OK, I’ll admit it. I like to take note of the changes of season, reflect on where I’ve been, where I’m headed next. Maybe you do, too. Of course, I like to do this while I’m outdoors and having fun.
So, how are you going to mark the passing of the Autumnal Equinox on Sept. 22? The first question you are going to have to answer: day, or night? You have 12 hours of each.
Daytime offers a whole host of possibilities. Hiking, biking, paddling ... as far as I’m concerned, there’s no better time of year for any of these pastimes. The weather’s a little cooler, but not usually cold, perfect for biking. Most mosquitoes and blackflies are long gone, so it’s perfect for hiking. The water is still warm enough for safe paddling without a dry suit, so it’s a perfect time for paddling, too.
If nighttime’s your choice, you’ve got an extra excuse to get out and do something around the Equinox at night because there’s also a full moon on the 19th. Kind of a celestial two-fer. It’s too bad there isn’t a good meteor shower, but you have to wait for Oct. 21 for the Orionids. The moon’s going to be too full anyway for best shooting star viewing.
Or you can get the best of both worlds, day and night, by spending your day out hiking, biking or paddling to some lovely, quiet dark spot, where you can pitch a tent and laze away the evening watching stars wheel overhead.
Here are some suggestions of places to go and things to do to celebrate the Equinox. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
Boreal Forest Ghost Town Hike
On Saturday Sept. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aimee Gelinas from the Tamarack Hollow Nature Center will lead a free hike in the unique high-elevation forest of Tamarack Hollow and the backside of Notchview Reservation in Windsor. The hike will visit cellar holes and other signs of the abandoned homesteads throughout the reservation and learn about the Boreal forest fauna and flora. Email: email@example.com to register. Donations accepted and the event is co-sponsored by the Berkshire Eastern Mountain Sports Store and The Windsor Cultural Council.
For other nifty family outings this fall, go to tamarackhollow.com for a listing
Climb Mount Equinox
Seems somehow appropriate, doesn’t it? But have you actually done it? No? Neither have I.
Mount Equinox is in southwestern Vermont, overlooking Manchester. At 3,825 feet, the summit is certainly high enough to guarantee great views on a lovely late-September day. And the climb itself -- 2,730 feet of elevation gain over 2.7 miles on the Burr and Burton Trail (which starts near the Equinox Hotel) is about perfect for a day hike. "The Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont," published by the Green Mountain Club gives the round trip time as 4.5 hours.
Now, Mount Equinox, like nearby Mount Greylock, has an auto road to the summit, and that means lot of people are up there on nice fall weekends. But you can feel smug because you earned the view and the motorists didn’t. Of course, there are several hundred other hills over 3,000 feet in New England and New York to climb that don’t have roads to the summit. Any of them would do just fine for a hike to celebrate the Equinox.
Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory
If you have never visited New Hampshire Audubon’s Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory (nhaudubon.org/locations/raptor-observatories), this has to go on your must-do list for some time this fall. While it’s possible to watch migrating hawks from every hill in New England, the observatory, founded in 2005 near the summit of Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park in Peterborough, N.H., offers more. For one thing, it’s on a major hawk migration route. Last season, the observers officially counted 12,038 migrating raptors (and 97 total species of birds) in September and October.
It is the presence of trained observers (Audubon staff naturalists and volunteers) from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weather dependent, of course), which makes this place so special. Instead of just marveling at a hawk floating by on the wind currents, you also get help in identifying what kind of hawk you are looking at, and you get to learn a bit about its range and hunting habits, where it’s likely been and where it’s headed.
There is an auto road to the summit of Pack Monadnock so anyone can reach the summit. From the parking lot at the top, the observatory is a short stroll on a flat, handicapped-accessible path, But the best way to reach the summit, if you can do it, is on foot using the Wapack Trail, Marion Davis Trail or Raymond Path. Ask for directions at the base of the auto road.
Late September is the best time of the year for mountain biking and Kingdom Trails (kingdomtrails.org) in East Burke, Vt., is one of the best places to enjoy exquisite scenery (the foliage comes on early up there) and sharpen your skills whether you are a first timer or an experienced fat-tire fanatic.
It’s one of the places I want to be sometime around the Equinox (weekends get busy, so I try to go mid-week). Maybe I’ll see you there.
Tim Jones is the executive editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org@easternslopes.com