunteered.
“Me too,” agreed Margaret.
Megan shucked off her backpack and left it with Sarah and me as the three of them went back into the woods where we had spilled out. A few moments later, their rustling faded into the distance and Sarah and I decided to consult our own copies of the Second Age map.
“I think we’re behind it, but I think it’s back that way,” I said, pointing uphill up the path with my stick.
“I think so, too,” Sarah agreed, “and I think that this is the same path we hit before.”
I began scratching an X into the dirt with my stick. “Now we’ll know for sure,” I said.
A few moments later, we heard further rustling of leaves and branches back up the horse path.
“Is that them?” I asked.
“I think so,” said Sarah.
I grabbed Megan’s backpack (wondering why in God’s name she was carrying twelve ton rocks in it) and we both trudged back up the hill toward the rustling and the voices we were hearing.
Sure enough, we ran into Megan, Margaret, and Creighton.
“Wait a minute,” Creighton said, looking behind him at the place they had just emerged from.
“But we came straight back through,” Megan protested.
“It’s the same path and I’ll prove it,” I said, making another X in the dirt. Then I took the lead and began hiking further uphill along the path. Soon, I plopped down on the familiar rock that I had rested on to catch my breath the first time we had emerged on to the path.
“It is the same path,” Megan said.
“Then where’s Barad-Dur?” Creighton asked.
“You mean Mount Doom,” said Megan.
“This game’s Barad-Dur,” Sarah put in.
“I’m telling you,” I said, “we went too far to the right the first time. We should follow the trail uphill some more.” I scratched another X into the dirt and Margaret augmented it with a triangle of small logs pointing in the direction we were about to go.
And so, we followed the path uphill for a while, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rock face we were trying to get to. Finally, we came to the top of the hill and started going down again.
“What’s that over there?” Margaret asked, pointing to a rock face in the sun on the next mountain over.
“That’s Barad-Dur,” said Megan.
“Isn’t that what we want?” Creighton asked.
“I mean Mount Doom!” Megan exclaimed.
“Well, now we’ve run out of mountain to climb up,” said Sarah, “and isn’t that campsite H down there?”
“Maybe we should just go down there and start again,” I suggested.
This met with general approval, so we all followed Megan’s lead back into the woods, hoping we wouldn’t run into any hazardous obstacles that would keep us from the only location we knew we could identify.
We ran into a small cliff that ran along the incline of the mountain.
“Now what?” Margaret asked.
“Well, we got past it before, back that way,” said Megan, pointing in the downhill direction, “it should narrow off and we can get past it.”
So, we went back that way and it did and we continued back down toward campsite H. Suddenly, a few minutes later, Megan came to a halt in front of us.
“Wait a sec,” she said, “this is the path.”
“Are you sure?” I asked from the back of the group.
“Positive,” she answered, “Mount Doom is just up that way.”
“Barad-Dur!” the rest of us corrected all at once.
“That’s what I meant,” said Megan, striking off along the water rill back up the mountain.
Soon, we came to a patch of tan and red rocks. We scrambled up them one by one and eventually I was forced to leave my walking stick behind in favor of another free hand with which to climb. I reclaimed it on the way back down, later.
And then, with my lungs burning once again, we broke out of the tree branches into open sky and a breath taking view of very nearly the entire park.
“Finally!” Megan exclaimed, plopping down on the triangular ledge of rock there. “Barad-Dur!”
I had forgotten that Creighton wasn’t all that fond of heights and once I had made sure he was stable and once I had caught my breath, I sat there marveling at the view.
“This is gorgeous,” I said, “I’m really glad I made the hike.”
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