Tag Archive 'fall foliage'

Oct 24 2018

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First Snow

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The first snow of the season always comes as something of a surprise, but when it comes in October it’s downright shocking. Snow is to be expected in the mountains this time of year, powdering the summits as a fair warning of things to come. But here in the Champlain Valley, it’s rare to see the white stuff accenting the brilliant reds. oranges and golds of autumn, while leaves are still clinging to the trees.

It was beautiful to behold – a light flurry of snowflakes falling to the ground early in the morning, slowly accumulating. It didn’t last long. By noon most of the snow had melted away in temps well above freezing. Now in late afternoon, sunlight finishes the job, illuminating the foliage and thereby redeeming the season. Still I can’t help but brood over the rapid passage of time. The clock on my computer screen conspires with the calendar on the wall to keep me off balance in my gathering years. And now this!

One shouldn’t take it personally, of course. Father Time, unlike Mother Nature, treats us all the same way. But the seasons slip past faster in our advanced years than it does in our youth. It’s hard to keep pace.

I don’t remember how it came up, but this morning my wife Judy asked me if I fear death. My answer was ambiguous. “Yes and no,” I said. Being the cognizant, self-aware creature that I am, I naturally fear death. I know its coming and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. That said, more than death I dread the prospect of living to a hundred. There’s a time to live and a time to depart. I wouldn’t want to be immortal.

All Hallows Eve is right around the corner, followed by the Day of the Dead. Different cultures call it different things, but it amounts to the same thing: a time to stop and remember those who have passed away. Darkness pervades as winter approaches. The harvest is nearly complete. Soon we will hunker down for the long cold season. This is a good time of year to reflect. It’s also a good time to put on some blaze orange and go for a hike – while there is still soft earth underfoot. There’s no time to lose.

 

 

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Oct 13 2018

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A Fairly Good Hike

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I thought I could fake out my old dog Matika by taking her for a walk in a nearby park first, but I had my hiking boots on so she expected a lot more. After the walk, while I was back home taking care of business, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Finally I patted her on the head then left without her. I had in mind a hike that I knew her hind legs couldn’t handle.

Mt. Philo was on the way to Vergennes where there was a book sale going on yesterday afternoon. Yeah, it was a combination work/play outing. I’m doing more of those these days. Was the book hunt an excuse to go for a hike, or vice versa? Good use of gas money, either way.

The parking lot at the base of Mt. Philo was full. I soon found out why. While a few patches of green lingered in the canopy here and there, the autumn color was fast approaching its peak. A thin layer of fallen leaves covered the road climbing to the top of the oversized hill. Too beautiful for words, really. I took it all in while ignoring the steady stream of people. Usually I hate hiking busy paths. This time I didn’t mind it.

I barely broke a sweat during the mile-long, road-grade ascent, but it was still the most rigorous hike I’d done in a month or two. Mt. Philo is a monadnock – what used to be an island in an interglacial sea – so it rises quite dramatically from the Lake Champlain valley floor. When I reached the top, I gazed across the sprawling lake and rolling farmland below to the not-too-distant Adirondack Mountains. A great view for relatively little effort.

The descent went quickly. Soon enough I was driving again and attending that book sale. I collected a box of new inventory for my book biz then headed home. The traffic going into Burlington was pretty intense but I didn’t care. I had squeezed in a short hike during a workday and was feeling very relaxed as a result. Not the kind of deep woods outing I prefer, but good all the same.

 

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Oct 04 2018

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Reflection and Walking

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It has taken nearly a week but I’m back into my routine now. Back to writing, publishing, and running my book biz. Back to cooking, hanging out with Judy, and going for the occasional short walk between errands. Two weeks ago, I drove to Ohio to visit family and friends. That took something out of me since I do not pace myself when traveling alone. It feels good to be back.

The leaves are turning. Cool temps are common now. The days are noticeably shorter. All this is to be expected when we turn the calendar to October. Still I am a little shocked by it. The clock ticks away while I’m busy doing stuff, and I’m left wondering where the days have gone. That’s especially true this time of year, when the rows of pumpkins at the nearby farm stand make it clear that the growing season is over.

My eyes feast upon the splashes of color in the trees as I walk the Rail Trail. Most of the trees are still green but that’ll quickly change now. Note to self: take down the air conditioner still protruding from the bedroom window. Yeah, those days have passed.

I stop several times just to look around. Blue asters still bloom along the trail’s edge. Most other wildflowers have withered away. Still a touch of goldenrod, of course. And a few fallen leaves. I walk in shirtsleeves because, well, because I can. Not too many of these days left, either.

