There Must Be Magic

By GirlWithACamera

Now THIS Is What I'm Talking About!!!!

My husband and I had been planning a backpack trip to the Quehanna Wild Area for the first week of October. But then the hurricane got us in its grasp, and its tail whacked us around, and days later, it was STILL soggy and wet everywhere.

We'd discussed leaving on Wednesday morning but it just seemed too damp. So we decided to go Thursday, even though the forecast was calling for the possibility of some showers sometime on Friday. If it drizzled, so be it. We were willing to take the risk.

So Thursday morning, we were out of the house and gone by around 10. By shortly after noon, we were walking into our back-country site in the Valley of the Elk. The weather was supposed to be rather mild, which is a boon for backpackers. It's hard to be TOO happy living outdoors around the clock when your hands are cold.

There was a whole herd of people in our parking lot, which was daunting. When people see us backpacking, we're like animals in a zoo. They want to watch us, prod us, investigate us, ask us questions. (Especially me: a GIRL backpacker, whoda thunk it?) But minutes before we finished strapping our gear onto our packs, they hopped into about four pick-up trucks and zoomed away, leaving us to backpack in peace.

I had intended to take it easy the day before, but had ended up spending two and a half hours digging holes in the yard to plant bulbs instead. My left knee and my right ankle were calling me nasty names by the time we finally made our way in.

Storms and/or big winds that came through Quehanna since we'd been there last threw a bunch of big trees down on our usual path in. The new-fallen trees turned what had already been a challenging backpack into a truly daunting one, especially if you are small, like me. I do NOT recommend that path; in fact, we discussed it and decided even before we were done climbing over all that crap that we needed to find a new way in and out. More on that tomorrow.

We arrived at our site to discover a real treat that was worth the difficult hike in: there were seven trees in absolute PEAK foliage condition in the Valley of the Elk, and so what you see right here in this photo is the view from our hill down into the valley. WOW and WOW and WOW and WOW! I don't think we've EVER seen the foliage here better than this!

But the peak was here and there, not everywhere. It was like aliens had dropped those seven trees right in front of us and flew away. We joked at bedtime that somebody would need to turn those trees out so that we could sleep. For foliage like this has its own glow, even in the wet, even in darkness. Autumn trees make their own light.

We heard the first squeal of an elk around 6:30 in the evening, and then coyotes off and on after that. There were mingled sounds of coyotes and elk all night long, but it wasn't too overwhelming. (We were there in mid-September one time and it was so raucous at night that we needed earplugs.) I heard the coyotes heading home after their night of carousing around 5 or so in the morning. A bugle. A squeal. A howl. Yep. Business as usual in the Quehanna Wild Area.

So we leave this day with two backpackers snug in their tents on a hillside under a pine stand. And for our nighttime symphony, the wild sounds of elk and coyotes, doing their endless chase and dance in the Quehanna back-country, by the light of the moon!

The soundtrack song for this beautiful foliage show which is among the best I have seen here is this one: the Foo Fighters, with Best of You.

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