Once upon a time, there lived a young family in an enchanted land called Utah, and in Utah this family hiked o’er great mountains and vast deserts.

Weekend after weekend, they set out in search of adventure, stashing in their satchels every necessity and comfort a well-prepared party might carry: water, sandwiches, granola, first-aid provisions, maps, cameras, jackets and a liberal supply of wipies.

And weekend after weekend, the family enjoyed good humor for about a half-mile.

Then the Evil Spirit of the Mountain would descend upon the youngest in the group — a small lass just out of nappies — tormenting her to tears and complaint, to weeping and gnashing of teeth, and to the never-ceasing inquiry: How much longer? HOW MUCH LONGER?

The mother and father exhausted every conceivable remedy, offering words of reassurance, singing ballads and ditties, promising rewards of beautiful vistas and warm feelings of pride if only the young child would persevere against the Evil Spirit. Even the great and powerful Osprey (whose sorcery hath bestowed such generous gifts as adjustable-frame child carriers with shade canopies and water bladders and foot straps) could not withstand the Evil Spirit’s might.

Finally, the family met upon a friendly party who shared with them a legend that restored their hopes that the Evil Spirit might be banished for good.

This is the tale of the Trail Troll, as told by my friend Imogen Nesse, now 7, of Salt Lake City.

The Trail Troll is a magical but shy creature that roams hill and dale, clutching a hoard of gummy worms as he scampers along the trail. The Trail Troll is said to display a tail of pink and purple stripes, but that is not known for certain.

If one hikes apace, one might approach near enough to the Trail Troll to startle him, and when he is startled, he may drop one or two of his gummy worms on the trail!

There is, however, one sound the Trail Troll can hear from far away.

Whining.

And if the Trail Troll hears whining, he becomes frightened, and he must leave in search of a new trail.

As Imogen shared this tale with flourish, I noticed that her father, Will, was not to be seen. But good Will returned anon, declaring that he had just run ahead a bit “to make sure we were on the right trail.”

“I think I may have seen a pink and purple tail up there,” Will said, a twinkle in his eye. Imogen and my daughter, Saskia, dashed ahead to find two gummy worms resting on a fallen log.*

And ever since that day, the young lass has fought off the Evil Spirit of the Mountain, striving farther and farther uphill, enjoying the thrill of the hunt and sharing the Legend of the Troll Trail with other hikers she meets.

* Where’er the Trail Troll is spotted, it is of great importance that all dispensed gummies be recovered; leave them not in wild places.