Weekly Walk 6

My spouse needed a ride to work today, so we dropped him off and then headed out for our hike on the way home.

It was our earliest, chilliest hike yet. When we reached the trailhead, it was just below 40°F, and although we warmed up after some brisk walking, our noses and cheeks remained rosy, and we exhaled misty clouds of water vapor.

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It’s the eighth week since the autumnal equinox, and autumn feels like it’s winding down around here.

The milkweed pods have all exploded their fluffy seeds into the breeze.

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Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

The corn field had been mown to stubble since last week.

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The colors have faded dramatically. Granted, the sun couldn’t break through the clouds to brighten things up, but this change in color can’t be attributed entirely to the overcast skies.

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The trees are mostly bare, and many of the ferns have turned brown since last week.

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Brown ferns.

The ones under the evergreen trees are still vibrant. We speculated that this is perhaps because the needles overhead provide protection that the leafless branches of the deciduous trees don’t.

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Green ferns under evergreen trees.

Each week, I try to memorize landmarks that will be visible even in deep snow, worried that the first day we strap snowshoes to our feet and head into the snowy forest, we’ll get hopelessly lost. My spouse insists we’ll know the trail blindfolded by the time the snow falls, but I remember how dramatically the landscape changed in the deep snow last year, and I’m not confident about spotting the weathered blazes along the trail, even if they’re not covered by a half-dozen feet of snow. At least the path is fairly well traveled and close enough to businesses and housing developments that we should be able to catch someone’s attention if we yell loudly enough. No one can say I’m not optimistic. I might start carrying a compass, just to be on the safe side.

For now, though, the trail remains changed but familiar. The snow’s holding out, and there’s still some color holding on.

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