We all know what’s coming. “The long white,” a friend of mine calls it. The colder half of the year is when I do most of my writing. I look forward to that. But I’m also thinking I should go for a long hike or two soon, very soon – before the snow flies. October is a good month for that kind of thing. October is a good month for reflection and walking.

 

 

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Nov 08 2016

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Late Autumn Walk

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late-autumn-woodsEven though I have plenty of work to do, it’s simply too nice a day to stay indoors. I ask my dog Matika if she thinks we should go for a walk and, well, she’s all over it. So we head out.

Not in the mood to drive anywhere, I walk through local woods and along back roads. This isn’t the wild forest I prefer, but it’ll do for now.

With temps reaching into the 60s, shirtsleeves is the way to go. Late autumn light illuminates leaves still clinging to tree branches. At midday the sun is pretty bright. Yet long shadows make it clear what time of year it is.

I kick up a few leaves as I walk. It seems the thing to do. The woods are golden brown. Quite beautiful, actually.

I amble along as if I have all the time in the world. In a way I do. The difference between rushing and not rushing on this two-mile loop is only ten minutes. I can certainly spare that.

Back home, I pour myself a cup of cider to celebrate the season properly. Then I open the windows before setting back to work. But there’s a chill in the air that I hadn’t noticed while walking. The windows won’t stay open long.

 

 

 

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Oct 18 2016

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Autumnal Bliss

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fall-color-lookoutThe trees surrounding my house look like they’re on fire, making it hard to concentrate on work. With temps shooting into the 70s by noon, this may very well be the last warm day. So I don hiking clothes and head for a pocket of woods I haven’t seen in a while: Niquette Bay State Park.

In the mood to make tracks, I shoot down the trail at a good clip. My dog Matika keeps up with me despite the many interesting smells along the way. Even though I’m stripped down to a t-shirt, I break a good sweat while going uphill. Looks like autumn but it feels like summer.

A strong wind blows through the canopy overhead. Leaves rain down – the season being true to its name. The path underfoot is covered with them. The forest is all green and gold. The afternoon sun burns brightly through it, casting long telltale shadows. Winter isn’t far away.

After cresting the hill, I come to a lookout with a good view of Mt. Mansfield in the distance. But more impressive is the color in the hills close by. The fall foliage is peaking in the Champlain Valley right now, a week or so behind the higher elevations. My eyes soak it in.

Back home a little later, the sky suddenly darkens as the front blowing this way brings heavy weather. For the next few days gray skies and rain will be the rule. So I’m glad I got out when I did. A little autumnal bliss goes a long way.

 

 

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Oct 06 2016

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A Touch of Wildness

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town-forest-pond-early-octThe smell is the first thing I notice, stepping into the local town forest. It’s the smell of withering ferns, newly dropped leaves, and something distinctly autumnal that doesn’t quite sync with the mostly green canopy overhead. It all comes as something of a shock. Is it that time of year already?

My dog Matika and I amble down a trail still muddy from the previous day’s rain. Impressed by the recent trail work, I wander in circles while tracing three of the four blazed paths here. The late afternoon sunlight penetrates the shadowy forest in places. I glide along effortlessly, moving in and out of it.

Surprising silence. No birds singing out, no chirp or chatter, no wind. Suddenly it feels like I have stepped out of time and am now walking through another dimension. I start daydreaming. Startled frogs jumping into water snap me out of my reverie as I approach the pond…

Still pond gathering light from a clearing sky. Brilliant fall color just now coming out. But there’s something else going on here – a slow and subtle end to all growth. Too soon it seems, greenery lasting not more than six months at these latitudes. And yet it’s all right on schedule. Nature adheres religiously to its own rhythms.

Climbing a gentle rise away from the pond, I break a sweat despite the cool air. I’m moving faster now, heading back to my car at the trailhead, back to the work at home that still requires attention. It’s like that sometimes. I start leaving the forest behind before even stepping out of it. Yet my blood is up now, so a touch of wildness will stay with me a while longer.

 

 

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Sep 08 2016

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First Color

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early-fall-colorI can’t believe it’s that time of year already. I look up while running my errands and there it is: a sugar maple starting to turn. Busy with moving, renovating the old place, and cultivating my book business, summer went by even faster than normal. Now here it is autumn.

The first sign of it came last month while I was hiking in the mountains with my grandsons. Hobblebush leaves were turning reddish-brown then – a sure sign of what was coming. Wood asters, one of the last wildflowers to bloom during the growing season, appeared in my back yard as well. And the crickets have been noticeably noisy for a while now.  Yeah, there has been plenty of warning. Still… I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

Autumn in Vermont is always something special – there’s no doubt about that. I look forward to the crisp cool days, bug-less hikes, and the kaleidoscope of color. I’m returning to my literary work, too, after a four-month intellectual drought. But those of us who live here in the North Country are always a little sad to see summer fade away. The growing season is short in these parts. We never seem to get enough of it.

