If you have not read part 7 yet, you can check that out here

Mozark Mountain

After a long, painful descent into the valley, I finally came into view of the Cheat River and then the bridge. I saw from my distance that there was a candidate on the bridge, crossing. It wasn’t Rod “The Bod,” it was a tall, lean brother with a mop of blond hair. I suspected it was Derek “Fat Man” G. I briskly jogged across the bridge. I faced Mozark Mountain to my front. One last kick (a really hard one) in the nuts and this veil of tears would finally be parted.

I think my pause at the base of Mozark was the longest halt I made on the long walk. I was contemplating the best way to ascend that monster. It was extremely steep and covered with the damnedest thick vegetation I had ever seen. I saw a trail on the map that seemed to start (or end) near the base of the mountain, but not at the base—WTF was that all about? And it was some distance from where I stood with my thumb up my fourth point of contact. A tempting plan B would be to duck my head down and ram my way straight up the bastard.

Mountain Laurel
The common shrub known as Mountain Laurel. How hard could this possibly be to navigate? As it turns out, pretty hard. Image Credit: URI Botanical Gardens

Fat Man G

I convinced myself to be civilized about my approach and set off jogging for the north side of the mountain where the trail was supposed to be. I ran into Fat Man G., standing with his map in hand, gawking at the steep expanse. I approached him, and we illicitly had a full conversation on the best approach to ascend. Finally, the Man of Fat set off on his azimuth up the slope. I drew my own route and turned skyward to begin my punishment.

Fat Man came from 10 SFG(A) in Germany. He was one of my students when I was an instructor at SCUBA school. He was attending the diver supervisor course to qualify him to organize and execute successful diver operations at his home unit. Fat Man embraced the course and asked many questions—too many questions for some of my instructor peers. They began to finger him as a sharpshooter and smart-ass. I heard the gab in the instructor’s lounge and took it at face value, as I would be on the platform soon enough.

Once on the platform, I waited for the onslaught from Fat Man. Yes, he asked many questions, all of which I appreciated as valid attempts to better understand his subject. I quickly developed a great respect and admiration for the Fat Man and looked forward to my next chance behind the podium. Post-class, I returned to the lounge. “Well, how was he? Did we tell you what an ass he was?” I was asked.

“Negative,” was my response. “All I saw was a professional soldier and adult, trying to get as much out of this course as he can.” ‘Nuff said.