My entire adult life, I’ve read about and seen photos of the fall colors in New England, Vermont in particular.
“Some day,” I would sigh.
That day has arrived. And I’m here to tell you, Vermont lives up to its autumn leaves reputation.
Growing up in western Washington, just outside Seattle, I was familiar with fall leaves. We had a beautiful maple tree in our front yard. Its limbs were perfect for climbing, and the leaves turned pretty colors in fall. When my father raked the leaves into piles after they dropped from its branches, I delighted in diving in.
The feel and smell of maple leaves is an indelible part of my childhood.
As an adult, I loved running – on streets and trails – that were covered in leaves. So much so, that for several years in the 1990s I organized an informal group run for my running club every autumn. We would drive up to the small town of Index, in the Cascade mountains east of Seattle, where the leaf colors were stunning. Arranging a shuttle ten miles up a remote country road, we’d run back down, kicking through the leaves on the road, ending at the Index Cafe where we’d “recover” by gorging ourselves on fresh blueberry pancakes smothered in butter and maple syrup.
I guess I’ve always been a leaf peeper. I just didn’t know the term until moving to Vermont.
My Idaho home didn’t include maple trees. For autumn color there, I relied as much on the forest’s huckleberry and other shrubs as the trees. There were larches (also known as tamaracks), with their needles turning bright yellow before dropping, and occasional aspen and mountain ash trees, but mostly it was an evergreen landscape.
What fall colors appeared in Idaho’s mountains were quite pretty, but nothing like the display put on by the trees in Vermont.
Maple, birch, aspen, oak, ash, sumac, alder, beech…they all add their distinctive leaf shapes and colors to the collective riot of color splashed on every hillside, pleasing the eye any direction one looks.
While there is still plenty of color splashing across the landscape as I write this in mid-October, I think we’ve passed peak colors, at least in central/northeastern Vermont.
Unless…you focus on the ground, which I’ve found myself doing the past few days.
Those colorful leaves on their tree branches must eventually fall off, creating a colorful carpet on forest paths and trails.
Walking on them, through them?
They captivate not only the eyes, but also the ears. And the nose – the strong scent of pumpkin and spice, but also, a hint of…those yellow bars of Dial soap. (How weird is that?)
Come along, follow me and and my dogs and I’ll show you what I mean…
Leaves close to home, October 5-11, 2021
Here’s a snippet of what moving through a thick cover of dry, dropped leaves on pasture grass sounds like (along with the panting of one large dog named Conall).
This morning I took Conall for a run in a nearby state forest. The Cross Vermont Rail Trail (a recreational trail on decommissioned railroad right-of-way that eventually will cross the breadth of the state) passes along a side of the state forest. It’s a wonderful place for us to run, peaceful and quiet and oh so beautiful under a canopy of tall trees. That’s been especially true as the tree leaves were turning color. Because the rail trail’s surface is smooth, I don’t worry about tripping over a boulder or root buried under all those leaves.
I love seeing the colorful leaves on the trees, but I might love them even more after they’ve fallen, covering any surface they meet as gravity pulls them gently toward the ground.
Leaves on the rail trail, October 12, 2021
Feature photo: near home with the boys, October 9, 2021.