Setting

by cunningstuff

Not quite, but damned close for a found pic!

Lost in the middle of the mountain range, a small valley was called home. Barely 3 kilometers long, and not but a kilometer wide, the valley sheltered a wide variety of flora and fauna, as the sun was persistent most of the day at the elevation of 2.8 kilometers. It was an old glacial valley, and the old bed of ice still hung upon the southern slope. The only pass into the valley was on the northern slope, and two mountains shouldered up against it, cutting it off from only the most determined of mountain climbers. The glacier had carved out a small lake at the southern end as well, and it fed a small stream that wound north through the pass, creating a narrow and treacherous canyon. Spindly pine trees made the northern part of the valley, while lush aspens grew in the shade of the southern mountain. From the boulders piled up in a line before them, you might think that some intelligence had made an obtrusive line of rock, but closer examination showed the remains of a large avalanche, possibly several avalanches, that ended abruptly at the flat valley floor. The pines and aspens were replaced in the middle with stately stands of blue spruces on the east and west sides of the valley, and the end result was a sight for sore eyes. The dark greens of the pines slowly mixed with the ghostly blue of the spruce, ending with lively dance of the light green aspen leaves. The small lake was rarely disturbed by winds, and reflected the forest and the red stone of the mountains like a well made oval mirror. The floor of the valley was it’s prize gem for it’s inhabitants, as it was covered in lush old world grasses and shrubs, even lighter green than the aspens, dotted with small berry bushes along the path of the glacial stream. The water was clean, the altitude being too high for beavers, and the splash of the occasional trout could be heard.

Being summer, the field of grass was also dotted with caribou, mountain goats, and whitetail deer. There was two cougars here as well, though full from a recent hunt, they still eyed some of the deer, hoping for a recently born fawn or perhaps an old codger in the mix. A black bear also grazed, eating at some of the berry bushes, and the sharp eye would see his claws had been sharpened on a few of the spruces. He was a fully grown male, and mating season was still a month away. 13 striped ground squirrels ran to and fro, small alpine butterflies fluttered over small yellow and purple flowers, and the remaining boulders from the shrinking glacier were covered in various shades of greenish grey and white lichens. It was a veritable cornucopia of alpine life, at that perfect altitude where trees and insects still roamed, but apparently untouched by man. Any sane biologist would wear plastic covers on their boots, and walk around with specimen jars, ooing and awwing over the finds they could present in their thesis after spending a day here. Stonecrop and Roseroot grew, as well as wild onions, sorrel and lavender. The grass was no less than 5 distinct species by eye, and with closer investigation, over 25 kinds could be found growing in different waves and patches.

A slight haze from the heat of the day hung above the valley, most likely water vapor, but there was a thin trail of smoke from the southern end. Walking into the thickest part of the aspens, an A-frame cabin was perched on the western side, protected from avalanches by a small out-thrust of granite. The western exposure was all glass, allowing the warmth of the sun to come in, and the back wall was solidly against the mountain. Ceder planking covered any areas not glassed, and a small balcony of redwood also crossed the middle bar of the A. The trail of smoke came out of a single aluminium pipe, as tall as the tallest point of the roof, with a small cone precisely covering the end, and looking much like a wayward firework that never got shot off. River stones from the stream had been laid with sand in a circular area in front of the door, where another small trickle of smoke slowly dried trout hanging from sticks, suspended over a stone encircled fire.  The entire inside of the home could be seen from up close, and a well used kitchen was tucked on one side, small shelves covered in drying herbs, containers of vinegars, and other sundry items. The rest of the house was simple, solid furniture, covered in spotless white cotton and light blue ticking. Arrayed around the cast iron stove that was blackened from constant use, small well polished logs were in a semi-circle, their tops almost gleaming from being used many times. Two comfortable but solid sofas were face to face in the back of the room, and closed off room with door was obviously the privy. The sign of a small boy peeing while looking back over his shoulder laughing at you was the obvious clue, hanging from a nail so rusty it had run a stain down the crack it caused in the frame of the door. There were bunches of herbs and flowers hanging all over, giving the place the feel of a small store in a country town, and any moment you would think the matron of the place would come out and gossip with you, while telling you what a bargain these dried roses would be for your sweetheart. The wooden floor gleamed though, and everything was spic and span, the glass  so clean as to not be there, and even though it was mid-morning, the two beds on the middle floor could be seen with sheets tucked, blankets folded, and pillows fluffed.

Any hiker or climber who made it to this valley would assume it was the lonely outpost of a rich couple, perhaps where they would entertain after a helicopter landing in the valley below. It was simple place, but very well constructed, and looked new. A few bolder people had actually knocked on the door, and were always shocked at the woman who would come out to greet them.

Advertisements