Tuesday, September 14, 2010

High Trail to the Edge of Autumn

Story: Greg
Photos: Trina and Greg

A sharp edge in the air, a corner waiting to be turned, a warm breath held. The angle of light proclaims the change as we ride west on the city grid near sunset, the bright beams rolling toward us down the tree-lined streets to stretch our shadows behind us over dirty pavement that glistens in golden light.

Cricket chirps boil from gardens in audible froths as the daylight fades and night begins, begins so early, now, as each day contracts into balance with the night. From our own garden there is also an overflow of food that spills onto our plates, filling our senses with ripeness and sweetness, fullness and satisfaction. Melons are cut and shared, the sweet juice running over fingers and faces. Beets bleed their rich, earthy flavors across the plates to mingle with the dark leaves and bright stems of chard. A ripe bell pepper tussles with small, bright tomatoes for a supremacy of redness. Early carrots, plump and sweet, bulge from the ground beneath their green plumes. A few new potatoes emerge when we re-cultivate to drop in seeds for our autumn greens.

This fecundity of harvest leads us into the harvest season. But if anything like a "normal" season is ahead, and if we are vigilant gardeners, there will be fresh food coming from the garden for another two months. So to revel in the approaching change of season, we head to the high country where the edge is sharper, the corner closer.

High Country, High Culture
Trina has taken this trip in past years, but this was a first for me. We drove from the city through the brown valleys of late summer and turned upward into the mountains. We followed rivers that turned to streams that turned to rivulets. We passed through green meadows into pine forests and green-leafed aspen groves as we crossed a high mountain pass. We found a campsite near 10,000 feet and claimed it with our tent while the dogs acquainted themselves with the local squirrels. Then we stood in the dirt behind the open doors of the pickup and dressed ourselves up in fancy clothes and drove to town.

Town! A little mountain town with a year-round population of 300 people surprises by hosting some amazing professional theatre. We saw a very interesting black box performance the first night and then drove back to camp in the dark and changed back out of our nice clothes.

We camped out for several nights and did our usual relaxing small explorations in the wild world, walking slowly, or sitting and letting the world roll past our senses. And a couple nights later, we dressed up and went to another play. A very pleasant mix. The late summer mountains to satisfy our wild sides. Plus in interesting and quirky town filled with pleasantly decaying old buildings and a scenic graveyard from the height of a mining boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And... A cultural event of a quality we rarely see in our home city.

The edge of the season was sharper in the high country. We had a wisp of frost one morning. Warm daytime breezes on the hillside above camp set the leaves of the aspen trees to quaking in a vibrant green. But among the green leaves were a few bouquets of yellow and red, the early adopters, setting the fashion trend that will soon sweep through the mountainsides.

We tromped through creeks and past waterfalls. Through meadows, tired and brown. Over the crisp crunch of the forest floor, littered here and there with drying mushrooms that had sprouted mere weeks ago after the late summer rains. Past cliffs and canyons carved into harsh rock. Amid sweeping views that stretched away toward high mountains that cut to the edge of blue sky.

Edge of the season. Corner... turned? As we headed for home, we drove back over the high pass through groves of aspen trees. They had been green on our trip out. But now they were beginning to shimmer with gold. Summer's warm breath, held, had begun to blow cold toward autumn.


Trina's shots:
They say happiness comes from within. I say it comes from BBQ within, which is how we launched this trip. This no-frills BBQ stand was hastily plunked down in the corner of a grocery store parking lot. The proprietor (not in the photo, unfortunately, because he had dashed into the store for more ribs) wore cut off jeans, high top sneakers, a greasy ball cap and a southern accent. The BBQ sauce was in a mason jar. It was down-home-good!

Just when you thought you'd never find a source for those skunk pelts you were needin', here are four to choose from.

Breakfast in the morning sun at the Mermaid Cafe.

Hops vine stealing in through the screen door.


Aesthetics of decay

Greg's shots:
Faithful dogs.

Small things.

Wider views.

Late summer swim.

The start of color.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I think I prefer Greg and Trina's accounts of travel and photos to experiencing the place myself! You are both such good writers and photographers! And the happiness shining from the pages is more predictable than my own confused reactions to the outdoors. Brightens my day.