Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

One of the promises Melissa and I made to ourselves is that during the summer we would go hiking more often. For those of you who are not familiar with the Garden State, New Jersey contains numerous opportunities for both the novice and experienced hiker. Unfortunately we didn’t hike as much as we liked, as wedding plans and traveling ate up much of our summertime.

As I awoke to a beautiful sunny Columbus Day, I started to sort out the errands I needed to accomplish. Melissa did not have the day off but would arrive home early afternoon. The night before we mulled over the idea of going for a late afternoon hike—one last chance to grasp warm weather and peaceful natural elements before the onset of winter. Although not originally enthusiastic about hiking after a long working morning, Melissa acquiesced and we trekked off for a brief two-hour march through the woods.

We chose a couple of trails near the Ramapo Mountains in Ringwood State Park off of Skyline Drive and Route 287. LocalHikes.com listed the “Ramapo Overlook to Lake Todd and Waterfall” as moderately difficult and lasting roughly ninety minutes. Two trails make up this hike: the white Todd Trail is a rocky, winding path that requires comfortable footwear (I especially do not recommend wearing shoes with worn rubber soles) and leads to a clearing overlooking Oakland Township. The second trail is the yellow blazing trail and intersects with the white trail along a woody road wide enough for official ranger vehicles. Like the white Todd Trail, the yellow trail is rocky and consists of a few moderately steep parts. Nearing the end you will run into Lake Todd, a small pond hidden in the depths of the forest. Covered with lilly pads and brush, Lake Todd has some surrounding areas that are secluded, perfect for a brief lunch. We continued on our journey and reached the point where, as indicated in LocalHikes.com, a brook intersected with the trail. Unfortunately, the rocks that marked the location of the brook were dry; water did not flow. Given the eighty-plus degree weather, the lack of a running stream, and that we needed to return home soon, we decided to turn back and cut short our quest to the waterfall.

Ringwood State Park and the Ramapo Mountains possess a plethora of trials that cannot be completed in a day, let alone the two-hour timeframe Melissa and I allocated for ourselves. As I noticed the emergence of fall foliage and the browns and reds bleeding out from what was once green, I realized summer had long ended. Yes, the thermometer read eighty-plus degrees but the natural cycle of the changing seasons continues unabated.

Exhausted and out-of-breath, we hiked out of the forest with contentment. I know I cannot stop the warm weather from disappearing. But I realize that the winter months also have their own unique qualities and I look forward to them with anticipated glee.

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about picking apples in Warwick, New York. The harvest turned out plentiful, the cider tasted refreshingly delicious, and the homemade apple pie was among the best I’ve tasted. We had so much fun, Melissa and I thought we’d try our hands at picking some pumpkins for our stoop.

We stopped at Conklin Farm in Montville, New Jersey. Rows upon rows of pumpkins filled the field as families weaved in between them, inspecting the best. Tall and skinny pumpkins mingled with short and fat ones. Bright orange pumpkins sat next to diseased brown ones that looked more like lepers than plump fall fruit.

Not only does Conklin Farm sell pumpkins by the pound (at fifty cents a pound, we thought that to be a good buy), they also offer apple pies, cider, plants for your home gardens (Melissa especially liked the mums), and other Fall-related goodies. As what any good fall outing should offer, Conklin Farm also runs a haunted hayride that should leave you spooked and your clothes stuffed with hay.

Melissa and I experienced unusually warm weather; it felt more like a sunny day at the beach than a crisp October afternoon. Winter weather will come soon enough so we appreciated what will surely be one of the last warm days of the year.

In the end, we brought home four pumpkins—two large ones for the front steps and two small ones for window decoration. We’re not sure if we’re going to carve one of them but I’ll be sure to post an update if we do.
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The very essence of autumn signals a transition period. Its arrival marks the end of backyard barbeques and beach parties that are hallmarks of the lazy days of summer. The brisk morning air and the beginnings of red, orange, and yellow leaves are nature’s ways of preparing for the cold and brisk months of winter.

Summer may be over but fall can bring lots of fun activities too. Apple picking in late September has become a bit of a tradition with my fiancé and her parents. It’s an activity that almost anyone can do, promotes healthy eating, and is affordable. Not to mention the many different foods you can make with apples. Homemade applesauce, apple butter, and the classically American apple pie all can be easily made with a sack full of freshly picked apples.

This year we visited Masker Orchard in Warwick, New York. Here you can pick all kinds of apples, from Macintoshes to red delicious and jonagolds and cortlands. Different apples ripen at different times so you might want to check their ripening schedule online. Macintoshes ripen in the second week of September; jonagolds and red delicious apples are ready in September’s third and fourth weeks. Going yesterday, we were able to fill our bags mostly with red delicious and Macintosh apples.

When you arrive at Masker Orchards, turn your radio to 87.9 FM and you’ll find a running loop of a character named “Apple Steve” giving you advice for a great apple picking experience. I found his rouse comical as he espouses “to do the right thing” by “respecting the apples.” With the pop-crackling of a 1940s phonograph, Apple Steve advises his guests to respect the apples and compares the taste of cider to “liquid apples.”

Masker charges by the bag so be sure to stuff them as best you can. One bag will cost $18.25, which is a steal if you utilize all its space. The teenage boys and girls who greet you at the entrance will hand you enough bags. If you find yourself needing more, ask one of the attendants and they’ll be happy to give you more.

At the end of our trip, we took home two bags and two full quarts of cider. My fiancé and I managed to pick a few tiny pickings for our pet hamster and dragged home enough Macintoshes and red delicious apples for an apple pie or two. True, this trip marks the end of summer but after savoring the cinnamon-spiced flavor of a home-cooked pie, I think I can embrace the onset of fall. Maybe.
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