Autumn on Brundage

Brundage ski resort is one of the few places where hunting, and livestock, are not allowed. So that's where the girls and I, even Finn and I, spend much of our time after September. Boring for us all in the sense that we've spent so many hours here already this year, but worth enduring the boredom to ensure safety and a sense of security.

Finn was home, recuperating from his surgery (neutering) the day before. He thought he was ready to run, getting excited as I dressed to go. You can imagine how upset he was when I led him to his crate.

Sometimes, looking back toward where we've just come - usually to make sure Meadow's nearby - can afford an unexpected view. In this case, a stand of aspen just starting to change color against the dying grasses of a meadow and evergreens in the background. And Meadow, her usual fluffy self.

I found myself wanting to keep heading higher, keep going, even though I always worry about taking the girls too far given their aging, aching joints and a general lack of water on the trail. It was clear and cool, early, with that crisp bite to the air that autumn brings. The dying low vegetation exuded that odor that comes only this time of year, of damp, composting forest. A recent rain left the trail in excellent shape, with no dust. I hated wasting the day.

More than that, I hated wasting any opportunity to be on the trail with my girls. I'm spending too much time lately thinking about the limited time I have left with them. About how much they've taught me about seeing - truly seeing - the wilderness, enjoying it, respecting it. How safe I feel with them accompanying me. How I'll miss them incredibly when they can no longer join me.

In this area, on the way up, we spooked a small group of elk. On the way back down I was taking photos, so the girls took the opportunity to scan the hillside for them.

The mountain is dry. This is the only remaining stream. Even though it's a quarter mile off the shortest route back to the car, Maia took us directly to it. She knows. They were both thirsty. I must admit, from my perspective it's nice when the stream runs so low, because they only get their toes wet. When they can wade into their arm pits, they come home with legs and bellies covered in trail mud which eventually dries and falls into piles of sand on my floors, tell-tale signs of where they took their afternoon naps. It's so much nicer when they come home virtually clean.

These outings with the girls, and snuggles with Finn as he recovers from his surgery, remind me of what's important (them), and lessen the impact of bear-baiting idiots and other annoyances of living here. But I'm still determined to leave here, and start a new chapter for all of us in western WA.