I cherish the solemnity of autumn. And in these northern latitudes, where the dying process is so bright, bursting and brief, we take to the mountains as soon as the mornings whisper with their chilled breath, “Let go. Fall. Surrender. Release. The earth will catch you.” So that we can feel its call as long as possible.There is no earth better at catching you than the tundra, so we camped up Archangel Road in Hatcher Pass for the long Labor Day weekend with a few friends.The weather was divine so many of the kids plunged into the FRIGID water—after a few hours of exploring and blueberry harvesting.The most beautiful thing about camping off of Archangel road, besides the pinch-me-this-must-be-a-vision vistas, is that while you feel as though you are backcountry camping, your car is merely a hundred yards away on the road. So after a quick lunch and guitar passing, we stashed everything back in the vehicles, bear aware-ly, and sauntered past the gate, watching the valley walls close in on us.The old mine and land are private property encircled by state park land. So if someone acts like they own the place and asks you to leave, they very well may stand on legal ground. The kids came panting over a gravel mound, “Can we play at the playground for a while!?”Of course, as doting, careful parents, we threw the word ‘tetanus’ to the wind a few times, but nothing, including the kids, came back so we gave them a stern look from afar and called out, “Be smart!”
Later, we clambered past the Monolith, ah. I suppose it is well worth mentioning that this is rock climbing country, so most of the rock faces are fondly named, and their cheeks are smeared with white chalk rouge.Above the Monolith, lies an old dammed river, remnants of the gold days, with a lovely pool containing the freezing waters that pour down to fill our swimming hole below.It is days and nights like these that fill my soul so full I feel guilty that I should walk these mountains on sun-filled holidays and lay my head on a tundra beneath a star canopy such as this—and call this my life, when I know so many have so much, much less. We live the indulgent life.We returned to climb the next day.The Monolith, archangel that he is, smiled lopsidedly from his reclining perch and shaded his eyes to the amazing, luxurious sunlight while we crawled up his cheek.
Our lunch hour was spent scaling the warm rock, and sharing food bits. After everyone had a chance on the roped climbs, we thanked the gentle giant and wrapped around to the lake and the boulders behind.Whilst the kids (some bigger than others) practiced jumping, the adults (some smaller than others) practiced bouldering until all the food was gone and we’d held off the kids’ stomachs long enough.‘Home’ for dinner.We skipped the old mining road in favor of bounding over the tundra and found berries galore to sustain us back to camp and our stoves.
Hello beautiful, blushing fireweed! So fiercely living, nay blooming, while your leaves have begun the death march. Never give up until the end overcomes you, taught this gangly flower.And that was it. The next morning we packed up and left that valley, graced by the labor of archangels, to flare in reds and oranges, in white lichens and neon fungi of this autumn season before fading beneath the falling, glaringly white snows.