I opened my eyes to an enchanting display of light. Golden beams penetrate the translucent yellow leaves, thin like rice paper. Leaves, backlit by far-away fire, quiver with light like the stars of night; soon to tumble and loft and flit their way down, down, down to the earth. The spellbinding death dance of fall.
I rose and began.
I passed ponds and logging roads and ledges and cliffs.
I came to the crossing of Big Wilson Stream. The stream was wide. There were no stones or logs on which I could make my way accross. I removed my boots, stuffed my socks inside them, and tied them to my pack. I then strapped on my camp shoes, rolled my wool leggings up passed my knees, and stepped in to the cold water.
The fording was refreshing. The flow of the stream was not strong. I moved cautiously. With each step I gazed through the clear, gentle waters to the scattering of rocks that comprised the stream bed. I watched as I lifted and dropped each foot, avoiding the large slippery rocks in favor of the smaller stones that provided traction. I stabilized each step with my trekking poles, jostling them to ensure the security of their position before shifting my weight. At its deepest point, the water did not reach far above my knees.
After reaching the north side of the stream, I perched on a rock and dried my feet in the sun, toes rejoicing. I then pulled on my boots and continued.
I came to a railroad crossing. I looked both ways, gazing down the strips of metal that snaked in to the distance. I have always felt some sort of industrial magic and romance in the presence of trains and their tracks; a certain power, and rust, and grit, and freedom, and possibility.
I worked my way east down the tracks, out of sight of the trail, and stopped for a break beside them. I wanted to let the other hikers pass me. I wanted to be free to wander down the trail alone.
I did not wander much further before night fell. I stopped, once again, just off of the trail. The night was clear, the moon bright, eyelids heavy. Sleep overcame me.