“In the autumn of 1985, a strong hurricane ripped across suburban Long Island, where I was then living as a student. For several days afterward much of the populace was without electricity; power lines were down, telephone lines broken, and the roads were strewn with toppled trees. People had to walk to their jobs, and to whatever shops were still open. We began encountering each other on the streets, “in person” instead of by telephone. In the absence of automobiles and their loud engines, the rhythms of crickets and birdsong became clearly audible. Flocks were migrating south for the winter, and many of us found ourselves simply listening, with new and childlike curiosity, to the ripples of song in the still-standing trees and the fields. And at night the sky was studded with stars! Many children, their eyes no longer blocked by the glare of houselights and streetlamps, saw the Milky Way for the first time, and were astonished. For those few days and nights our town became a community aware of its place in an encompassing cosmos. Even our noses seemed to come awake, the fresh smells from the ocean somehow more vibrant and salty. The breakdown of our technologies had forced a return to our senses, and hence to the natural landscape in which those senses are so profoundly embedded. We suddenly found ourselves inhabiting a sensuous world that had been waiting, for years, at the very fringe of our awareness, an intimate terrain infused with birdsong, salt spray, and the light of stars.”
-- David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous (Vintage Books, 1997)
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Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when the leaves are about to start turning. The forests are never more brilliantly colorful than they’ll be during the coming weeks.
That’s one reason why fall is an especially popular season for hiking. Plus the delicious, crisp, cool autumn air can make outdoor exercise extra exhilarating.
We’ve already seen swatches of color in the woods, and the foliage will become much more pronounced during October, sometimes peaking around mid-month.
But the timetable can vary considerably from one year to the next -- by as much as 2-3 weeks -- depending in part on the weather, including day and nighttime temps.
While October is our main foliage month, some years the period extends well into November. It comes earlier in higher-elevation areas and later in the lowlands.
Last year we had one of our most spectacular color seasons in recent memory. This season’s foliage may or may not be as wonderful and gorgeous -- time will tell.
Whether the colors are absolutely brilliant or more muted, as they are some years, fall remains a terrific time of year to venture out and explore the mountain trails.
We usually see the best colors of all on our Columbus Day weekend camping trip in the Adirondacks (this year's dates are 10/7-10), for reasons that include the pristine air in wilderness areas and the combination of warm days and considerably cooler nights.
-- Charlie Cook