Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Field Day 1 - Brighton Lakes

Over the weekend, my organization hosted its annual Environmental Education Conference. Maybe we'll have more on that later. But, because we all worked so hard leading up to and during the conference, my boss closed shop Monday and Tuesday. Sounds like fun to me!

I spent Monday getting lost in the woods; hiking in the Wasatch Front, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton Lakes. The trail to the Brighton Lakes begins at the basin of the Brighton Ski Resort. I have been hiking this trail basically since I can remember when my mom needed to hear the wind breathing through the pines, whispering in quaking aspen. My sister and I whined and complained the whole time (but we trudged up that mountain just the same) and by the time we got to the lakes we were just as happy to be out in our mountains, as sunshine-pine glided into our noses, as our mother was.

The trail goes up a pretty steep grade to the first lake, Mary. Mary is a beautiful lake with a large rock island in the middle, where a shaky, makeshift stepping-stone path connects the island to shore. It is muddy just beyond the shifting rock path, but the boulders above provide ample room to spread out and read a book, have lunch. The water is a deep iridescent blue.

On beyond Mary is Lake Martha. Nearly as clear, but smaller and I hardly visit. We cordially exchange glances before I move on. There is another lake ahead on which I have my sites set.

Lake Katherine is, and has always been, a yearly destination for my family. I have neglected my visiting rights these past years throughout college, and my return is well past due. Lake Katherine, of the three, is by far the most beautiful. It is not the biggest, nor the smallest, but it is the most remote. People there are few and far between. Indeed on this Monday I was alone but for the trees, fish, and occasional horsefly. There is a constant breeze that whips from high ridges above and down into the bowl of the icy glacial lake where it fans out across the rippling water. Everywhere is the raw beauty of alpine.

Lake Katherine has been waiting for me, and it is a happy reunion. She has changed but little in those subtle ways that mother nature cyclically gives and takes, where I have changed much more. A college graduate, no longer the girl I once was, but still am, where only my reflection gives me away. A survivor of trials, life-changing decisions, and joys, too. Does she realize my new stories of accomplishments and defeats? I can't tell, but she embraces me with open arms just the same.

As I say my good-bye and start making my way down the mountain, a Cooper's Hawk skims the space between us. Her belly is lightly speckled, her tail a striped fan. The trail descends, over and over. I can feel the sun beating on the backs of my ears and neck, as my toes cram further into my shoes and cry out for release. Close to the slope, it seems sundown is coming as the sun slants through the trees making long shadows before me, though it is only four o'clock. Fall's flirtations are all around and some vines have blushed in response. A peaceful feeling encompasses me, like the knowledge of a lost friend returned, as if nothing has ever changed. This, my friends, is happiness.

1 comment:

Mom said...

I'm so glad you are called by the whispering pines as well, Nicole, especially if you are going to describe them for us so eloquently here. A beautiful post!