During the autumn months, just feel the rapidly alternating damp coolness and warm dryness, literally within seconds of one another, as you’re hiking along the trail. The other night while we were hiking into the canyon under the dark canopy of white alder, laurel bay and canyon live oak, the nearly full moon followed us. Milky, white pools of moonlight settled into hollows ringed by the inkiness of canyon bottom darkness. The pondering of my fleeting mortality surfaces, as it always does. It is always as if there’s this mystery of visual intent, that something’s to be footnoted deep inside by this ghostly light that arrests our forward progress. Maybe just stopping and fixing our gaze in a direction that we’ve never taken the time for is meant to happen right now and right here. We’ll never see this, again, so drink it in. The term beauty seems to fall way short for description. All language fails to grasp it.
Also, there’s the temperature side of these hikes that is so distinctly felt this time of year… Whether day or night, each little piece of the canyon has its’ microclimate. The cool dampness of side canyons such as San Olene, Bear Trap, Fern or Step-On-My-Toe bring their enveloping chill all around us at once. A moment later, you’re out on south-facing slopes and the dry heat mixed with scents of chaparral take you to another place. Not much longer up the canyon and you’re in the shady, moist recesses of Falling Sign Junction or beginning your descent into Cascade Picnic Area. That damp, spicy scent of bay leaves blending with grainy soils takes you one way and the dry blends of white sage and chamise take you another. This back and forth is no different than the pull and push of the ocean’s surf, bringing her gifts to you and then taking them back out. It’s as natural as breathing. While out in our front country canyons, the cool and warmth, over and over, again – instill their magic in us no less than the visual beauty of changing leaves.