It seems only a couple of weeks ago the fall colors were peaking. Today the hillsides are naked with bare trees.
The rapid transition from full leafy vibrance to trunks and stems is startling. This season brought one of the more spectacular color displays in years. It started late, barely getting interesting a month ago. Finally by Halloween, the hills were technicolor and full.
But now it's a memory. Leaves fall in drifts up and down the mountainsides. The dull brown carpet is dappled by gray cliffs and grayer trees, nearly colorless under cloudy skies. Once again, the hillsides are exposed.
When this happens, there is only one thing to do.
It's the time of year to strap on a good pair of boots, grab yourself a walking stick, and hit the hills. Just out the back door fifty feet will probably work for a lot of you. I'd say at least half don't even have to get in the car.
You've got at least a couple of weeks. There'll be plenty of sunny days to choose from. The great thing is it'll still be cool enough to remind you how much easier it is to do this now than in one of the warmer green months when the vegetation is growing faster than you can pass it.
A trip to the top of the mountain is always better when you can see the next one over.
Once you get yourself into the hills, out into the woods, an interesting thing happens. You start finding the colors you thought were lost. Among the dull browns and grays, brilliant reds, neon oranges, delicate purples and the deep greens of rhododendron capture the eye. Hidden treasures present themselves that would never be seen in the oppressing bloom of late spring and summer.
I'm not telling some of you anything you didn't already know. It's deer season after all. I've heard a hundred empty handed hunters say they were just glad to be out there. Me too.
We may have passed the turkey, but this weekend I'll still be giving thanks. Thursday is for family and friends. The weekend is for the paradise we live in.
I'm putting on my hiking boots and a pack for two nights on the Pine ridge with friends from near and far. You've heard this before. It's a yearly thing.
Rarely the same hike, always the same long mountain and there are lots of possibilities between Breaks and Pineville.
It is our Thanksgiving ritual. Sweet as cranberries and pumpkin pie. Better than snoring through football games. It is holy like holding hands for blessings around the Thanksgiving table. We're giving thanks roaming the ancient trails, exploring the cliffs and crevices, huddling around a campfire singing songs you may or may not recognize.
The brilliant colors of fall are dazzling, but now is the time our mountains reveal themselves. In the shadows of decay, subtle colors remind us there is always something stirring, something alive when all around is dying.