Dan, a 39 year old divorcee, lived in a small cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. He was a security guard at a local lumber mill. Three years earlier he was living in the city in the valley with his wife and two teenage daughters. He had a white collar job with one of the local manufacturers. His company was bought out by a large national corporation and they brought in their own executives. They down sized by offering a healthy bonus to Dan and his coworkers if they would quit. Dan accepted the offer but had problems finding a new job.
Dan was getting uncomfortable with the crowded city life and longed for a more rural life like he had as a child. Within a few months he convinced his family that they should move to the mountains. They began looking around and decided on a small community up in the higher foothills, something below the snow yet among the pine trees and river canyons.
Dan's family was not happy with the secluded life. The girls missed their friends and his wife missed the city with its shopping malls and theaters. Within six months of the move his wife and the girls moved back to an apartment in the city. His wife got her job back and Dan sent her money to help with expenses. Within a year she had filed for divorce and eventually married one of her coworkers.
Dan felt like a failure. He had abandoned his family for his own selfish lifestyle. He was also desperately lonely. The life of solitude was not all that it was cracked up to be. He was tempted to move back down to the city until the divorce. After the divorce he decided to stick it out in the mountains. At least he had a job and the cabin plus an old motorcycle that his wife did not take with her when she moved back to the city.
Dan heard about Hidden Valley from one of the sweet older ladies at church. She told of growing up in Hidden Valley when she was a young girl. She mentioned that several families lived there and they even had their own one room school house and a church.
Electricity never reached the valley, she said, and the road into the valley was never improved. Life was hard for the families that lived in Hidden Valley and eventually the families moved into town, closer to the jobs and stores. As a result the valley was now just a few abandoned and run down buildings and barns.
Dan was intrigued with this Hidden Valley and he was determined to visit it one day. His opportunity came one Saturday in the spring. He packed a lunch and jumped on his old motorcycle. He proceeded out toward Blue Mountain searching for a trail that would lead him to Hidden Valley. It was easier to find than he had expected. In fact, it appeared that some vehicle had been using the trail recently. This made it easier for him to guide his motorcycle over the old trail which had been overgrown with weeds and brush.
The trail curved and climbed around the hills for seven or eight miles. Often the branches of the trees brushed against Dan. Eventually, he came over a crest and could look down into a rather long, narrow valley. It was cleared of trees and appeared to be ideal grazing land. There was a flock of sheep at the far end of the valley. An old rail fence circled the valley and a few old unpainted buildings were scattered throughout the valley. A couple wind mills were still standing and one was creaking in the breeze. Dan wondered if it still worked.
There was a locked gate across the lane, blocking Dan's entrance to the valley. He parked his motorcycle, took his small backpack and climbed over the fence. It felt good to walk after his bumpy ride.
It was a lovely picture. High mountains completely surrounded the little valley. The grass floor of the valley was a vivid green, spotted with occasional yellow and white daffodils. Even the sheep, visible off in the distance, seemed to fit into the picture. It reminded him of the pictures of Switzerland that he had seen in the travel magazines. It was like stepping into another world.
Dan walked along the trail, which ran just inside the rail fence. Some tracks of a vehicle continued along the trail. Dan assumed that they were made by the owner of the sheep. Then the notion occurred to him that you don't leave sheep unattended like cattle. Most likely, someone was living in the valley to tend the sheep.
Dan's hike led him near an old empty house with a rundown barn. The doors were off their hinges and most of the windows were broken. He wondered how long it had been since these houses were the homes of families. All the furnishings had been removed except for a broken table in front of the house.
Dan wondered who had lived in the house and what life was like. Babies had probably been born here and people had probably died here. Possibly Dan would find an old cemetery to help him discover the history of this Hidden Valley.
As the narrow road curved around the clump of trees near the far end of the valley, Dan could see an old pickup. It was parked at the edge of the valley near an old camp trailer. He headed toward the pickup hoping to find a friendly old gentleman who would overlook his trespassing and treat him kindly.
As Dan neared the pickup he began to hear the sound of harmonica music. It was coming from an old man setting in a lawn chair with his back to Dan. He was wearing a dungaree shirt and old straw hat. Dan recognized the tune as a familiar hymn. He waited some distance listening to the pleasant music.
Once the music stopped Dan walked closer to make his presence known. "Hi there," he called out. "That was lovely." Dan must have startled the harmonica playing sheepherder. At that moment the sheepherder jumped up and turned. Dan was equally surprised, as the sheepherder was not an old man as he was expecting, but rather a fairly young, attractive woman.