Words by Greg
Photos by Greg and Trina
Autumn settles from above. In this land, high mountains and mesas slope and roll downward toward low valleys and canyons where rivers slip between winding lines of wooly trees. The two rivers of our small city flowed between cottonwood trees that were still mostly green. We pointed the truck upriver and drove deeper into autumn.
The crispness of morning had vanished under a blazing blue sky and the afternoon was warm enough to warrant a quick stop and a splash in the river. The further upriver we went, the more yellow leaves there were. We passed by small towns then headed up toward the Colorado high country.
Actually, we never made it to the high country. We made it as far as the medium country before the autumn colors began to overwhelm us. Above, we could see the grey stone of the high peaks, shadowed faces frosted with early snow, skirted in dark pines. These high peaks stood tall amid a rolling sea of color. The high yellow froth of aspen trees rolled downward into the gold, orange and red of oak scrub, chokecherry, box elder, then funneled into valleys traced with yellow-green cottonwood and willow.
The season of harvest. We'd left our own garden harvest to come and experience more harvest. This, the local flavors of a small earthy town, where we'd join others for a luxurious farmhouse dinner. We found a place to camp amid the bright oak, then dressed up and headed into town.
The meal was family-style sit-down, and about 30 guests filled tables at various rooms of the old house. The meal was wonderful. Corn soup for starters, pumpkin ravioli for the main course, and blackberry-pear crumble for desert. All local, healthy, organic and delicious. And we were happy to have some companionable table-mates with whom we chatted and laughed.
After, we turned into the darkness and headed for our camp. The dogs were excited to be out and were on high alert inside the tent, waiting for creatures to pass by. They finally settled down. At least until near dawn, when two flashlights appeared in the darkness and two hunters walked quietly past. The dogs vigorously defended our peaceful spot in the woods by barking noisily.
We slept until the sun hit the tent and we were making breakfast when the two gentlemen hunters came back from their wanderings. No game to be found out there today, it seemed. Still their blaze-orange regalia made me realize that I had only brought along earthy colored clothes. We dressed the dogs in their hunter-safety suits, but I had to make do with a startling pink hat-cover improvised from a pair of Trina's undergarments. And no one shot at me, so I guess it worked.
We spent most of the day doing almost nothing, if reading, wandering, lounging, watching, listening, absorbing, frolicking, contemplating, snacking, and observing can be considered "nothing". The warm sunlight poured down on the green-to-gold oak leaves all around us and gave a honey-sweet sense to the light. There was a distant hiss of water from a nearby stream. A few bird-chirps from feathered friends who had not flown to warmer climes. Occasionally a chittering squirrel would rouse the dogs from their other explorations.
Along the rough road we had driven, there was a lonely apple tree. Whether the remains of a long-ago homesteader's orchard, or the accident of a tossed-out apple core, we did not know. High in the branches there were still a few small, red apples, and our harvesting instincts took over. We took turns, one of us shaking the branches while the other tried to catch apples. The shaking went well, but the catching wasn't very effective. Still, we gathered a small pile of bruised fruits and took them home with us where they would become an apple crumble.
Late in the afternoon, we headed to the nearby town for dinch (dinner/lunch). And then to a winery and garden where we were tempted into more harvesting by the U-Pick Tomatoes sign. The garden was near the banks of the river, and the mountains we had left were shining in the distance We walked through rows of withering plants seeking the bright surprise of ripe tomatoes hidden within.
Back in the truck, we followed the line of the river into the setting sun, heading home with our harvest of food, our memories filled with a harvest of golden autumn leaves.