Byron Scarbrough, Outdoors page writer
Fall is the season of change and reflection. The end of the busy summer and the advent of cooler weather lends to looking at the projects we’ve put off and tending to yard work, namely, the raking of leaves. As I took my coffee on the back porch to watch the rising sun shining on the multi-colored trees this morning, I wondered where the summer went and how it got so ever-living There’s a moment when the less practical of us take time to admire the color of the trees and the pause breathe in the cold autumn air as if it were the first flower of spring.
Casey Burdick from the Ohio Division of Forestry says we were actually treated to what she calls “double dose of fall color” this year. Stress from the summer drought caused a “false fall” in early September, when leaves on some trees began to turn and shed earlier than others. In August, lack of rain some oaks to drop their acorns and start new ones. For some areas of the state, fall colors will be three week behind normal seasonal schedule. That means that peak color along the North Coast is coming right through the next week, while in Central and southern Ohio will be a week to two weeks behind us.
You don’t necessarily need to go on a deep woods hike to see vibrant fall colors, but for those who do venture into the parks and forests, nature’s treasure trove of color will be revealed. Heavy stands of timber and forests are somewhat self-insulating against the droughts and winds, and areas like Findley State Park nearWellington will offer some of the best views of autumn around.
During the spring and summer, leaves are filled with chlorophyll; a green pigmented biomolecule that’s the conductor of energy from sunlight and helps the trees carry out photosynthesis. However, as the world turns on its axis and the sun shines less directly on us, the days get shorter and weather gets cooler. This causes chlorophyll to break down and sugars, carotenoids (or yellow pigments) and anthocyanin (red and purple the tree’s metabolism slows and the weather cools, it’s the buildup of these sugars and pigments in the leaves that clog the trees circulation, and causes the now heavy leaves to break from the tree and fall.
A warm, wet spring (like the one we had this year) helps produce better colors in the fall, but we suffered a bit of a retreat because the summer drought robbed the trees of precious resources. While it’s true that a cold snap in the autumn can cause a change in color intensity, it is only one of the factors in the change in the color of the trees. Something you may not know about deciduous, or woody, trees is that their leaf buds for next year are already set by late spring, but they will not open until they experience the short days and colder temperatures of the fall and winter. It turns out the Byrds, and Ecclesiastes, were right!
Maybe the best thing about the outdoors in the fall is the increased activity of wildlife. The cooler weather makes mammals more active, the length of days makes birds migrate deer are beginning their prerut activities. There is a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities right around the city of Elyria. Photographer Tom Mahl took all of the pictures you see on today’s Outdoors Page at Sandy Ridge Reservation Metro Park in North Ridgeville.
So, make the most of a Sunday afternoon this fall and take your own impromptu fall foliage tour down State Route 83 or 301. Set your destination no place in particular. Stop at a mom & pop restaurant you’ve never heard of for lunch. Live one of life’s less scary little adventures! You only get so many autumns in your life; make this one count. Get outdoors!