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Off The Trail — The Longest Day

July 8, 2014

Summer solstice shadows, Mt. Patterson, Sweetwater range. Photo/Wendilyn Grasseschi

During the last hour before the sun sets on the longest day of the year, the shadows cast on the rock-ribbed ground of this high alpine pass are long and lean and cleanly drawn.

 

The air is heavy and somnolent and golden.

 

The wind is strong. It is wild as it sings the night home and it, too, is golden.

 

The tiny alpine phlox flowers that carpet the silver-grey dolomite soil like a million stars come to earth fill the high, clean air with sweet, sweet perfume. 

 

They, like everything else up here, turn their faces toward the setting sun.

 

The sun sinks a little lower in the sky, lowering toward the Sierra crest far to the west, across the deep valley below.

 

The wind, which has been blowing all day, whipping like a mad thing across this wild, wide Sweetwater Mountains pass, buffeting straggling pine and mowing the short grass flat, finally seems to notice its time is nearly over.

 

It settles a bit, calms; it sighs instead of bellows, trying out the quiet for size.

 

The sun sinks a little farther.

 

The light turns a deeper gold, the shadows, air, and wind turn a deeper gold.

 

The phlox, sky pilot, and pica come to attention, waiting.

 

The wind stops.

 

The sun touches the Sierra crest, and then sinks slowly, slowly down behind the ridge.

 

The world holds its breath.

 

The gold turns to indigo, the longest day gives way to the night.

 

Summer is here.

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