About this time of summer (yes, still summer for another week or so) I begin to take on the ways of animals - frantically trying to gather in gobs of trail miles before winter, mud, slog and snow set in for the duration of the year. The Autumnal Equinox is no cause for celebration in my home, although I must admit September and October provide some of the best hiking of the year.
But it means the days are closing out sooner in the evening than a month ago, and we're 9 months from having daylight until after 9 PM. Those are the months I look forward to most - May, June, July - perhaps because I hold latent the memories of my youth, of being out of school and playing all night in our neighborhood. It means fewer and less frequent after work sojourns in our local parks, at least until the hikin' bug bites and I set out to listen for owls in the chilly darkness of December. And it signals the rapidly aproaching end of the year, that downhill slope that seems to steepen each day as we inch, then rumble, then rush toward holidays and the mess they makes of a hiker's life. Maybe that's it. This has been a good year for me, taking my chair to several new places. I'm likely the first wheelchair to summit North Peak (at Mt Diablo S.P. here in the Bay Area) and White Mountain, all 14,246 feet of it. Maybe that's where these strange feelings are coming from. This is a year I would plead with to last another 6 months, if forever can't be arranged.
I'm far from resigned to having 2007 leave me in just 3 months, two weeks and a few days. Weather willing, a trip to Colorado is in the works for next week. A short jaunt back to the White Mountains (CA's, that is) might be on the docket. Surely there is time for a North Coast Redwoods trip, a Kings Canyon trip, a Death Valley trip....if I keep moving and keep getting out, the year won't have to end, will it?
So I scurry about here, planning several hikes a weekend until it's too messy to get out. Just like gathering and storing acorns, I pile up maps at my desk, with highlighted routes, trails and sights to see should I have time to consume miles the way I wish. That's what keeps me going - diabetes or not, in a wheelchair or not - the fascination with life all around constantly changing, conceding or renewing - those are the dramas that define me.
Finally, allow me to admit what we all, as outdoorspeople, probably already know. There is no on - season or off - season on a trail. The most innocuous things are often the wonders at which we marvel after a long hike. Let the stars shine on us all for the next several months, even if the sun is going to bed early.