Articles With the Tag . . . backcountry

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

Full Days of Early Fall

There is no feeling like the newness of fall and the unanswered questions of a full day ahead . . .

The far bank holds nothing but scattered deer trails and no clear path. Even the deer haven’t seemed to come to any collective agreement on the best course through the floodplain. This river washes out and floods easily, so every big rain knocks down a few overgrown trees that are forced to give up their dominance in the soft ground. Dense brush then takes root around the fallen timber, and saplings compete to fill in the sunny gap left by an old fallen tree. Years later, one of the growing saplings wins and the others die off. The strongest tree grows large enough to cast the shade that eventually becomes its own demise. The dark, ground turns soggy again, and another adult falls quietly into the muddy riverbank . . .

Missing the Mornings

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours.

A clean slate. A fresh-faced river. New light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s guard is down. He trusts more. He worries less.

The new day is a blank canvas — an unwritten chapter of events and plans. Not your plans, but the river’s plans. Because such decisions are not for any of us to choose.

Walk deep into the backcountry one day, cut through the darkness before pre-dawn, and experience this. Arrive before first light to a place untouched for some time. Feel the newness, the virginity of first light among the surrounding hills . . .

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

The border collie always sensed incoming weather before I did. Under the perfect contrast of black on white, just beneath mottled pink skin and between the ears, was a group of unknown senses, not just for the weather, but for a number of intangibles I never seemed to recognize. He tilted his head and stared at me with confusion, perhaps wondering why I couldn’t hear, smell or sense the thunderstorm before I could see it . . .

Full Days of Early Fall

Full Days of Early Fall

“Near side or far?” I thought. Pausing in a young patch of goldenrod, I considered my options. The dawn light sat low enough that it hadn’t yet burned the overnight dew from the surrounding greens and yellows. Reds were mixed in too, with plenty of browns. Fall...

Missing the Mornings

Missing the Mornings

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours. It's a clean slate, a fresh-faced river -- new light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s...

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

The border collie sensed incoming weather before I did. Under the contrast of black on white, beneath mottled pink skin and between the ears, was a group of unknown senses, not just for the weather, but for a number of intangibles I never seemed to recognize. He...

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