Yesterday morning I took the road to Lostine, Oregon; I drove to the end, the Two Pan trailhead at the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It was 38º in the shadow, but, above the trees and the ridge to the west, the sky was blue and the fall sun strong.
The trail was flecked with slivers of gold, tamarack needles in spirals and geometric patterns. I passed through a troop of kinglets squeaking in the treetops, then across the single-log bridge over the East Lostine River and up through the switchbacks.
I came out into the meadow at the base of Eagle Cap; ponds, the river, and sun-dried grasses stretched a couple miles south before dissolving into the dark trees at the foot of the mountain. The air was absolutely still and the entire meadow was silent.
Days like this always draw me away from whatever else life insists I do. They are the perfect days to play hooky from work and from memories and old thoughts that linger in my head. To me, the last days of autumn are a reminder that life is short and I need to soak in every drop of sun and life and possibility.
I hiked to the river crossing, sat on the footbridge, ate lunch. Then, with a wild chipmunk circling the perimeter of my lunch space, I leaned back and closed my eyes. The water sang under the bridge. Two ravens had a discussion far up the eastern ridge. The chipmunk scolded me for leaving no trace. I absorbed all that I could.
The sun leaves early this time of year. Rather than continue up, I turned back.
The pikas, silent on my way in, now chattered and scorned me for giving up so easily. Alas, I don’t have a fur coat and haven’t collected grass through the long summer days.
Although the trail back is mostly downhill, I moved more slowly. Yes, I’m getting older, but more than that, I am less willing to leave this place.
Everything is changing so rapidly. How much longer will the pikas survive here? They can only move up the mountain as the lower elevations warm. Late-October and there is only a dusting of snow on Eagle Cap. Maybe I can squeeze in one more trip before winter arrives.