This past Saturday, the 22nd, was the official first day of autumn. Having grown up in Colorado, autumn has long been my favorite season. Autumn days in the Rockies are mild, sunny, and warm, a wonderful relief from the blisteringly hot days of summer. Nights are crisp and cool. And the colors! Aspen, cottonwood, willow, and maple turning stunning shades of yellow. I missed autumn a lot when I moved to California.
Fall weather in northern California is nice, too. Sunny, not as much fog in the mornings, and warm. But most deciduous trees there keep their leaves year-round, the evenings aren't cool, and there is no nip in the air that suggests impending snow. It's just doesn't feel right. :\
Luckily for me, Alaskan autumns are a lot like Colorado (except with more clouds, humidity, and rain). Gorgeous colors, blankets of yellow, orange, and the occasional red, have spread across the landscape these past few weeks. Temperatures have dropped. Some afternoons, when the breeze is right, you can stand in a shower of gold as leaves falling from trees catch the pale sunlight.
I love autumn.
The eagles are arriving! Each day more and more eagles appear along the Chilkat, staked out on the river flats to feed on the first of the Chum. What makes for a better photograph than golden cottonwood leaves, blue mountains, and an eagle?
For a couple weeks, the weather here was overcast and rainy almost every day. We literally did not see the sun shine for ten days or more. A bit depressing, and a sure sign of the winter to come. Luckily, late September has been kind to us, and we've hit a string of wonderfully sunny days. It's nice to see some blue sky again!
Before the snow travels low enough in altitude to make mountain travel tricky, we decided to make one last trip up to the alpine tundra. Here is a view of the Klehini River from Flower Mountain. Autumn colors make their way into the highest reaches here-- just look at those deep reds of the low-growing plants. Tundra soils are thin (four inches or less in some places), but vegetation still manages to take hold. Alpine berries, willow, lichens, and scraggly, stunted spruce make their homes here, providing food for mountain goats, moose, songbirds, and alpine ground squirrels.
Quite a view, eh?
With a string of sunny days, we've also been making good use of the raft. Rafting down the Klehini affords us opportunities to set trail cameras south and west of the Chilkat, where we see evidence in tracks of moose, wolves, and the ever-present bear. There are plenty of eagles on the Klehini as well!
Mountains, river, blue sky, and birch, cottonwood, alder, and willow changing colors? Alaska, you are wonderful.
And eagles! More and more eagles! The yellow background of these cottonwood leaves may be a bit distracting in this photo, but the colors sure do make it stand out.
Alaska isn't the only pretty place this time of year. Canada has its fair share of gorgeous locales, too. How about this view of Dezadeash Lake, in the Yukon Territory?
Or this lovely little trail, on the route back from St. Elias Lake in Kluane National Park?
Not enough autumn for you? Oh, all right. Here's one last picture: The Tatshenshini Valley.
Be honest now-- who's in the mood for pumpkins, cider, sweaters, or a bit of Halloween fun? Butternut squash ravioli? Homemade applesauce? Pumpkin-spice latte?
Or how about, for those of you lucky enough to live in places where there's an actual autumn, a bit of time spent outdoors enjoying the leaves.