Monday, October 01, 2012

Dances with Leaves

Well, it's that time of year again. Early; too early, I think. Not the usual end-of-summer lament but a real sense of we're-being-short-changed. The last few weeks have been unseasonably cool and the weekends have been more like mid-fall than late summer. The usual soaks in the Humber to be had at the end of September were not in the offing this year.

I didn't get back to shoot 16th Avenue yesterday because instead, I went trail hiking with P-Doug. We'd talked about it last week but it had never really jelled; we kind of decided to go with it. I was happy for the excuse to get out. We went up the closed section of Huntingdon Road again, which is generally how we've come to open and close out the main hiking season... you know, where it's "shorts" weather. Yesterday could have been shorts weather, but only just; as it was, I was in jeans and a jean jacket. It was still comfortable enough for me to take the hike in bare feet, but it won't be for too many more weeks. Depending on the weather and schedules, that might be it for feeling the forest beneath me as I wander through it for this year, but we'll see. The first frost that sets in usually leaves behind it a ground temperature clammy enough to be uncomfortable, and if you're not going to enjoy it, there's not much point.

Generally when we close out the main hiking season on Huntingdon, the leaves have turned a uniform gold in there. It's almost unbelievable; it's almost like being in an impressionist painting or landing on another planet. I've posted shots on the blog elsewhere. Given that the leaves here in town are turning already and how cool it's been, I more than half-expected that kind of scene when we were there. But no; Huntingdon's still fairly green. The cool weeks don't seem to have unduly rushed the trees along the Humber.

The hike we follow generally takes us about half way along the closed section, where we carve off at the very tip of the ridge over the river valley and follow a deer trail. Up and down a few hills over a forest carpeted with soft red pine needle sheddings over moist soil. It seems to me that wandering it shod in warm weather is to rob yourself of half the experience of it; it makes no more sense than doing pottery with winter gloves on. We made our way to the heights to a spot a number of us enjoy where the trees end beside what must once, and not so long ago, have been a farmer's field. I've got an old shower curtain I spread out so we don't get dirty and for a while can just sit there and listen to the breezes in the treetops and luxuriate in the comparative stillness and warmth of the air at ground level, with the sun streaming through the branches and dappling everything... knowing that in a few weeks it'll be a memory again till April or so.

When it started to cloud over and we started musing if the rain we thought we'd dodged might arrive anyway, we packed up. Besides, by then we were fairly hungry, so we did the 20-minute wander back to his car and headed into Bolton, debating whether to go to the Toby Jug or the Black Bull. The Black Bull's a nice place right in the very heart of the 19th century heart of Bolton, and the food there is impressive, and for not much money. But it had been most of the year since we'd last been at the Toby Jug, so we went there. Since P-Doug's been doing a lot of the driving on our treks lately I promised to pick up the tab. I had the French beef dip, which they seem to have updated and was great, along with the house salad and their balsamic dressing. I think he had a Reuben but I wasn't paying close attention. We were discussing one of the new books I bought this week, the one by John Sewell, and I'll probably post my musings about it here when I've had a chance to absorb most of it.

We also stopped at the dying Blockbuster in town where they're selling off movies and toys and books... it's hard to see; Blockbuster pretty much pulled out of Canada a year or two ago. I picked up number of movies on the cheap... The Chocolate War, An American Werewolf in London (I bought it because the two Americans from the movie have a commentary track), A Serious Man, and... something else that escapes me at the moment but I've wanted to see for a while... and finally, for ten bucks, season one of The Bill Cosby Show. This is not The Cosby Show from the 80s; this is a show he did at the end of the 60s, where he plays a high school teacher; inner-city, I expect. I haven't watched it yet, but it's a buy for three reasons: I've been a fan of Bill Cosby's since I found my parents' copy of Why Is There Air? when I was seven; it was just ten dollars and it's a whole season; and I'll be fascinated to see what the vibe was in 1969-1970. The only thing I can claim to remember from 1970 is my dad's yellow Oldsmobile sitting in the driveway. Well, that and sticking a key repeatedly into a wall outlet until a big green bolt literally shot me half way across the living room. Oh, and splitting my forehead open on the edge of a TV set. ...Geez, it's a wonder I made it to 1971.

That turned out a little longer than I expected. Basically I was just making a journal entry for future me; the kind of thing I used to be good at and has been of value to me in the past for placing things in context. I suppose it's still that but it's more expansive than I anticipated. :) Anyway next weekend is a long weekend, so hopefully I can get some shots of the new bridge for the archive. Looked to me like it will be open sometime this autumn. Remarkable when I remember that when I was there in August it was still just abutments that didn't in any way connect, and a little Bailey bridge pretty much hanging in mid-air from both ends.


jim said...

We're having a similar autumn experience here in Indiana -- inferno, inferno, inferno, inferno, inferno, summer, cold.

Bridgewater said...

Autumn here was glorious last year: after a warm spring and wet summer, a couple of sticky weeks, and then a long succession of warm, dry, sunny days and mild nights, with no frost until the end of October and no wind or rainstorms to strip the trees bare, so the geraniums hung in colorful cascades from the balconies and the the leaves in soft colors clung until Thanksgiving. We had no snow until into December. Summer was springlike this year, and the few very warm days inevitably ended in convection clouds suddenly boiling up, then dumping a torrent with special effects. We have had a mild autumn with low-hanging, foggy clouds and mizzling rain. The leaves have begun to turn, but strangely, unevenly, with individual branches of yellow or red on an otherwise green tree. The hiking is varied and wonderful most of the year, but many of the paths where the bedrock is close to the surface are naturally strewn with small chunks of stone, not conducive to barefoot hiking. When I was a kid my mother couldn't keep shoes on me, and in the woods where we played the ground was thick with a spongy carpet of pine needles such as you describe, a memory for the mindful to enjoy again and again.

barefoot hiker said...

I have a hard time remembering year to year what the weather was like without something like this as a reminder. Unless it's a truly exceptional one, like when it was still warm enough to go for a dip in the Humber at Thanksgiving (early October for us) in, I believe, 2007. That tends to stand out. As it is, next Monday is Thanksgiving, and I'm hoping it's just warm enough to go kicking through the leaves at 7th Concession on the weekend, resuming a Thanksgiving tradition I followed for a few years.