If not for an old mine, no one would have cut this trail above Peterson Creek. Horses once dragged ore carts down it to tidewater. Did they, I wonder, start the journey deep inside a tunnel maze, moving from darkness into light? Thankful I am not a horse, I plan on walking with Aki up this trail until it almost touches a big waterfall. Continuing on from there would take us along the creek to it’s source lake, which might finally be ice free given the warm weather.
It froze hard last night, which firmed up the trail. In early morning a brief storm dusted everything with a half inch of snow. Now the sun shines above the forest. We look for tracks in the fresh snow and enjoy sunlight breaking through it through the forest canopy. Aki checks the pee mail messages left by passing wild things while I look at the prisms of light created by shafts of sunlight hitting the new snow. Taking many pictures I try to capture these moments in time before they die with the movement of the sun.
Hoping to see the waterfall flooded with spring light I stash the camera and move up the trail. We hear it before seeing it, while crossing brightly lit ground. A minute later I down on the creek in deep shadow. We have missed the convergence of light, snow, and falling water.
I think about continuing on to the lake. A guy with a fly rod might catch some of the stunted rainbow trout that managed to eke out an existence in it. Fish and Game planted their ancestors in the lake years ago. With the waterfall blocking passage for the salmon that spawn in the lower stream, the trout can’t fatten themselves on salmon eggs and young like their native cousins, the cutthroat trout. Down at the fly fishing shop, the guys will tell you that some of the rainbows, swept over the falls, managed to make it to salt water and then return as massive steelheads — ocean going trout that can reach the size of salmon. Legends of Peterson Creek.
We leave the trail near the falls and walk without guidance or hinderance over the snow covered ground. In summer we would be blocked by soft wet ground and thick stands of the thorny devil’s club brush.
Moving away from the creek I realize that it has produced the only sound we have heard since leaving the car. This late in winter, the forest should be almost burdened by bird song. Hope we don’t have a silent spring.
I continue taking pictures to catch the perfect moment in time. Most will die under the delete key but several taken at the end of hike catch some beauty. They show Lower Peterson Creek winding through a small grass land. One photograph captures creek water reflecting Lion Mountain as it dominates the horizon. Another features the reflection of bare alders. The last shows a ball of ice, still dusted with new snow that clings to a stick rising out of the moving stream. We watch its snow cover shrink under the sun while being rocked by the current. I turn away before it can stand nude above the water where steelhead and salmon will soon travel.