Thursday, November 3, 2011


It's supposed to start snowing tonight. I sit at my desk, staring outside. The thought, why am I here? occurs to me. When I can't come up with an answer, I escape to the park for the afternoon. I hike to this fire lookout:

Apgar Lookout, Glacier National Park
I was last here a year ago today. Everything is different now. A year can change everything.

Today is one of those heartbreakingly beautiful days that remind you again why you love living in a small mountain town. If I close my eyes I could believe it was September. I'm wearing too many layers,  a phenomenon that rarely happens. Usually I wear too little and have to keep moving. I smile at the other six women I see on the trail. There are no men hiking here today.

The lookout is one of several cabins scattered through Glacier on lonely mountains. Few are staffed in the summer anymore. Instead, detection flights spot most of the fires these days. Lookouts like this sit empty with all their stories, their shutters tightly closed, ready for the long winter sleep.

RIP Scenery Lookout (no longer standing)

In a few months, I will come up here with snowshoes. The approach will be two miles longer, and the lookout buried in drifts. The wind will be colder. The golden larches will have lost their needles long ago.

But eight months from now there will be a new fire season. The seasonal fire lookouts will hike up to their cabins, throw open the shutters and let the sun inside.

I stop at my favorite beach along Lake McDonald. It's still warm enough to sit on the rocks and watch the water.

It is not the end of everything, but just the beginning of something new.

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