The morning was cool, with a rising fog that flanked the foothills of The Trinity Alps with an aura of mystery and the hint of Fall. It was a spectacular dawn. I took up the rear in a procession of four, accompanied in my hunt by a friend and his sons on a trail not one of us had previously hiked. It was the morning before opening day and adventure was in the air.
The trail was wide and well groomed, and followed the raucous flow of a creek called ‘Swift,’ which, over the years, had cut a deep gash through flecked walls of cold stone. Our destination was a meadow just short of what turned out to be one of the most popular tourist destination in the Alps—Granite Lake. The lake sat in a cleft of stone, a dew drop in a rock navel, perched calm at an elevation of about 6,500 feet where it birthed its own creek from a 300ft. waterfall. This bleeding flow then shattered to bits on the boulders of a jagged basin and slowed its pace to a crawl before making its way through the hard pack and grass tufts of Gibson Meadow, far below. It was there, in the shadow of Granite and God, that we made our first camp.
The sun set slowly over Gibson Peak, so slowly it gave me time for a dip in the creek after scouting my morning stand. The waters were still and clear, four deep by ten feet wide, and, plunging suddenly, I immersed myself in the shocking cold wet. I sputtered a bit as I came out, surprised at the sting, and as I did, glanced to my left in time to see a small tree frog leap from the thick willow brush and into the water with a splash. Apparently I’d inspired him. I wondered idly if he was sputtering somewhere too.
Changing into a fresh set of clothes, I wandered through the lush meadow grass to a flat rock bathed in sunset and took a nap, hat pulled down over my eyes. I woke to a rising moon and the onset of a mountain chill that sent me jogging back to camp. There wasn’t much talk that night around our awkward meals and eccentric rituals; tomorrow was on our minds, and the luck it might hold. We dreamed each one of triumph and glory, meat and horns and the legends we hoped to embody by our deeds. As usual, the best dreams were the most elusive ones, and sleep conceded defeat to an unsettled delirium. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not adrenaline or testosterone that fuels the die-hard hunter. No; whether awake or asleep, the drug of the hunter is hope, and in these parts, we’re all heavy users.