Saturday, October 3, 2009

first snow

It is October third and it is snowing! The mountains have disappeared behind a curtain of white. Up at Hurricane Creek it was falling so fast that my footprints were wiped out in minutes. On the way back down the trail I took a wrong turn and froze for a minute, wondering. Below me the river flowed on. It's that feeling you get on the edge of being lost: This doesn't look familiar. Quick inventory: no matches, no phone, no plan left with friends. Then the scenario: Runner vanishes in snowstorm.

It wasn't long before I remembered that this was the side trail that I had noticed on the way up. But winter gives the mountains an edge that is easy to forget in summer. Living here, far from the ocean I had left, I had let my guard down a little. These mountains seemed tamer, gentler somehow. Here the bears stayed complacently in the woods. There were trails, many of them, all nicely cleared. There were other people, toting backpacks. It seemed like a watered down wilderness, a wilderness without fire.

But that isn't really true. There are just as many ways to get in trouble here, though perhaps not as spectacularly. Recently Search and Rescue carted a woman off Ruby Peak; she had gone up in shorts and became hypothermic. Another woman whined that she could not make it back from Ice Lake. People swan dive off their horses on a regular basis.

We're under a winter storm warning. I hope all the people in tents up there are prepared. Just last week it was in the seventies. I'm glad I'm in my house, watching the snow, but a part of me wishes I were up at some high lake, watching the world change.

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