That said, I’m enjoying these last few barefoot days and consuming as much fresh produce as I can. The trees are turning but it takes a month or so for Mother Nature to change her seasonal garb. No sense getting ahead of ourselves. The present is all that really matters.

 

 

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Oct 06 2015

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That Time of Year

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RT fall foliageSeems like the autumnal color is a week or two late, and not nearly as vibrant as it has been in the past. Chalk that up to a run of hot days in September, I suppose. But that doesn’t change the fact that the leaves turning is as inevitable as the days getting shorter. It is, after all, that time of year.

Taking a break from work at midday to walk my dog Matika and stretch my legs, I meander along the Rail Trail for a while. The contrast between remnant summer-like green leaves and the gold, burnt orange, and rusty ones gets my attention, emptying my mind of business matters – at least temporarily. Time marches along, as the seasons attest. We are wise not to ignore it.

A caterpillar labors in front of me. Squirrels race across the trail, gathering their winter foodstuffs. The other day I saw a telltale V of geese leaving Canada. No hard frost yet, but a thin coating of it covered the top of my car a couple days ago. Yeah, we’re getting there.

On the Rail Trail, a young woman breezing past on a bicycle notices me taking a picture of the colorful foliage overhead. “Finally!” she says gleefully, “Getting rid of the green!” I don’t share her enthusiasm. The warm season is never long enough for me.

In a month or two, I’ll be missing the color of vegetative growth. Then again, seasonal change is nice. I wouldn’t want to live in Florida. I just wish it didn’t all happen so quickly. It’s hard keeping up.

 

  

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Oct 21 2013

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Autumn Walk

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Autumn trailThanks to recent strong winds, most of the leaves are down now. I kick them up as I walk, stirring up memories of greener days as well as the pleasant, dry rot smell of foliage becoming humus. I revel in it.

These are golden days – a feast for the eyes. Yet the long slumber is fast approaching, as shadowy trunks of largely denuded trees attest. The sun rises reluctantly these days and sets surprisingly fast. But that only makes the warm glow at noon seem all the more precious. It’s the season of mixed feelings to be sure.

I walk in shirtsleeves, breaking a sweat that chills me when I stop. This is sweater weather but I’m not ready to go there yet. Haunted by memories of winters past, I cling to any hint of summer. The slightest leafy green in the forest understory encourages me to do so.

My dog Matika frolics through the forest, finding new and interesting smells everywhere. Meanwhile I slip in and out of the abstract. Lost in thought, I barely notice the rummaging squirrel or the V of geese honking overhead. Turning inward now. I do my best writing during the colder half of the year. Being an outdoor/nature writer for the most part, the irony of this is not lost on me.

Towards the end of my walk, I feel a sense of urgency similar to what squirrels, geese and other wild creatures must feel this time of year. What do I need to do to prepare for the dark months ahead? I’ve gathered books like nuts, and cleared away as many distractions as possible. I’m just about ready to sit down to work, to reactivate the life of the mind. My warm season frolic is almost over.

 

 

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Oct 04 2013

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Autumnal Reverie

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InBkRes OctoberOn a perfect day in early October, it seemed a crime to stay indoors. After running errands in Burlington yesterday, I drove out to Indian Brook Reservoir for a midday walk. I had my dog, Matika with me, of course.

I didn’t realize how tightly wound I was until I put a half mile of trail behind me. By then the dryleaf smell of the woods, the incessant, high-pitched trill of crickets, and the multicolored foliage had worked their magic. My nerves unraveled.

As I walked around the far end of the reservoir, I started daydreaming. Or was it just my overactive mind sorting things out and settling down? Whatever. The result was the same. By the time I had passed the beaver ponds and was heading back towards the parking lot, I felt strangely calm. Didn’t even mind the many people and dogs encountered along the way.

I often write about the healing power of deep woods and the perspective gained by sustained exposure to the wild, but one doesn’t have to go to such great lengths to benefit from nature. Sometimes an hour walk in a park on the edge of town will do.

Time obsession is the great plague of our culture. We scramble to make the most of our time. We multi-task. We cram our days full of activities. There is never enough time. And when finally we do relax, we usually do so with some intoxicant and/or electronic media. But it is never quite enough. Only fresh air and a little sweat does the trick, really. Amazing how easy it is to forget that.

 

 

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