The thought of seeing a whole meadow sparkling in frost feathers got me out of the door before first light so we could arrive at Kowee Meadows in time for the show. Frost and sunshine can turn the dullest clump of alders into a crystal fantasia. Aki and I picked up a mutual friend on the way, someone I have known for forty years. Aki loves him as a hiking companion and a carrier of cheese, which he has been know to share with the little dog.
The trail first crosses a small muskeg with the usual assortment of living and dead pines and then drops into swampy woods. We brought snowshoes but found them useless on the hard packed, icy trail. Through thin woods we could see the meadow turning pink with sunrise but were forced to remain in the dark woods by a barrier of partially frozen wetlands. Aki dashed back and force between her human charges as I walked slowly, head down, to avoid a tumble onto the icy trail. My frustration grew as the sun climbed high enough to throw long shadows on bright-white meadow snow.
The trail led us onto Kowee Meadow just as full sun turned frost feathers on the trailside alders into tiny prisms. I forgot all my frustrations and just enjoyed the bright meadow that appeared to run all the way to the base of Lion Mountain. We found the trail made by a skier during the last thaw that would keep us out of the trees on the return hike to the trailhead. Except where the trail crossed newly refrozen watercourses, we could relax and enjoy sunlight streaming through the frost-covered alders we passed between—A rich way for rain forest dwellers to consume this rare day of winter light.