An Ode to Montana’s Fall
The alarm clock goes off as it always does, reminding of the workday and the start of the week. Though the routine is the same, the temperature isn’t. The soft hazy eyed walk to the bathroom now turns to a quick sprint to close the window and ultimately a dressing to warm up, fresh out from under the covers. The gaze out the window puzzles further with the darkness encapsulating the earth unlike the month previous where I watched the sun already cresting above the ridgeline. The double take to the clock says all is well, but a change is certainly underway.
The official day of fall begins September 23, but we all know that fall decided to show up at least a week or two earlier than that. The arrival of the college students in Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings certainly chimes in with the coincidence of the season, but no other phenomena dictates its arrival than the change of the cottonwood and aspen trees. The leaves turn from the bright green to the glowing yellow, oranges, and reds. The trails turn from a dry dusty playground to a moist, leaf covered slip and slide with the arrivals of the rain and alpine snow.
Skiers begin to dust off the cob webs from their nordic and backcountry gear where alpine snow, as we all got a few days ago, remind us of the approaching winter. The Beartooth Highway and many other alpine roads may be closed for the season, but that doesn’t mean you cant drive up as far as you can go and hike in to get the first lines of the season.
Hunters rejoice! The season they have all been waiting for with the rut in full effect, the bow season for elk is a time honored tradition for the Montanan. Orange vested, rifle shouldered hunters wander through the grasslands and fields for pronghorn and upland bird to share with the seasons for the gathering of family and friends. Whisky is poured with the cooling of the days and the carving of the pumpkin and the dressing up of the children knocking on doors and loading the baskets full of sugars to annoy the parents with.
Think because grasshoppers aren’t clicking in the fields and caddis aren’t dancing near the surface of the rivers the fishing is done for the season? Think again. With what is possibly the best time of year to be a fly fisherman, the college students are busy neck deep into text books, the hoards of summer tourists are back home day dreaming of their summer vacation, and the seasonal workers are crunching their hours and working over time. The trout however, are feeding on swung streamers and big dead drifted crayfish and stone flies fattening up for the upcoming cold winter months.
The backcountry is usually only shared with the equally adventurous friends who want those fresh tracks as much as you do. The hunters either head out solo for their fridge stocking and photo album opportunities or share the experience with a group as they reminisce through the winter wheat. The falling cottonwood and aspen leaves seam to be all the angler needs to feel comforted with each cast up stream into the riffles. Where ultimately the piping hot cup of coffee in the morning to awake the soul or the warm pull from the days ending glass of whiskey with layers on and the sun setting as the work day ends may be the most cherished season of the year for every Montanan.