So. Many. Leaves!

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.

Index Run group outside Index Cafe, 1992. (I’m in blue tights, middle of front row.)

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.

Idaho huckleberry shrubs with red leaves in fall color
Idaho huckelberry shrubs in their autumn splendor.

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?

Sublime.

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

dogs on leaf-covered path through woods
close-up of red and yellow maple leaves on branch
dogs on leaf-covered hill in woods
sunlight through trees with yellow leaves, dog on leaf-covered trail
sunlight through tall maple trees with yellow and orange leaves
dogs on leaf-covered trail in woods
sunlight through yellow maple leaves
red and brown maple leaves on pond surface
dog on leave-covered trail through trees
It has been dry for several days, so the leaves crunch underfoot, a wonderful sound that sparks so many memories: climbing that maple tree and diving into the leaf piles underneath as a kid; running on so many different leaf-covered sidewalks and trails while living in the Seattle area.

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).

The sound of tromping through fallen leaves with Conall and Finn on October 11, 2021.

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

rail trail completely covered in leaves
metal gate and stone pillar covered in leaves, leaves on ground nearby
Metal gate with stone pillar covered in leaves.
Bright orange sumac leaves.
Sumac leaves.
dog on leaf-covered trail leading toward fog
The light fog added a mystical, magical aura to the scene, like running through a tunnel into another dimension.
dog near stick in hole on bridge covered in leaves
Someone kindly and wisely put a stick into a hole in the planks of a bridge, alerting travelers to the potential hazard otherwise unseen because of the leaves.
trail covered in mostly alder and birch leaves, yellow and brown
Alder and/or birch leaves are yellow and brown, without of the vibrant oranges and yellows of the maples.
puddle with leaves covering its surface
A trail side puddle covered with various types dropped leaves.
Can’t you just hear the crunch of these leaves underfoot?
A large boulder (glacial erratic) blanketed in leaves.
fallen maple leaves resting on young alder leaves not yet fallen off their tree
Even the dead leaves still attached to a young alder, growing low to the ground, catch falling maple leaves, the colorful sides turned downward.
red and orange maple leaves on ground cemetery, near headstones
Bright red and orange maple leaves covering the grounds of a cemetery passed on the drive home.

Feature photo: near home with the boys, October 9, 2021.

10 thoughts on “So. Many. Leaves!”

  1. I’ve never seen the New England colors. But we used to make Fall visits to northern Japan to leaf peep and it looks similar with an explosion of hues. Socal, even in the mountains, is color deprived in comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

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