It's allegedly fall, but it feels more like pre-winter here. Recently the east side of the park received about three feet of snow in a winter storm! The tops of the mountains here on the west side are white; some trails are snow free and others are covered by about a foot at the higher elevations. Here, fire season is over, not that it really began.
This time of year can be hard. There are a lot of endings. The helicopter flies away, and most of the employees leave. This isn't a bad thing, just a change. Meetings and conference calls replace smoke patrol and lookout projects. There's more time available for hiking and to see friends, but the weather has taken a hard turn: no more shorts and tank tops, more rain and snow showers. Some people I know even hauled snowshoes on a 12 mile trail just in case; they didn't end up needing them, but it's always possible.
I'm always cold during this time, my body not adjusted yet to the chillier temperatures. It was 13 degrees at 8 am. That's not terribly cold in January, but it is in early October. "It's so cold," is often heard at work as we rush through our uninsulated building toward a room with a space heater. N., a seasonal employee from California, bundles up like Nanook of the North his last week of work. Not having brought a parka, he buys one from the thrift store before he flees for warmer climates.
It's time to take a step back, to move from being constantly alert to a slower pace, from being outside to being at a desk doing administrative work. It's always an adjustment, but a necessary one. Now it's also time to think about travel. Arizona? Hawaii? I dream about warmer days, as summer turns into winter in the mountains.