The day after Thanksgiving, early light revealed a frosty wonderland outside our windows. My stepdaughter and her fiancee were visiting, and the 3 of us, along with Barley, headed to the hollow for a morning hike. We were in search of frost flowers, those fantastic figures which are formed when foliage forfeit their fluids in the fall. The moisture is squeezed out of the stem like thin ribbons of taffy and wraps around the plant, creating the beautiful white "flowers". They are incredibly fragile, and when the air warms, they disappear.
Our trail through the woods had been abandoned for most of the summer, so as not to disturb the ticks, and in the early fall, to make way for hunters. It was good to be back; the path welcomed us like a pair of well-worn boots.
We wound our way through the woods, Barley following at our heels, investigating with his nose. At the bottom, where the trail drops into the hollow, we inhaled sharply. Before us was a wide valley of dried wildflowers clothed in glittering frost. Barley plunged into the vegetation and we followed, picking our way across the hollow. It wasn't easy; a small forest of dried weeds and flowers, enriched by summer rains, now reached over our heads, obscuring the trail. We picked our way across the bottom, over the dry creek bed, trampling out a new path through the frozen scene. On the opposite hillside, we climbed through tangles of greenbrier and over deadfall from summer storms, finding our way to an old mossy roadbed. Ahead was a place where Don and I had discovered frost flowers in years past, and we found them there again, clinging to the bases of weeds, like lace-trimmed satin bridal gowns on display in the forest.
Back in the creek bed, we followed its north fork, exclaiming over ice formations and unique rocks, and pausing to fill our pockets. In the shadows, the rocks were edged with hoarfrost, as if they had forgotten to shave.
As is often the case, we had gone in search of one thing, and returned home with so much more, Barley with burrs in his hair and an excuse to sleep by the fire, we with rocks and laughter and images stored in our minds of a morning not soon to be forgotten.