Now that we have you two all cleaned off,” Party Favor said while rinsing his hooves in the kitchen sink, “maybe we can get to this 'special trip' business.”
“Yeah,” Double agreed from the doorway. “Going to clue us in?”
Cocoa Dream was the one to answer first. “A Harmony With Nature session. It's like a camping trip.”
“I used to go on them a lot when I was young,” Sugar Belle admitted. “And I always wanted to go again someday with my friends.”
“Your birthday was the perfect excuse to drag us along,” Double Diamond realized and then grabbed a water bottle that Stream offered while he was taking supplies out.
“It's going to be fun,” Cocoa encouraged with glee as she nuzzled Sugar.
Night Glider, who was drinking some apple juice on the other side of the kitchen, saw this and nearly choked.
“Nice kitchen by the way,” Party Favor complimented the pair.
“We just recently renovated it,” Cocoa enthused.
Indeed, the bright white and green decorative painting on the cabinets and preparation counters could not have been very old. There didn't seem to be a spot in sight. The bright but not blinding lights also spoke of new bulbs using the latest of Canterlot technology.
“We wouldn't have bothered,” Stream disclaimed on his way out of the kitchen, “but one of our friends owns a building and interiors business and wanted to try some new techniques.”
“Friendship is magic,” Party giggled.
Double just shook his head at the corny line.
“Come on!” Sugar pulled on the stallions. “Let's get moving!”
“I feel we were just in this situation,” Double Diamond had to comment.
“Except we are the ones pulling the cart this time,” Party could almost feel a sweat coming on.
Night Glider patted Double's head as she hovered above them. “Hey, I offered to help. Blame Sugar for not letting me.”
They were surrounded by trees on all sides. Thick temperature came at them in waves as the breeze found its way around the trunks and foliage. The time of year was obvious and made the camping trip all the more predictable. Soil beneath their hooves was wet from a recent rain, which made pulling their supply wagon all the more challenging.
“Why?” Double gave their female friends a dead glare.
Sugar Belle and Cocoa Dream were “scouting” ahead and were oblivious to the trouble the males were having.
Subtle Stream was behind their cart and helped shove it anytime the wheels got caught in mud. “They will be setting up the site when we get there and cooking, so it's a fair share of effort.”
Party gave his coltfriend a mood-lifting nod and smile. “Trust Sugar to want to cook on her birthday.”
“What are cutie marks for?” Double smiled in return. He knew the feeling all too well. Skiing was his profession and yet even on his vacations, he still wanted to do it. Life passions were funny like that.
Party Favor groaned to pull his side of the harness and thus the supply cart. Stream helped again from behind since they had just come around a large tree and got stuck in a rut that the above-ground roots had formed. The cart lurched out of the miniature trench and the harness jostled. Double might have been bothered more by the trouble if not for his skis packed in the cart.
“I didn't see snow anywhere,” he remarked, hoping for a valuable bit of information in return.
Stream obliged with only a small bit. “Don't worry. There will be. And you just might like the scenery so much you won't want to ski.”
“Double not ski? What a joke,” Party giggled and winked at his coltfriend.
They kept on for a good while after that and thankfully had only a few more tough spots. There was eventually a shift in the air that Double noticed. The ground got colder and so did the breeze. They were not sweating anymore.
“Just beyond these trees,” Stream declared as they came upon a thinning of the forest. “Be careful. We're coming up on a steep decline.”
The pair was grateful when their helper moved in front of them to guide the stop. They heard the mares ahead making all sorts of noise before that but couldn’t make out what they were saying. They understood when the last tree passed beside them and a gigantic clearing took up their view. What was in it was a natural wonder neither knew was even possible.
“Behold, Mt. Miracle,” Stream waved to the anomaly in front of them.
The grassy forest floor gave way as he warned to a steep decline that curved around in the shape of a crater. The remarkable thing was what was in the crater, giving scale to how deep it was. A snow-laden mountain lay there. It couldn't have been much wider than their own town but it was incredibly high measured from the base at the bottom of the crater.
“How...?” Double stared in awe along with Party Favor. The unique shape of the landscape was nothing he had seen before and he had been to many mountains.
“The peak rests just below the tree tops of the forest, so it cannot be seen from the outside,” Stream explained as he sat and watched the girls finding their way down the slope towards the base. “The upper half is always covered in snow thanks to those clouds hanging around the peak.”
Three gray puffs floated in circles around the tip of the mountain, making Double's brow rise in curiosity.
“Before you ask,” Stream gave a sideways look, “no, I don't know how it works. That is why it is called Mt. Miracle. Pegasi have been here to study it and came up with nothing. Same for unicorns. It remains one of Equestria's natural wonders.”
“I get the feeling,” Party commented with a grin as he watched his companion's expression morph, “that this is just as much Double Diamond's birthday as it is Sugar's.”
The white stallion was already looking back at the skis in their cart.
“Thanks again for being here,” Sugar Belle hugged Double Diamond and then Night Glider. She had already hugged the rest.
