Howling at the Hunter's Moon in Quehanna
There were some fun plans we made this week that fell through, and it would have been easy to be disappointed. A beach trip was on the agenda for a while, but that didn't work out. Then we decided we wanted to go car camping to Kinzua, but on Monday morning when we would have been getting ready to go, it was still raining there! Curses! Foiled again!
So we punted. My husband asked: How about a backpacking trip to the Quehanna Wild Area, to see the colors, and listen to the coyotes and the elk tango all night long? Who could resist? I am a girl who loves the wild. So of course, I wanted to go!
And so it was that we packed our gear on Monday (and there were showers here even in the afternoon!), and Tuesday morning, by about 10 or shortly after, we were in the car and ready to roll. An hour and a half's drive. A half-hour to pack it up in the parking lot. And another hour and fifteen minutes of walking with full frame packs on took us into the back-country in Quehanna, into the Valley of the Elk.
The weather was absolutely delightful. The forecast was for some cooler temps, but it turned out in reality to be a few degrees warmer than that. So we sat on our favorite rock in the sun, and it warmed our faces. And when night came, the temperature never went down to freezing and it was relatively dry. So our gear didn't get damp and it was never a challenge to stay warm in my sleeping bag. All a plus while camping out!
About the foliage. Now, Quehanna is known for having some of the best foliage shows I know of, but it tends to go very early there. Some years, as soon as mid-September. And so, in October, we found the colors variable, with big swaths still green, and many places with leaves down already.
The colors are very localized, and what colors we have are more visible in the lighting of certain times of day, namely the golden hours of dawn and dusk. One of my favorite things to do as a photographer is to find ways to present the foliage show to its best advantage; in fact, as a lover of autumn, I take it as my personal responsibility. If you can get the light shining THROUGH all those leaves, you can capture quite a show!
On the way into the back-country, there were some lovely shows of yellow and gold. You may see a photo of my husband with his backpack on, walking in front of me, into the golden autumn world of the Quehanna Wild Area in the extras.
Oh, and when I took that photo, we were talking about rattlesnakes. Yes, rattlesnakes! For late last September, while we were backpacking in Quehanna, my husband nearly stepped on a truly gorgeous timber rattlesnake. As I snapped the photo in the extras, we were nearing the place where we saw the snake last year.
"What will we do if we see a rattlesnake?" he asked. "Why, naturally, jump around, shout a little, and do the snake dance!" I said. "Do you want to do a little pre-panicking in advance, just in case?" I asked, with a grin. He informed me I wasn't funny at all. And no, we saw nary a snake! Maybe next time, rattle-pup!
We were watching for animals, and wondering when we'd hear the first howl or bugle. The answer came when we went back out to our rock shortly after 6:30 in the evening. There it was! The huge golden orb of the moon was peeking out over the trees! And the very first second it rose, the coyotes began to howl!!! It was perfect! Like a moment out of a movie, when the werewolves come. But they were coyotes instead, which are plentiful in Quehanna.
So evening found us in the midst of a howl-arama in the Quehanna Wild Area. We watched the moon show and it was spectacular. There are just times and places when the moonrise is better than you ever expected. This was one of them. Welcome to just another wild night in the Quehanna Wild Area!!!
My soundtrack song for day 1 of our backpacking adventure is this one: Van Morrison, with Wild Night.