Autumn is an explosion of color and light on the mountain. So swift and intense, the season comes and sweeps across the mountain like wildfire, and just as hastily, departs, leaving us and the mountain in the after breathe, somehow exhausted, recovering, settling, learning again to exhale once the fury has cleared.
There is no time of the year when change partakes so rapidly. The season comes and goes, a short lived burst of passion. Every day is just a little different, a visible transformation. Nothing hides, nothing remains the same. The mountain puts on her best show, then strips herself bare, exposing her deepest secrets, her farthest views. Take a walk on the mountain now and you can see almost forever, no longer softly tucked into the canopy of green leaves.
Climb the mountain and it is as if the days pass and season progresses with each upward push. At the base there remains a fiery gold glow of aspen. It thins and opens as you rise, eventually reaching uncovered trees, unwrapped and exposed to the blue above, to the white peaks above tree line where the snow from yesterday has settled and moved in for the season.
Yesterday we rode up a trail so close to home. It was new to me, the route, the views of all the parts of the mountain I know so well, yet fresh and wild when seen from a new perspective. This mountain will never be tamed.
As we entered a meadow high and hidden, tucked into the last of the timber before breaking above tree line, we heard the call of a bull elk. Perhaps he saw us approaching. Perhaps a challenge, perhaps an invitation. As we neared an open slope, there he was in all his majesty, an enormous rack upon his head. I often wonder what that would feel like, to carry the burden, so heavy and seemingly cumbersome, and yet they manage it effortlessly and often silently, as you observe them snaking their antlers through tight timber without touching a branch.
This bull had five cows before him, his harem, which he pushed up the slope ahead of himself, away from us, keeping his pride, his prize.
We remove the bridles from our horses and allow them to graze as we sit beneath the protective arms of a spruce tree to have our own lunch. We face the sun. Now we savor it. Its warmth is precious. It will not last.