Sunrise at Tony Grove. It’s beauty comes from all directions at once and gives this place an air one can’t help but breathe deep.
As I park at the lot about 6:30 in the morning, too early for the typical summer crowds, I’m met by two beavers crossing the cold still lake back towards a brushy refuge. I suspect they don’t mind the early solace, and leave them be in quiet solidarity.
But I didn’t wake up early just to get in my daily commune with fellow early workers. I came out here to hunt.
I like being a hunter. I firmly believe that it’s good for you. When done right, you learn patience, determination, and most of all respect. You learn these traits in your pursuit, in your take, and in your harvest. Be slow and methodical, take only what you need, use every part of the prey. In summer, and especially at Tony Grove in summer, the best game aren’t deer or birds, but wildflowers, and my take is in photographs and finding what’s passing through.
While to some wildflowers may not be as exciting as an elk or even a homely grouse, you still get to practice your patience, determination and respect for that you seek. You can still slip into that same quiet trance that has served humans for eons in your pursuit, being able to look at no one thing yet everything at once. Your eyes become attuned to the flora you already know and their colors and forms, once acute and novel, bleed into the background. Now you have the advantage. Now you can begin to see what’s hiding.
Beardtongue, geranium and cinquefoils create the first backdrop. Columbines and arnicas soon join. Bluebells add to the lake’s shoreline quilt further along still.
Now, I’m not out for every flower. I know most now by name, as any good neighbor should. I’m out hunting for what’s new and in season: seasons not set by governments or agencies or by lottery, but seasons which always change by the power of life itself and its constant struggle.
As I continue to walk around the shore, I crawl up rock faces and into caves and into every nook a microclimate may be hiding, for in each new world lies new inhabitants.
Ferns with lineage back beyond time take to shaded coves in the sheer cliffs, just past the last patch of snow no larger than a blanket hastily thrown. Back towards the water lie currents, gooseberries and blueberries hiding in plain sight for those who know what to look for. I make a mental note so I can come hunt again this fall but for tastier game.
Coming back around the lake I spot asters, more arnicas, gilias and elephantheads. I’ve also collected pictures of game I don’t yet know. I’ll look them up at home and hopefully stumble on to something exciting and worth a good story. Nothing makes a party rowdier than a good wildflower story.
I get back to my car around 7:30. Early enough that the crowds still haven’t left their valley homes. The early bird gets some peace and quiet - the saying should go.
While it was a short hunt today, just something to sneak in before work and a day spent behind a screen, I’ll be back out. There are more hidden spots in the forest with more to see, deeper into the wood than what I could manage this morning. As I wish the beavers a good day’s rest from the heat and the crowds, I drive down from their lodge on that great gem of Tony Grove Lake, buried deep in the national forest that I call home too.