October 11, 2021
Bright warm sun, slowly falling leaves, a cool undercurrent but still and warm. Piles of old mushrooms deliquesce into inky black stickiness at the bases of trees, but still new mushrooms pop out. I narrowly avoid stepping on a ribbon snake hidden under the skeletal ferns I’ve decided to walk through. It looks at me with dead eyes, still and unmoving when I redouble to see it more clearly. I haven’t seen a snake in quite a while, and it gave me a real scare. That feeling of being about to heavily drop a foot on a snake, no matter the small, non-poisonous variety, brings about a deep primordial shiver. I continue on down a deer path through the browning ferns, every twisted twig a possible snake. Why does this nice weather bother me so? I keep on thinking it should be colder, and I am ready for frosty mornings.
October 12, 2021
Midday walks are now the thing, as it gets darker earlier. The sky is big and blue today, with mare’s tail clouds softly trailing over the greenish-yellow-brown leaves that are quickly dropping. The leaves look terrible, especially all the maples, which have all browned and dropped in the past week. There are lots of bare trees, which look so odd against the others that are still green. It’s warm out, and once again I almost step right on a snake, warming itself in the trail. I wasn’t in the ferns, at least. This was a large adult black rat snake, and I will admit I let out a real scream as it wound its way into the tall grass off the side of the trail. Certainly it was equally distressed to see me. On a later walk down the block, I count three dead baby snakes on the road. I guess they are moving around getting ready for winter?
October 13, 2021
Early this morning there were several large v formations of geese flying north. Tonight the sun sets at 6:18 p.m. The woods are serene. The leaves fall gently, the path is plastered with yellow leaves from all the black birches. Sparrows flutter in the thicket, and I stand to listen to the thrumming of their wings; it’s like a deck of cards being shuffled. The multiflora rosa is bare of leaves, and its stems are bright green dotted with their tiny red hips. Here and there I see a nest. The mugwort is dying back, the green leaves are silvery and the dead leaves are black and curled. They are gorgeous in the winter. When I look back at the woods from the meadowy edges, I see how much has changed in just a few days.
October 14, 2021
I had today blocked out for a big new hike, but the road I needed to get on was closed. So I wasted an hour driving. Ended up being on a trail I had been wanting to visit for a while. It was long, winding–primarily a trail for mountain bikers. I had wanted to get a view in because the leaves will be gone very soon. Especially in the upper elevations. The Catskills glow orange from a distance–you can tell they are peak from far away.
The walk I took was interesting, but there was something sad about it. Lots of waves in the topography–shale mounds? Lots of old stone foundations–really old, covered-with-moss old. There was one in particular that stopped me in my tracks. Covered with thick lush moss. Something was going on there–this glowing moss was obviously responding to some kind of positive force there–a perfect mini-biosphere? A micro-climate fully suited to this lush moss? Aside from that bright spot, the walk felt a little sad to me, and I just don’t know why. Maybe it’s me.
Today was weird–strangely warm, still! The leaves are about halfway fallen. The colors are dull and muted. I wondered as I walked through the deep crispy leaves that covered the trail, what if leaves didn’t really happen anymore? What if in ten years, we’ll look back on those garish photos of leaves changing, the ones that seemed obvious and artless, and maybe look at them differently. I often have this question: what if this disappeared? It’s not a complex question, and I’m sure many people ask it. I shuffled through the deep leaves, losing the trail here and there, listening to the katydids creak and buzz, swatting away the bugs that are still lingering into mid-October.
October 16, 2021
I was able to go for a longer walk this morning. Still it’s warm and static. Very humid, thick, buggy. This walk was a straight up and down kind of walk, past tiny waterfalls and at the turning point there is a view of the Hudson River and beyond. When I got to the top looking out, the clouds dominated the view. Mostly green trees as far as the eye could see–yet when you are in the trees (on the trail that is) most of the trees are browning/yellowing, and many leaves are down already. It’s a dispiriting autumn so far, I hate to report. I was told a brisk cold front is coming in tomorrow, and I do hope it does because I need the invigoration.
October 17, 2021
This morning we are indeed back in fall. Crisp and cold even, jacket-wearing season, the ferns-are-dead season. I look around, noting that last week it was all yellow with swaths of brown, and now it’s all brown and a few bits of yellow waving in the cold breeze. I felt at home again, not uncomfortable like I have been all week. This is where we should be, in this chilled weather. I felt able to linger, looking up at the trees which have dropped many leaves already. On the trail there is a thick layer of birch leaves.
Last night a warm afternoon gave way to a wall of dark gray clouds and ferocious winds, and it rained all night long. This morning the woods are a bit damp, and cup-shaped red russula mushrooms are filled with rain water glinting in the sun. The morning is pale blue, but clouds begin to come in and by 2 p.m. rain threatens again. But in the interim, I was deep in the woods studying some large piles of rocks that looked like neolithic haystacks. Are they Dutch or Esopus Native American relics? You can see through the trees to the ridge, and in two weeks, you’ll be able to see the Catskills in the far distance.
Notes: Thanks for coming along on this week’s walking journal! Have any questions or thoughts? Write me at julia.c.sforza at gmail dot com.