Party Favor was stretched out on a lawn chair he had gotten from their cart and set up on their current spot halfway up the small mountain. He lowered his sunglasses and gave a wink to Night Glider, who laughed hysterically in turn. It felt good for him to still make a pony laugh with so little.
Double Diamond hefted his skis onto his back and looked to the birthday girl. “We doing the picnic now or later?”
“You can go, Double,” Sugar answered. “We’ll join you at the peak in a bit.”
Cocoa proceeded to stretch out a green and white blanket with blue highlights. Various items such as snacks and wrapped presents were arranged on it while Night Glider helped remove the other ski equipment from the cart.
“Already?” Party shouted over to Double, who was walking up from the relatively flat stop area and towards the mountain top.
“You know me, Party,” Double gave his signature grin.
The blue unicorn facehoofed. “Of course.”
“You want to come along?”
“Wouldn’t want you to get lonely,” Party winked at him, though with a different meaning than his last one to Night Glider.
Double blushed only lightly and nodded before continuing his trek. Party Favor hopped off of his seat and swiftly grabbed his gear from Night Glider, who shook her head.
“You two better take it easy,” the mare warned. “I don’t want to have to fly anypony to the hospital on Sugar’s birthday.”
“Gotcha, captain,” Party saluted with a mock seriousness.
Double Diamond rocketed down the north side of the peak. The snow was sufficiently thick even if the dark clouds supplying it were eerie to look at. Something about them was off, but he wasn’t thinking of that as the wind ripped by him and the lower reaches of the mountain became visible from a small jump he made off a ledge.
Party Favor was skiing right beside him. He was not a bad skier but not a pro either. Thankfully, the spots they had surveyed prior were all simple and easy enough for the whole party of ponies to enjoy. He supposed that this had been checked before and was the reason that equipment had been brought for all of them.
The unicorn intentionally missed the small jump and swerved back to Double’s side. He wasn’t nearly the expert Double was and so he saw few of the breathtaking scenes that Double had from many a mountain top. But he appreciated this one. White powdery snow leading a far ways down a somewhat gentle but sufficient slope. The forest could be seen at nearly ground-level in the distance due to the crater and elevation.
Sparse pine trees flew by them, painted in white and showing little greenery for it. When the snow below faded out, it was replaced by a lush green grass blanket that was plentiful where they had set up the picnic. But the snow did not give out for quite some distance and hence the stallions continued to glide on their skis.
Eventually they had to turn until they were almost skiing sideways around the mountain side because a rocky upturn prevented a straight path. The casual difficulty of the slope made this easy enough to accomplish, as Double had predicted on their survey. But a sudden impulse struck him as they reached an enticing clearing to the side of the makeshift ski trail. They could continue to the left towards a fresh downturn or head right to a few bunny slopes and then a flat clearing surrounded by a ring of trees.
Double lead his companion through the bunny slopes until they glided to a halt in the clearing. “Maybe we should have made camp over here,” he commented with a pleasant smile.
“It would have been too hard to get the cart up so close to the peak,” Party commented in return.
Double Diamond unclasped his skis, lifted his goggles, and then flew backwards into the snow. It was soft and thick enough not to hurt his back on the hard ground beneath. Party was soon to follow, but he was more energetic in jumping backwards and shouted a “cannonball!”
Snow sprayed everywhere.
When Double lowered his foreleg from his eyes, he saw his coltfriend jumping on him next. “Gah!” his eyes widened in surprise.
“Party Time!” the unicorn laughed out after landing on the other male and rolling across the blanket of snow with him.
When they stopped rolling, Double embraced the stallion. “So is it party time or you time?”
“What’s the difference?” Party Favor giggled.
Double stifled a laugh and tapped his coltfriend on the nose. “Not much for me,” he replied and then added a kiss to Party’s nose.
“Oooooh,” the blue unicorn droned out. “I didn’t know this was going to be that kind of party.”
“Huh? What?” Double suddenly blushed deep red in spite of the frosty snow they were in.
Party’s eyes drooped. “It’s okay, honey. I wouldn’t mind a few kisses. Might warm me up.”
He hesitated at first because he honestly hadn’t planned for it, but Double did lean in and kiss his coltfriend on the lips. The stallion hugged him back, returning the kiss in full. Both lost track of the world around them and continued kissing. Perhaps encouraged by the cold and peaceful surroundings, their passion was gentle, patient, and warm. They just laid there kissing and occasionally breaking to look into each other’s eyes.
“We don’t do this often do we?” Party observed.
With a bout of curiosity, Double responded. “Not really. Not like this, I mean. It’s nice, though.”
“Makes you appreciate a change of scenery every now and then, huh?”
Double looked up around them and then back to the stallion. “I think you’re right.”
“I’m always right,” Party was the one to playfully tap his coltfriend’s nose this time.
“Sure, honey,” Double stuck out his tongue in return.
“I’m going to enjoy some hot cocoa when we get down, though.”
Double kissed him again. “We can share it.”