Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn in the Bitterroot

The above title should make you want to stand a little taller, breathe a little more deeply, and happily reach for a cozy sweater. If it doesn't, then you've never been here at this time of year. And for that, I'm sorry. A crisp Autumn day here, when the sky is clear and the aspens are shimmering like gold and the white snow crowns the mountains, can't be beat.

I tried to take in as much of it as I could this weekend.

Friday afternoon, while our girls were in choir, Nance and Jen and I went for an hour-long walk on the quiet country dirt roads behind the church. The fields were golden brown, either barren and closely cropped from the recent harvest, or soft and dotted with huge round hay bales, waiting to be collected. Such a pretty walk.

Then Saturday afternoon, as my kids busied themselves with building a play fort with some scrap wood and unused building materials, I went over to Nance's and we went for another walk, this one longer, all the way down to the white clay cliffs overlooking the river bottoms. We sat on the narrow precipice of one of the cliffs and watched the cliff swallows dart in and out of the hundreds of holes and talked and talked about anything and everything. It was so nice.

Saturday night, incidently, the kids asked to sleep out in their newly constructed fort--really no more than some interlocked two-by-fours (think Lincoln Logs) with a bed sheet stretched over the top. We told them they were crazy, as it would be in the low twenties overnight, but they persisted so we chuckled, gave them flashlights and let them try. They piled on as many articles of clothing as they could, then laid out camping pads and sleeping bags on the hard ground. They piled their bed comforters and the two happy dogs over the top. Some time around two o'clock in the morning, Tano came in to stay. Cold, or spooked, I'm not sure. Elliana stayed, though. She is one tough little girl sometimes (and sometimes NOT--as those of you who know her have witnessed). She and the dogs cuddled all night and had a lovely time. She was all smiles this morning. Crazy kid.

Back to my own enjoyment of the outdoors this weekend, though...

After church today, we grabbed sandwiches to go and met a big group of friends at the Bear Creek trailhead for a hike. The trail to the falls is heavily wooded, so it was much cooler than down on the valley floor. Walking briskly to get our blood pumping, we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. The scenery was breathtaking, with the creek and the Fall colors mixed with the huge old-growth pines.

My favorites, of course, are the larch trees (or tamaracks, depending on where you're from--same tree). They are the greatest, for although they are conifers and resemble the pines and firs, they are deciduous so they turn golden and then shed their needles. Deciduous conifers! How cool is that! They are beautiful to see from the valley floor, stripes and speckles of gold against the otherwise dark green of the forested mountainsides, but they are SPECTACULAR when you are up among them. Parts of the trail were actually carpeted yellow from the dropping needles. It was sooo beautiful.

When we reached the falls, about two miles up from the trailhead, we stayed there for an hour or so while the gang of kids scrambled over boulders in the creek and explored both banks. They were quite the little adventurers.

By the time we made it back to the parking lot we were all chilled and a campfire sounded perfect, so most of the party plus a few others came back over to our house and we did just that. We all chipped in for a big campfire feast and warmed ourselves by the fire over good conversation all evening. It was really enjoyable.

Now I'm cleaning up the kitchen that has been ignored all weekend and looking ahead to the last few days of the rocking chair class. Oh, and planning for the party--my Shakespeare class is putting on a masquerade party Friday night. We are making little lanterns and decorations, as well as the classic little hand-held masks with the sequins and feathers and the whole show. It will be really fun, I hope; the kids are so excited about it.

So, tonight I'm tired, but it's that good kind of tired with lungs filled with crisp, fresh Autumn air.


alison said...

What a handsome family you are. Can you believe where you are in terms of meal preparedness?

Glad you had such a good, lung and soul filling weekend.

Mister Ed T said...

Reminds me of some of our experiencesd in the north. Your kids are growing up all too fast! Glad you had such a great weekend.

Sheila said...

Great pics :)

AmberJ said...

I see Christmas card photo ops here! :) (Yes, it's on my brain -- icky, huh? Not even Halloween yet!)

I can't wait until my kiddos are that age, when we can send out in the backyard to sleep, hike for hours and enjoy the time together, or even go for walks and not worry about feeding times, diapers, and naptimes.

Looks like you guys had a lot of fun!