Reflections on late fall

The calendar continues to move closer to winter; autumn is almost out of our rear view mirror. The waterfowl have all flown south, the temperatures are dipping lower at night, the sun is hanging closer to the horizon, and the majority of leaves have fallen. The oak tree leaves that remain are a deep russet color.

We had a couple of days of calm winds, where the stillness of nature was delightful. As sunset neared, the winds dropped completely and the lake became like a sheet of glass. The sinking sun’s rays were a golden light and spread across the shoreline. Each tree seemed to glow until gradually the sun sank below the opposite hill and spread it’s shadow over the trees.

Soon the lake will begin to freeze. The oaks will drop their remaining leaves, and winter will settle in. It’s been a glorious, and longer, fall – nothing to complain about here.

A vibrancy of fall colors

As summer fades in the north we are treated to a burst of vibrant fall colors. It’s a feast for our eyes – our senses absorb the colors and try to soak them all in. The blue sky seems bluer and the contrast with the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall grab our attention. It is sometimes breathtaking and even overwhelming, but glorious none the less.

The peak of these colors is lovely, yet fleeting. The intensity changes daily and the colors quickly fade and become muted. And then one day the wind blows and the leaves that had been clinging to the branches since spring let go and carpet the ground with their diminished hues. It’s a ritual that we know happens – a reminder that all things change, and that the snow will soon be ushering in our winter season.

Late summer asters

Summer has begun its wind-down. The daylight hours are dwindling, the sun is lower in the sky, the leaves are drying, and some of the birds have already begun their journeys elsewhere. Our colors are starting their change to the deep reds and oranges of fall. So I set out in search of a “last” color of summer and found these Lindley’s asters blooming with their final hurrah, valiantly reaching up to the sun’s warmth. With our lowering night-time temperatures they too will soon be fading into fall’s colors.

Riding the trail

We recently made a camping trip to Vilas County in northeast Wisconsin. This is an area filled with forests, lakes, and welcoming community towns. We took our bicycles with the intent of riding the Heart of Vilas Bike Trail. This 52-mile paved trail was a gem to ride. At times we were in the thick of the woods following a curving and winding trail, and at other times we were riding along the shore of beautiful lakes. We rode trail sections that were relatively flat and then we also rode some short rolling hills – perfect for gaining enough momentum going down to get you almost to the top of the next hill. We rode over bridges spanning streams and wetlands. We saw deer looking at us from within the woods and we saw turkeys crossing the trail. With hot sunshine and warm breezes we made a stop for ice cream (twice). On the second day the late afternoon clouds rolled in and the rain began, but we were under a tree canopy and protected from the heaviest drops. And as quickly as it started, the rain passed out of the area. It was a memorable trip and we’ll look forward to a return trail ride in the future.

Standing tall

Slowly our summer season is coming to a close. The hours of sunlight are diminishing each day, the nights are cooler, and the landscape is losing its green lushness.

Walking in a field the other day I noticed the remainders of what had once been blooming dandelions. Their colors were gone and their skeletons stood tall above the other drying vegetation. Here they seemed proud of their intricate structure and proud of having survived the recent winds. There was no way to know how much longer the remaining blossom stems and seed would remain intact – a few hours, a day, a week – and yet they made a statement to me of resilience and beauty.