Monday, September 19, 2011

Pre-Autumn Sunday

Written by Adam

To everyone who emailed and left comments about joining our group of writers - we'll be in touch later this week. 
We've had a great response, thank you!


Work week.


I have to figure out how to make the Sunday replace the work week.

I sure do love Sunday. The powers that be misplaced my smartphone sometime Saturday evening to be sure temptation was nowhere to be found all day Sunday. We are entering my favorite time of year in New England and non-stop outdoor activity will fill the calendar from here on out.

New England has true changing seasons. Winter is really winter, followed by Spring that arrives with blossoms, an unmistakable scent in the air and the infamous mud season in the northern locales. Sometimes there is a blur of spring into summer, but the end of school helps darken the line. Summer to fall again has distinct boundaries leaving no doubt change is in the air.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The temperatures are perfect. The scenery spectacular. Biting insects on the decline (though  a week ago they were out in force for a final assault). The harvest festivals and country fairs. Cool mountain hikes culminating in warming sunrises and foliage vistas. Steel toed boots and flannel shirts smelling of fresh sawdust. The swing of the splitting maul and scent of fresh stacked wood. Fall reverses the clock and takes us back to the land and our heritage. I look forward to it all with great anticipation.

This year's transition happened in the last couple of days. We awoke to a less than subtle forty degrees on the old thermometer. That is about a twenty-five degree drop from a few days ago. Fortunately, we are always ready for such an occurrence and quickly had a fire in the hearth. 

I have a special place in my heart for fire. Fire is primal, the key to human survival. Fire appeals to the senses  - crackling logs, hints of woodsmoke, vibrant orange, red and blue flames, radiant warmth. Food roasted over an open flame is unrivaled. Fire is safety, security, and home. 

Therefore, save the unfortunate instances of dormitory or apartment residence, I have always lived with a fireplace in my house. It is a domicile prerequisite, slightly below a suitable roof and just ahead of indoor plumbing. Woodstoves have a similar effect, but I've had disagreements with them in the past and prefer open fires.

After a breakfast of hot apple pie, we lightly scheduled the day. We expected perfect temps and arranged ourselves for a favorite hike at the Ruby Fenton Preserve. We've mentioned this hike before, but it bears repeating - it is quintessential New England. Hardwood groves, bubbling streams and beaver ponds, meadows of golden rod and thickets, low human attendance.  I don't mean to gush, but in Connecticut it is a welcome oasis.

Another great thing is the trail guide provided for identification of key features. The guide reminds me that nature is not just for my viewing pleasure. Nature is working hard to sustain life. For example, the guide indicates an area of red oak that may be considered "waste." From an economic perspective perhaps, but it is vital to the ecosystem - controlling erosion, purifying the water, and providing food and shelter for various wildlife. Waste indeed. Only someone removed from the process would misinterpret its worth.

We easily passed through the woods, waded in the stream, and explored the flood plains left by the recent storm. Even the hurricane plays a part in natural renewal. Old weak trees are removed to allow the undergrowth to thrive. Flooded areas leave vernal pools teaming with amphibians. Pretty fantastic stuff.

We ended with a cornucopia picnic. Gala apples we picked Saturday, cheeses from Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, Vermont, sour dough bread and olive oil, various nuts and chocolate covered pretzels, and fellowship with our neighbors who joined us for some outdoor time. We sat by the beaver pond, watching a mallard watching us. Light breezes and warm sunshine completed a perfect pre-autumn day.

Late afternoon saw us at home with another perfect fire, a stack of Vermont nature guides and the Backpacker Gear Guide. Just "chillaxing" as all the kids say. It was everything we want Unplugged Sunday to be. 

Of course, I included some mental preparation for this - 

I really need to make Unplugged Sunday include Monday. Probably Tuesday as well. And Wednesday....

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