Today was one of those three or four days a year when I can’t believe I get paid to be outside. To start with, the weather has settled down into a pattern of warm bright September days. The shadows are deep, but the sun still glows on the yellow aspen leaves and orange brush. When I left the truck this morning, I hiked down through Naneum Meadow remembering the day last winter that John and I snowmobiled there to eat lunch. Today, the meadow grasses were the color of toast. The spots of flattened vegetation were places where elk had bedded down in the night. I could smell their pee. Not a bad smell. It’s hard to describe–just smells like elk.
My trail mission took me through stands of lodgepole pine with subalpine firs coming up underneath. Across meadows, and up basalt talus. At lunchtime I found a place to sit with my back against a big western larch tree. Deep in the furrows of its bark, I could see charcoal from a long ago ground fire. I smelled the sun-warmed resinous scent of the tree. My chicken pesto sandwich tasted good. Heard ravens and magpies. Couldn’t figure out why I was hearing magpies at 6000 feet…they live below in the Kittitas Valley. Maybe they just wanted to have a grand day in the mountains too.
The only bad thing about getting paid to be outside is that on nice days you still have to work. Lunch was over, the sun had moved, and I was out of the dappled shade. I thought of several other things to do (find more shade, nap, explore, sketch), but I stood, put my gloves and pack back on, picked up my combi tool, stepped onto the trail and headed north.