Autumn is short in the mountains. The backcountry will soon be snowed in. This realization hung heavy in the air as we packed our backpacks for a last Sierra adventure of the season. We took Friday off for a late October trip to Sword Lake in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of Stanislaus National Forest.
A horse trailer was moving slowly up a grade on 108 out of Sonora. Cars filed past it one at a time, speeding to the next destination. Four strange looking ears peaked over the side at us when we zipped past. They caught up at Summit Ranger Station in Stanislaus National Forest to pick up their permits. They were going to Gum Lake, so this would be the last we saw of them.
The trail in was devoid of any other hikers. Hiking in the fall is utterly unlike hiking in the spring or summer. Everything is dry and dusty but incredibly still and quiet, aside from the roaring gusts of wind. The world is holding it's breath.
Used to soaring, sharp peaks, the Dardenelles are an unusual Sierra formation. The ancient necks of volcanoes stand the rain and wind longer than the softer rock that once surrounded them.
As often happens when pulled away from curtains, alarm clocks, and the necessity to rise, we woke with the sun.
After a freezing dip in the frigid waters of Sword Lake, we ate lunch. As the crackers and cheese disappeared ominous clouds rode the wind over the horizon. Knowing rain was in the forecast, we moved to fill our water bottles and prepare for an autumn storm.
The rain drops started falling the moment we put our supplies back in the tent.
The rain fell all afternoon. We spent the storm in my 18 square foot tent. The noise of rain became the backdrop to laughter. The afternoon passed quickly and joyfully.
The rain ceased at sundown. The air was cool and calm. Sleep came quickly.
In the morning we woke slowly. Fog and clouds covered the Dardanelles, and shrouded the trees on the ridgeline. The dust had all been washed away and there was a tangible stillness in the air.
We took our time packing up, but the inevitable can only be postponed for so long. Monday came too quickly and jobs and cubicles and packed lunches waited for us at home.
The hike back to the trailhead passed too quickly. We were too soon driving down the dirt road that leads to the highway. Too soon driving down the highway to my cul-de-sac. Too soon unloading the car. Too soon getting into bed. Too soon waking up and driving to work.
I can't stop daydreaming.