Dirt beneath my boots, shadows on rocks, warm sun on my face, wind whispers in my ear, a crisp autumn chill and the company of my favorite friend…these things I love. This is the stuff to pause for. Breathe it in. Soak it up. In this season of gratitude we express our appreciation for the things we have, the people we love and the moments in life that fill our hearts with joy. It is moments like these, for which I am most thankful.
Don’t get me wrong. My sun does not rise and set around hiking…okay, it’s pretty high on my priority list, but there are many, many things in life that give me joy and pause for thanks. It’s just that in these particular moments, in nature’s company, my mind is free to wander and ponder. My heart opens wide as my lungs fill with fresh mountain air. Worries are soothed with soft whispers from Mama Nature and clarity comes with the quiet calm of solitude. This is my place and these are my moments of connection. So, it is in these moments I feel most thankful.
Last week, you never would have guessed it was November in these parts. Eighty degrees during the day, short sleeves, coffee on ice. We thought our Sierra season was done, but with no snow on those ridgelines and this unseasonably warm weather, we decided to go for a little hike up the Kearsarge Pass Trail.
The parking lot at Onion Valley was deserted. We had the place to ourselves and it was so peacefully quiet. It was a completely different mood than the beginning of the season, which began in this very spot. On that day, the landscape was abuzz with the sound and color of critters and foliage just beginning to spring to life. But now the activity begins to wane in preparation for the coming winter.
The color of the landscape is muted now, as many of the trees have dropped their autumn leaves and the once green grasses of the meadows are dormant and brown. Shadows fall long and the light begins to change as our corner of the earth turns further from the sun. The air is chilly and quiet as, one by one, the creatures move into their winter habitats. The treetops no longer harbor birdsong, they quietly whisper secrets with the wind instead. And the rush of water has slowed to a near stop as ice creeps steadily down stream beds and across lake tops.
We happily hiked along with the sun at our backs and a chill on our cheeks, enjoying the mood of the changing season. It felt good to be out on the trail, moving, breathing, thinking, talking. Hiking our way up the Kearsarge Pass trail, we decided to take a different turn and visit someplace new, pausing first at Flower Lake to play with the camera and try out some new techniques. Better luck next time, as far as those photos go. But it was a good try.
We continued on to Matlock Lake. This was a new place new for us, oddly enough, considering the many, many times we have hiked in this area. It was cold and windy at the lake and the light was quickly fading, so we lingered just long enough to try another hand at photos, then headed back toward Gilbert Lake at a quick-get-me-warm pace.
Once the sun hid behind the peaks the temperature quickly dropped. Yes, it is definitely autumn in the Sierra! We hustled back to the car to find the parking lot still deserted. There is just something about having a place all to yourself. So quiet. So peaceful. Such solitude.
As we started down the winding road to the valley below, we chanced upon a most spectacular skyscape. In quiet awe, we watched the fullest moon rise just as the sun set on this most perfect day. A true reflection of this heart of mine, so full of gratitude.