The snow fell softly. It was a cold fall snow and it didn’t crackle under the horse’s hooves, but instead it crunched and squeaked. The rider wore a silk scarf around his neck and the flaps on his woolen cap were pulled down over his ears. Had the sun been visible it would have been two hours short of its peak—and they had already been riding for many hours.
The horse labored up the rise. The man gave it the reins and occasionally urged it forward with his feet, ducking as snow fell from the pines. In many places the trail they were on was only a dim indent in the snow. It faded often. But both horse and rider knew the route and both were sure of their course. The country around them sank as they traveled up the hill. Mountains, creeks, trees, and valleys were unveiled below them as the evergreens thinned and the fog began to dissolve.
Soon, they crested the rise. There were only a few sparse trees and from the dome of the hill they could see for miles. The horse pricked its ears forward, scanning the countryside. Pines covered in snow weighing on their needles, yellow aspens about to shed their last leaves but frozen too early, and imposing granite sentinels that stuck out like decrepit watchtowers of days gone by. The rider sat easy in the saddle and spoke to the horse.
This is beauty.
The snow fell softly, and the rider started the horse down the other side of the hill.