Hints of Autumn: Welcoming a New Season in the North Cascades
Each season brings its own unique changes that are often welcomed when the time comes. Although I’m never ready for summer to end, and often in denial in September, I gladly accept the autumnal changes of October. In fact, if I had to choose a favorite season, it would be fall.
Autumn reminds me of both renewal, with the start of a new school year, and closure of the warm seasons, as animals build their winter cache and trees begin to shed their leaves in preparation for the cold months ahead. It seemed the early signs of autumn were present in September, when we graduate students of Cohort 10 in the Masters in Environmental Education program began our year-long residency at the Environmental Learning Center. Now, well into October, the signs of autumn are certainly upon us.
Each day, as I wander through the ELC campus and nearby trails, I discover new signs that suggest autumn’s arrival. Heavy rains have come through the upper Skagit valley, but for the most part we have been blessed with chilly mornings and warm, bluebird afternoons.
As the days grow shorter and the nights a bit longer, the sun’s newly-angled rays create a warm, golden light in the forest, illuminating the green shades of the Douglas firs, western red cedars and western hemlocks that fill this landscape. The leaves of deciduous trees have started changing from the vibrant green of summer to the dark reds, yellows and oranges of fall.
Early signs of fall foliage near the Environmental Learning Center
Aside from cooler temperatures and changing leaves, fungi is another sure sign of fall. In the forest, mushrooms bring an edible and visual treat for fungi enthusiasts. Each day I discover a new fruiting body emerging from the humus of the forest floor or sprouting from a decaying snag. These mushrooms are impressive, sprouting in large clusters or smeared along a nurse log, and varying in color, size and texture. Fungi are full of surprises: purple fleshy caps on the forest floor or bright, orange puffs on a stump. These fungi have encouraged me to pay attention to detail, and look where I might not have considered before.
As a new resident to the ELC, I wait in anticipation to fully experience the changing seasons in the heart of the North Cascades. When the leaves have been shed and the days turn dark and wet, I’ll be ready for the first snow to fall, and hopefully stick. In late winter, when I’m tired of being wet and cold, I’ll gladly welcome the new growth and longer days of spring. And as always in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be ready for the warmth of summer. But for now I welcome fall, and the golden warmth it brings this time of year.