Roger Phillips: Flutter through autumn like a leaf

No matter what you do, embrace the mystery and magic of fall.

rphillips@idahostatesman.comSeptember 26, 2013 

0926 out rogercol

The mountains take on a whole new look and feel in the fall. Enjoy the high country.

ROGER PHILLIPS — rphillips@idahostatesman.com

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 that’s just the weather.

What happens next is anyone’s 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 you’re a hunter, fall is when you learn if daydreams of bucks and bulls become real. It’s when we discover if the predicted fall flights of ducks and forecasts for chukar, quail and pheasant become reality.

It’s 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.

It’s 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 you’re not a hunter, don’t 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 you’re 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 you’re controlling your bike with your mind, and you wish you could fly over winter like it’s a giant gap jump and just keep riding into spring.

If you’re 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.

It’s hard not to stop and soak it all in, so do it. Like spring blooms, it doesn’t last long. Part of fall’s glory is its unpredictable nature.

FALL AND FISHING

Don’t forget your fishing rod when you’re heading out this fall. There’s a magical quality to fishing, especially when you do it with a golden backdrop of aspens and cottonwoods as geese honk overhead while you’re 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 you’re lucky enough to hook into one. You’ve 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.

It’s 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.

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