Searching for Gold

A Photo Essay

Wendy Cohan

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End of summer, Gold Creek, Montana, up Highway 2 along the Blackfoot River

I was born an April baby, but something must have happened when I hit the six-month mark. On a crisp, October day, someone popped me into a pile of fallen leaves. Or, I rode in my older brother’s arms in the backseat of our blue Buick, through the hills of Appalachia, mesmerized by yellows, oranges, and reds. Now that I’m all grown up, I’m not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, but apple cider is my beverage of choice. I’m a fall girl and always have been. Goldenrod, rust, taupe, and smoky green heathers that reflect the landscape in autumn are the colors that comfort me. Reds that veer toward the deep pinks of spawning salmon and red-twig dogwood are the whiskey glaze on the apple cake.

Red-twig dogwood, fern, birch, and hemlock; Columbia Falls, Montana

The scents of autumn are the ones I prefer: dried sweetgrass, the sharp prick of sage, fermenting blackberries on the vine, apples. Hiking through the larch forests blanketing the canyons surrounding Missoula, Montana, my home for five years, mesmerized me. And it’s my pup’s favorite place in the world.

Clark Fork River, Jacob’s Island, Missoula, Montana, Autumn

In search of the elusive pockets of gold, I made the drive to the former mining town of Garnet, Montana, now billed as a “ghost town.” I spent the long, lonely day of Halloween there, completely alone. I made no acquaintances, ghostly or corporeal, but I found my gold.

Larch tree in autumn glory, long, gravel road to Garnet, Montana, managed by the BLM
Not my porch, Garnet, Montana, in good light that shows all my wrinkles. Potential author photo? Yay or nay?

During the brief summer of 2017 — brief because I spent most of it lying on my couch healing from a hip injury — I thirsted for color, adventure, peace, and good health. But nature has always been my go-to for grounding, for returning to my essential self. So, on a Friday I’ll never forget, I took off for parts unknown, exploring a network of gravel roads leading west along Gold…

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Wendy Cohan

Author of character-driven women's fiction, short stories, and essays. Her contemporary romance, The Renaissance Sisters, debuted May 23, 2023.