Trophy Meadows is such a spectacular place to be – and our hike upwards had been rewarding and pleasant.
But that fall day I became really aware of the beauty of those almost monochromatic meadows on the way back down. I absorbed the end of summer “dried flower” colours: yellow, brown, white, and some green along with the darker greens of the balsam trees. (An extra splash of white and tan was the tail end of a deer disappearing from our view.) Beyond this beige vista were the mountains: Trophy’s tops, Raft Peak looking huge, snow-capped Dunn Peak in the distance, as well as other mountains to the north in Wells Gray Park, with Grizzly and others surrounding Clearwater outlining North Thompson River’s valley.
Then there were the varied shapes of the plants, affected by frost, some flattened by an early snowfall. The end-of-season display, while not dramatic like summer splendour, was as spectacular but in a quieter, more subtle way. A few lupins, paintbrush and other lovely flowers hid in protected spots, but their small blossoms looked fairly tattered. I was surrounded by a different kind of beauty from the colourful visits of spring and summer. A feeling of peace was in the air as if saying farewell to those glories and that this was a time of transition before the rigours of winter turned the whole scene snow white.
As we continued on our way down, we noted game trails heading into nearby sheltered sleeping spots, and a wide variety of mushrooms of different sizes, shapes and colours. Several varieties grew within a two-metre circle: one was dark but multi-coloured, another was yellow, a third white, and yet another was beige. Red ones were not far away. Did I really use the word “monochromatic” earlier? The gentle breeze sighing in the trees above us and the placid gurgle of water trickling over some rocks in a wee gully right beside the trail played in our ears. Our own contributions to this melody were footsteps on the trail’s gritty surface, day packs creaking, hiking poles tapping or scraping rocks, and the tinkling bell attached to small dog’s collar.
Judging by the uniform greens on the branches of the conifers, the short growing season was over at the top end of our hike. However, as the trail descended into the more open area of the reafforested clear-cut, evidence of continued growth still showed, needles sporting a blue hue. Seeing red huckleberry bushes with a few berries left, and green leaves in those lower elevations, we had time-travelled to an earlier season. White, multi-blossomed pearly everlasting flowers looked plump, fluffy and strong. The colour of the rhododendron bushes varied from green through yellow to pink or orange to red, even bronze – sometimes all on the same bush. Leaves on fireweed stalks showed these colours too, plus a much darker red. Their flowers had changed into white fluff, almost like tall dandelions.
Had I noticed all this on the way up? Not at all, so I guess the colours were announcing themselves more boldly because we’d seen fewer of them over the past two or three hours while we were higher up.
“I hate that to be over,” said my trekking companion, visiting from the Kootenays, as we unlocked the car once more. The drive home took us downwards and further back in time to where, while the calendar announced that fall had begun, it seemed even more like summer.