The temperature dropped as I climbed into the mountains, and a bank of gray clouds moved across the forest like a curtain closing on summer.
Farewell. So long.
Fall feels different, like anything can happen. You might wake up to frost and be sweating by afternoon. Or you might wake up to a balmy morning and be chased by a storm that sounds like a hound baying on your trail.
Fall is a mystery like that. And thats just the weather.
What happens next is anyones guess. A driving rainstorm can litter the forest floor with leaves that seem to disappear back into the duff before our eyes.
WATCH FOR SNOW
Or a snowstorm might blanket everything in white, and we never know if the snow will be gone tomorrow or stay until spring.
If youre a hunter, fall is when you learn if daydreams of bucks and bulls become real. Its when we discover if the predicted fall flights of ducks and forecasts for chukar, quail and pheasant become reality.
Its when we sit beneath a cold, dark sky and watch a rising tide of pink and orange glow on the horizon that makes us forget about the ungodly hour we rose or the long, coffee-fueled drive to get there.
Its also when standard greetings like hello or how you doin? get replaced by gotch-yer-elk-yet? or gotch-yer-buck-yet? followed by a 10-minute conversation rather than simply replying hello or saying fine.
A SEASON FOR ALL
If youre not a hunter, dont feel left out. Fall brings reflection and urgency. You look back on the wonderful times you had during summer and try to milk a few more trips before the snow flies.
If youre a mountain biker, you know the clock is winding down, and you try to squeeze in more rides in those perfect conditions after rainstorms settle dust and make traction sticky as glue.
Cool weather feels like someone magically added a gear to your bike as you churn up a grueling climb that made you wilt like an orchid in August.
You zip the neck of your jersey to fend off the chills before you effortlessly descend down the trail like youre controlling your bike with your mind, and you wish you could fly over winter like its a giant gap jump and just keep riding into spring.
If youre a hiker, every place from the desert to the mountains is available for you to trek across the landscape. The woods turn from green to a patchwork quilt of gold, orange, red and purple.
Its hard not to stop and soak it all in, so do it. Like spring blooms, it doesnt last long. Part of falls glory is its unpredictable nature.
FALL AND FISHING
Dont forget your fishing rod when youre heading out this fall. Theres a magical quality to fishing, especially when you do it with a golden backdrop of aspens and cottonwoods as geese honk overhead while youre casting into the cool, clear waters.
Or you float a broad, shimmering river and wait for fish with salt in their veins that are quick to brawl if youre lucky enough to hook into one. Youve tapped into the pulse of the Pacific, so savor the moment after your heart rate returns to normal.
Fall brings all those things, so bring on the leaden skies, the roaring wind, the driving rain, the foggy and frosty mornings, the mysteries and the magic.
March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but fall rolls in like thunder and out like a freight train.
Its impossible to ignore, so embrace it, roll with it, and revel in it.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.