It was a bit chilly but the sun was shining, so I got out for a walk with a couple of friends yesterday. We met on the edge of a subdivision on the west side of town, to hike a mile or two up Ash Canyon.
We parked next to a couple of city water tanks and walked up the dirt road heading up the canyon. Behind us, the silver dome of the capitol building in the center of town glints in the rays of the afternoon sun. This area burned in a wildfire four and a half years ago - the lower hills are covered with last year's dry grass and weeds; the sagebrush still small, just starting to grow back.
Just over the first rise, we left the road to take a small dirt trail down to the creek. Snow still lingered on the north-facing sides of the canyon, but had melted away on the south-facing sides. The creek sparkles in the sun shining down through the leafless trees. The water was icy cold - in fact, icicles still hung where water had splashed up and froze the night before.
It's been five years since the Waterfall fire burned through this area. The underbrush next to the creek has come back. But many of the big pines and cottonwood trees are gone - only skeletons standing against the sky.
We could see the tracks of mountain bicycles on the damp trail. It's still a beautiful place, close to town, to hike or bike. In the black and white of the winter landscape, the black peeling bark, the bleached dead wood and the charred interior of a burned poplar tree becomes nature's work of art.
There are signs that Spring is coming. Small plants and grasses sprout in the damp soil. In sunny places alongside the creek, we stop to stroke the fuzzy little catkins on the willows.
We see an odd pile of rocks, a small branch sticking up out of the center. Upon closer examination, we see there's carving on the stick, and realize it's a grave. "Hear [sic] lies the stinky dog RIP," it says.
The trail crosses the creek, and meanders along the shady north side for a while. It's colder on that side, but the effort of the uphill climb keeps us from getting cold. Another bridge brings us back to the sunnier side. We're warmed up enough now to take off our top sweatshirt layers and tie them about our waists.
We stop often just to listen to the sound of the creek as it tumbles down the bottom of the little canyon. It's obvious that someone else comes here for the same reason when we come upon a little rock chair, just big enough for one person to sit and meditate on the sound of the water below.
As we follow the creek uphill, the canyon gets narrower and the walls steeper. The trail climbs farther above the creek. Finally, we come to where the trail switchbacks up, away from the creek, to meet the dirt road above. We decide we'd rather return the way we came, so turn around and retrace our steps alongside the creek. Such a wonderful outing, right on the edge of town.