After a very dark and quiet night, Wednesday dawned with some cloud cover. After a breakfast of instant oatmeal I packed my camera bag with snacks and gear and headed out for a hike.
I wasn't certain where I was headed, but decided to start at the pond across the road from the campground. Below is a map of the park. The campground is situated in Big Stone Bay, that dip in the shoreline at the top of the map.
The parks have apparently done a lot of work out here recently. There were several new trails and the old ones had been spruced up with new boardwalks.
Maple and birch glowed along the pond's edge. This is an area thick with conifers and evergreens, mostly black spruce, red pine and white cedar and balsam fir, so the color of the deciduous trees really stood out.
Red squirrels populate this area, and black spruce cones are a main food source. There were piles of nibbled cones on the trail.
From the Pondside trail I picked up the Red Pine trail, which worked its way up from the lowlands into the drier ridges to the north and east. Here grew a tree I was not familiar with, and may not have even noticed if not for it's bright color. Striped maple is a native understory tree, rarely reaching more than about ten feet tall. Leave are nearly five inches across. It is named for its bark which is green and striated.
Up along a ridge I stopped for a snack. It's good to look behind you once in a while, to see the trail from a different perspective, and to check for cougars. Or bears. Or wolves.
The trail ahead.
The woods were pretty quiet, many of the birds having flown south already. But the winter residents were busy, and I heard a number of hairy and downy woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. I even heard a pileated laughing in the trees near the campground. This Red-breasted nuthatch was working over a black spruce along the trail, pulling seeds out of the cones.
There is no question autumn is my favorite season. Summer's nice but I don't like the heat and the bugs. Spring is pretty but February/March are dull and gray. I love the silence of winter, and would rather hike in winter's snow than through clouds of mosquitoes in summer.
But autumn has the best of them all--colorful, bug-less, alive with the activities of animals preparing for winter. I love the smell of dried leaves on a trail, the contrast of red and orange against the green of moss and needle. Summer's monochromatic green turns every shade of brown and yellow and gold. Even pond lilies turn bright red against blue waters. Temperatures are cool, the air is drier, and I feel like I can breathe again.
And how can you not love fall, when you have this?
And then you take that one leaf, add it to thousands more, hang them in a tree, and get this.
What's not to love?