The day started like most summer days with a brilliant sun peaking over the mountain peaks and warming the valley below. We met up that morning at the Thomas Canyon Campground in the scenic Ruby Mountains. As I rounded the corner and pulled into the gravel parking area my comrades were basking in the sun. We unloaded our gear comparing and discussing what each other brought. Before starting out, we each picked out what we wanted to bring to our Freeze-Dried Dinner potluck that evening; appetizing entrees like Beef Stroganoff, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Leonardo de Fettuccine were on the Menu. Anticipation filled each of us as we hosted our pack onto our backs and set off for the trailhead. For those who have hiked Thomas Canyon, you know once you are passed the first 200 feet of steep trail, you’ll be fine. With smiles on our faces we took that first step up the steep path and began our journey. The aspen trees were just starting to show signs of Autumn, and showed just a hint of yellow.
The weight of my pack changes my center of gravity; I am always thankful that I bring a hiking stick to compensate the off set. Once we topped the first slope, we took a break to admire the scenery. The gentle slope of the mountain blanketed with the changing greenery, and crowned with rocky peaks. Across the creek was an old beaver dam that had been there for decades, but had recently succumbed to the power of Mother Nature this spring. The day warmed and we shed the legs on our convertible pants to shorts. Making our way along the trail the evidence of beaver activity was everywhere with cut branches and drag paths. The last mile before the meadow was still lined in Indian Paint brush and larkspur flowers. The meadow at the end of the trail was tucked into a pocket of the canyon with a hanging valley above it. It was full of grass and at the far end. There was a formable headwall and a waterfall cascading down hundreds of feet. There we stopped and enjoyed our lunch, of granola and apples. We, being seasoned backpackers, decided to continue off trail up the headwall to the hanging valley perched at the very end of the canyon. We climbed up over rockslides and through thick brush to reach the back of the canyon. There we found a serene oasis with a pond made by a beaver dam and evergreen trees poking out of thickets of red and orange willow. This was the place that we sought so we set up our camp. That evening we prepared a potluck with freeze-dried meals. Each of us had brought two different entrées and we sampled each one, and voted which were our favorites. As it grew dark, the cold night air blew. So, we slipped on our jackets and started a fire. Clouds blew over our heads but we still got glimpses of the stars in the Milky Way. We joked and told stories of other backpacking adventures until wariness caught up with us. There is nothing quite like being snuggled up in your sleeping bag listening to the trickle of a water from a creek, with a light breeze blowing away your troubles.
I awoke the next morning to a dim light. The air was cold and crisp; I got dressed and unzipped my tent. To my surprise everything was covered in a light fluffy layer of snow! Ooh it looks like winter reared its head early this year. As I crawled out into this new wonderland my comrades began emerging too.
All of us as puffy as the new snow in our down jackets, and ski hats. Forget your gloves use an extra pair of socks! Sock Hands!!
Slowly we descended out of winter’s haze and reached the green meadow below. There we took a break to enjoy the serenity of the morning. Looking from the lush meadow, back to where we had just been everything seemed to be covered in a frosty layer.
The aspens seemed a touch more yellow then the day before. The farther we walked the warmer it got and we began shedding layers to the point when we reached the trailhead again all of us were in base layers.
The journey took us through what seemed like a different world. The calm and tranquility of nature squelched our worries, the change of seasons awakened our senses and the physical exertion revved up our hearts. We lingered at our vehicle savoring the last bit of glorious nature before returning to the chaos of reality. What a fantastic way to spend any weekend.