THE CAPE APES OF SADDLE MOUNTAIN
A novel by Todd M. Neiss
JUST A TEASER...
air draped the mountainous coast range of the Pacific Northwest. Laboring to pierce the ever-present veil of
clouds that reward this Darwinian paradise, basalt escarpments jutted skyward
at ungodly angles from the densely forested valleys below. The view from any one of a myriad of ridges
was both simultaneously breathtaking and foreboding.
mosaic of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock punctuated
the horizon with their towering crowns.
Stands of alder dominated the countless river bottoms as they coursed
seaward throughout the arboreal landscape, like arteries breathing life into
the vast Saddle Mountain watershed. Ancient
thickets of devil's club, scotch broom and salal, camas and wapato presented a
seemingly impassable patchwork maze throughout this temperate rainforest of
salmon berries joined huckleberry and evergreen blackberry creating a sweet
buffet for the denizens here. horsetail ferns. Once home to the ground sloth, woolly mammoth, giant beaver, and
saber-toothed cats, this was a land where time seemed to stand still.
now, wildlife flourishes around every bend.
Crystalline streams team with rainbow and cutthroat trout. Guided by their primal duty to recreate life,
steelhead and salmon struggle against icy currents only to sacrifice themselves
in the process. Rarely making a sound,
black-tailed deer cruise the timber like silent gray ghosts. Regal mountain lions perch atop rocky
outcroppings, sunning their golden coats during rare breaks in the incessant parade
of storms that inundate this region. This
is also home to the American black bear.
These lumbering bruins perpetually forage on a banquet of berries, fish,
grubs, insects and the occasional carcass of an unfortunate fellow forest-dweller. Overhead, bald eagles and red-tailed hawks
ply invisible drafts, competing for fish and golden-mantled ground
squirrels. Majestic Roosevelt elk roam
like nomads, impervious to the inhospitable weather and terrain. These enormous ungulates wear their massive
ivory like crowns from a long forgotten monarchy.
there were other noble beasts in this kingdom.
Here too was home to a race of giants who had existed for as long as
anyone could remember. Since the dawn of
time, these peaceful beasts had endured all that nature could throw at
them. including those annoying humans. As a result, they also bore witness to the demise
of lesser species. And yet somehow they
had prevailed. Above all, they were
course, shaggy coat of hair made them well equipped for the severe weather that
they faced. Roaming the forest on two
massive human-like feet, they left behind a trail of deep tracks which, to the
uninitiated, would simply be dismissed as odd depressions in the forest floor. To these beasts, the world may have well have
been flat; for not even the most rugged terrain could prove
insurmountable. Approaching 1,000
pounds, their broad, articulated feet enabled them to stalk their prey in eerie
silence. Stealth was but just one of
their unique traits.
So much of what
they had recognized was either gone or quickly vanishing. Driven by the incessant encroachment of the
only threat they had ever known, these reclusive denizens were constantly being
forced to relocate...reluctantly ceding their ancestral range to the
infiltrating humans and their destructive, infernal machines. Evasion was their friend, and mankind their
enemy. And so it had been, from
generation to generation. An unspoken
edict had been proclaimed amongst their clan; the only way to survive was to
avoid the treacherous humans at all costs.
They were to merely observe them from afar, monitor their activities, and
But how long could
they continue this game? Their existence
had already been compromised on numerous occasions. Time was quickly becoming their worst
enemy. Their discovery was simply a
matter of odds...and the odds were against them. With that inevitability, came the uncertainty
of their revelation. How would the
humans react? The elders had warned the
clan to avoid such a prospect at all costs.
Would these reclusive creatures simply become extinct like all those who
They could not…would
not let that happen.