Monday October 1, 2018

Now that the autumnal equinox has passed, we’re officially in astronomical fall. The meteorologists tell us it began even earlier, with September 1 being the official kick-off point for sweater season.

For outdoor lovers, the lower temperatures are a joy. But the shorter days, and the knowledge that real cold will be with us before we know it, also creates a sense of urgency – it’s time to get out and see your favorite wild spots one or two more times before winter makes them hard to reach, and hard to enjoy.

School has started. Office dwellers notice that everyone is actually showing up to work every day, as those last vacations have ended. It’s just harder to get out and enjoy the wilderness in late fall and winter than it is any other time of year…and late fall and winter are right around the corner.

With that in mind, here are six of our favorite autumn outdoor adventures to squeeze into the few perfect weekends left.

Bike Your Favorite Trail Before the Leaves Fall

Early autumn may be the best time of year to own a mountain bike.

Mud makes trails slippery in spring. Heat makes them punishing in summer. And few intrepid souls even maintain their bikes in winter, nevermind find a way to ride them.

But in early fall, the temperature is perfect. The trails are dry and fast. And the scenery is gorgeous.

So, get out and ride your favorite trail one more time, or try a new one you’ve never ridden before. Just don’t wait too long, or slippery leaves will make it easier to fall and harder to enjoy.

Try a New Hiking Trail, and Take It Slow

A little later in the season, when the colors have started to flare, set out on foot.

There’s so much to see on a fall hike.

The burst of color in the trees alone would make the hike worthwhile. But, moving a bit more slowly than you might normally, you can often spot animals collecting food and making their preparations for winter. Looking up, you’ll see migrating birds in huge formations making their way south.

And when the leaves have started to fall, those lookout points become so much more dramatic – you can see forever with nothing in your way.

So get out and try a new trail, or get reacquainted with an old one, before the snow comes.

Host a Bonfire

Want to get your friends together and enjoy the not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather of an early autumn night?

Host a bonfire. Invite lots of friends.

Find a local park space that has prepared fire pits, or allows you to prepare one, and pack in lots of well-dried firewood and kindling. Bring a big thermos of cider, and tell everyone to bring camp chairs and snacks, potluck-style. Play some music (at a respectful volume, if you’re not alone in the park).

You’ll create a memorable get-together on a surprisingly small budget.

Get in Some Outdoor Climbing

Fall is indisputably the best time of year for rock climbers.

Forget the gym, this is the time to climb out in nature.

Greenery is receding, exposing more of the rock face and making routes easier to find. The cool weather means the bugs that pester climbers are gone. And this is the last chance…in a month or two, these routes will be frozen and slippery.

So get your climbing gear out, or if you’re new to the sport, stop in your local outfitting store and find some group climbs to join. Climbing doesn’t get better than it is right now.

Organize a Canoe Trip

True, the water is getting colder. You won’t find yourself pulling out on a sandbar to dive in like you might in August’s heat.

But fall float trips are often memorable precisely because the weather isn’t sending everyone out in search of water. You can have the lake or river mostly to yourself.

Paddling under migrating flocks of geese, taking in the reds and golds of the surrounding tree canopy, it’s easy to take your time and truly enjoy the wilderness from a canoe in early autumn.

Catch a Truly Impressive Fish

Most anglers seem to pack up their gear as soon as summer ends.

It’s true that fish are harder to find in fall – as the water cools, their metabolisms slow, and they are less active.

But, just like animals out of the water, they are also doing their best to pack on pounds for the winter. Smaller species stay close to food sources and feed heavily, building up fat stores for the cold months. Predator species know that, and seek out the same places to eat the small fish.

It takes a little patience to find where they’re hiding, but you’ll often find you bring in a bigger, more varied, and tastier catch if you’re willing to fish a little later into the year than everyone else.