13 November: I hiked into Commonwealth Basin at first light this morning as mist fell constantly. Clouds clung tight to the tops of the mountains and drifted down through the valley. Six inches of snow covered the forest as I passed the wilderness border and the trail had packed wet snow. The air smelled fresh and damp, and my face tingled with the cold mist.
When I first arrived, I could not see the steep slopes at the far end of the basin. After 30 minutes, the fog in the valley began to rise and gradually I could see more of the sides of the mountains. Water dripped off the needles on the subalpine firs as I walked by. I passed several avalanche shoots covered with alders and boulders. As I turned to head back toward the trailhead, a pika scolded from high on the slopes and a flock of 30 pine siskins flew up the valley a hundred feet above treetops chattering away as they went.
Blankets of snow covered the tops of granite boulders and had fallen from the sides, showing the lichen blotches across the boulders. Under trees, thick moss patches gave a vibrant green color to the white landscape. In the basin bottom, Mist rose out of the forest of subalpine firs and the mist clouds rose and fell, twisting and turning, like a ballerina dancing, as they drifted south through the valley. I enjoyed watching the every changing scene.
Outside of the wilderness boundary, I found a collection of mushrooms growing on the trunk of a large dead cedar tree. The contrast between the red wood, moss, lichens and color of the mushrooms stood out in the soft understory light. The delicate fairy bonnets, less than an inch across, dotted the trunk. As I sat down on the trail, I almost expected to see something fly out from under a bonnet. Several other species of mushrooms covered parts of the trunk, including a small yellowish one less than a quarter inch across. The wet weather has made it ideal for the emergence of mushrooms.