After The Salmon Have Gone

We are having one of those joy after sorrow moments that come in the Fall.  The hard rain and wind of last week ended at daybreak and for a precious few hours there is sun shining from a blue sky. We should be climbing into alpine meadows, now blankets of yellows and reds but I haven’t visited Fish Creek all summer. In season the place is thick with bears harvesting spawning salmon.  That’s over now that rain driven creek waters have flushed all dead or dying salmon to the sea.

We find the trucks of duck hunters in the trailhead parking lot. Their shotgun blasts sound across the wetlands. Aki is so excited to visit with this old friend she ignores the shots. Soon she is soaked by running through grass still heavy from last night’s rain. Low morning sun shines through water drops clinging to spruce needles, grass seeds, and tendrils of white tree lichen (Medusula’s Beard).

Heading down to the pond we pass colonies of colorful mushrooms that appear to swell by the minute. Steam rises from the lake side meadows and this field of six foot high fireweed stalks now showing the rich reds and yellows of the fall die back.  I look for the family of river otters that hunted here last winter but find only a diminutive raft of ducks. The pond gives a taste of beauty as we head into the deep woods with its promise of more.

Shafts of sun work their way to the mossy floor of this old growth spruce forest. Some acts as spot lights for dying devil’s club leaves,  yellow and drooping as their strength drains into the mother plant’s roots.  Another light bolt shines through a spindly spruce, undercut roots allowing it to fall toward the rain swollen creek. Sun also reveals fresh tracks of a male deer recently moving to shelter along this muddy trail.

The trip tries Aki’s patience. She wants to rush ahead but must stop often for me to make vain attempts to record this miracle of water and light. It fools the camera and its user so I turn it off and stand in a shaft of sun turning the simple forest moss into a yellow-green wonder that strains my eyes with saturated light.  After over indulging, I close my eyes, listen to the stream, feel the sun warm my face, and imagine winter with its icy silence and the simplicity delivered by six inches of snow.

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