How often have I have started off on a gray, unpromising day, thinking I would not hike far, only to find myself enraptured by the day itself, by encountering and seeing things in nature I hadn’t expected. On an early spring day I started out under partly sunny skies, while thin clouds started moving in, the light filtered through a milky haze. Most of the snow had melted, and everything was a raw brown. In the bottom of the valley a few fields were brushed with a pale green, almost a hallucination, so you had to look twice to see if it was really green or you were deluding yourself into thinking spring had actually arrived at this high altitude.
On the Lily Mountain trail, the ground is mostly rock, a fine gravel that sustains only the pine trees (and what strong roots they must have to tunnel into it and grasp for protection against the strong winds), some hardy bushes and a few aspen that thrive where the small streams collect enough water. Kinninnick is the only ground vegetation, another hardy plant that has to pull water out of the rock. I tip my hat to all these plants/trees able to survive in this sparse landscape.
Hiking up this relatively barren mountain, I was surprised to hear the sound of water and came across a small rivulet, from snow melting on high, cutting a path down the steep hillside. On this too quiet day, the sound was like music to my ears.
Farther up the hill, I was startled to see six pasqueflowers bunched up next to a rock, a darker purple than the ones I find around my cabin, proclaiming their proud existence on this otherwise almost colorless hillside. How glad I was to see these harbingers of spring.
As I got higher, I started getting views to the east and north. To the east, clouds had started to wrap themselves around the top of the fortress-like Twin Sisters, and to the north and west, the tops of the snow-covered mountains protruded through the cloud layer.
Suddenly, I could feel this day, unlike any other: moody, starting to close in on itself, introverted, serious and full of portent, as if something big was about to happen. Indeed, on the way back down, the wind came up, whipping up the whole hillside, and soon the rain started pelting me.
I was lucky to be there.