As Steed neared the summit of Mount Tamalpais, he stopped for a moment to take in the view: ridges and hills in an odd shade (to an Englishman) of soft gold studded with the dark, sometimes almost-black green of trees; the prickly skyline of San Francisco rising out of the Bay between her two elegant bridges; and the Pacific, wide and stately, vanishing into haze at the horizon and graced by the rocky backs of the Farrallons.
Steed had been more fortunate in the weather today than he had been yesterday: his round of golf at the Presidio, while pleasantly challenging, had been invaded by fog at the end, but today the sky was clear and the air warm, or at least it was for now. Steed suspected that by late afternoon, the fog would be back. He hoped that at that point he would have finished his hike and be in the car and on his way to Napa. But for now, he was going to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, the silence and his movement along the trail. And when he got to the summit there would be a lunch purchased at a delicatessen recommended by his waiter at his first dinner in San Francisco: crusty bread, cheese, prosciutto, and fruit, and a bottle of good wine to wash it down with.
Steed paused at the top of his climb to admire the view again. Looking down, he could see part of one of the trails that wound their way around the mountain. As he did so, two hikers came into view, two women, one brunette and slightly taller, one blonde and slightly shorter, both trim and athletic, striding purposefully along the trail and evidently in pleasant conversation together.
Steed’s heart skipped beat.
He couldn’t see their faces. He watched them intently until they stopped and looked around, evidently taking their bearings.
He had never seen them before. Steed closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. God, but he was getting maudlin in his old age.
He found a place to sit and ate his lunch quickly, drinking somewhat more of the wine than he had originally intended. The delight had somehow faded from the day.
Lunch concluded, he packed up the leftovers and trash, recorked the wine, and headed back down the trail through Muir Woods to the car. When he got to the car park, he noticed the first hint of what would be a thick fog floating in over the hills to the west. He was beginning to find this particular local tradition quite tiresome.
About two hours later, he arrived at the Napa inn that he intended to make his base for this portion of the trip. He got settled, showered and changed, then went out to explore the town with a view to finding somewhere to have a meal later. Maybe with food and some sleep his mood would improve. He didn’t want to dive into wine tasting in this state.
Ah, well, he consoled himself as he wandered around the historic part of town. Who were you expecting to see, anyway, old fool?