Every fall there is a day of specific quality. The sun is bright, the sky is cloudless, and the world has not yet decided whether it is fall or still summer.
On that day, I take the day off. I drive to Wallace Falls, and begin my hike. I pass by a sign, and enter the forest. The trail first winds by a river, occasionally entering a forest filled with pine trees. As the trail climbs, I begin to smell the mountain air. I come to the lower falls, the first of three. I stand near the edge of the embankment; and while I cannot feel the mist, I can sense the rushing water beside me.
I continue on my hike to the middle falls. This trail spends more time in the woods this time, as it climbs up the mountain. Just as you are getting warm from the seemingly endless march up, there is a small gap in the trees close to the river; the wind rushes around me and I find myself refreshed and resolved and continue to climb.
I finally arrive at the middle falls, by far the most beautiful; the river plunges 260 feet into the pool below. I rest here on the wooden rails along the edge, and take photos. I always take photos, even though I have been here many times before. It is a ritual; this hike is a ritual and I dare not change it.
I hike back down to the lower falls and sit at the picnic bench. As I eat my lunch, some chipmunks come out and play along a nearby log, no doubt waiting for any crumbs I might leave behind. I like to think that these are the same chipmunks that I've seen every year, and they come to visit as they have also recognized the quality of the day and know I will be here.
As I leave the trail, I see the sign again. This sign is unique; it is not a trail sign, but a Wordsworth quote: "Come forth into the light of things; Let Nature be your teacher."
The day is bittersweet; it was beautiful but soon the rains and clouds will come, and I will have to wait until next year when a day of specific quality comes again.
I cannot put this ritual into a bottle, but on the days when I wear Itasca, I can close my eyes and smell the pine, and the mist, and mountain air rushing through a gap in the trees.
05 April, 2013