Every autumn, it seems, a day comes when the weather changes abruptly. One day you’re standing outside a restaurant after a delightful dinner at about 10:30 p.m., perfectly comfortable wearing a sport coat and slacks with the temperature around 60 degrees, and the next morning you wake up to weather information on your phone that looks like this.
Don’t be fooled by the optimistic “possible light rain” statement on the weather app, either. When the weather change comes, and the season seems to shift in an eyeblink, the veteran Midwesterner ignores the rain forecast and scans the weather app for the dreaded snow icon. Let’s see . . . yes–there it is, lurking on and after 9 a.m. And because the snow is forecast to fall when the temperature is just under 40 degrees, it will be that kind of wet, sloppy, immediately melting snow that soaks everything–the kind of snow that slaps the innocents with brutal, cold reality and sends an unmistakable message that the delightful fall weather is officially over, When such a snow falls, you can only shake your head sadly and move the cold weather gear to the front of your closet.
It’s hard to complain, really, because this year we’ve had one of the nicest autumns you could possibly want, with warm temperatures and, especially, dry conditions. Now it’s time to recall those brilliant days with wistful pleasure as we slosh and slop and slip and slide into the pre-winter period.
We’re at the point in the fall season where some trees lose their leaves suddenly, and all at once. The leaf deposit today at one of the condominiums along Gay Street left the courtyard looking as if it had been carpeted in gold.
It’s autumn, folks — a beautiful and wonderful time of year in central Ohio (especially when compared to, say, winter). There are many great restaurants in the Columbus area where you might celebrate this season, and we decided to head to one of the finest — Veritas — to enjoy its autumn tastings menu. That’s because some of the best things about fall are the foods and flavors that are available to be enjoyed this time of year.
Veritas is, in a word, fabulous. It’s the kind of restaurant that you like to take out-of-towners to, because you know they will leave with a positive impression of our city and its culinary attributes. The food at Veritas is reliably spectacular, filled with interesting flavor and textural combinations, and a treat for the eyes, besides. Add in a welcoming ambiance, and nice attention to every little detail that can move a meal from great to greater, and you’ve got a restaurant that can do autumn, or any season, proud.
The Veritas autumn menu is five courses. You start with a mandatory broccoli and cheddar cheese tart, then make your choices from options for the other courses. Starting with a broccoli dish was a challenge for me, because in my view it is one of the most unholy, vile, unpleasant smelling and foul tasting vegetables in the land of greenery. Any yet, the wizards in the Veritas kitchen found a way to minimize the broccoli flavor and cushion it delectably in a flaky crust and a mound of cheddary scrumptiousness. When a culinary genius can turn a food you loathe into something that you would gladly eat again, it leaves you ready for more.
For the next course I went for the carrot, yogurt, and curry leaf soup, which thick, and rich, and creamy, and introduced me to multi-colored carrots that I had not seen before. Let’s just way that these were not Bugs Bunny’s kind of carrots. And speaking of hares, the follow-up dish was a rabbit, paprika, and creme fraiche combination that featured some delectable dumplings and perfectly cooked, supremely tender rabbit. That triumph was followed by the filet medallions shown above, framed with multiple kinds of potatoes, and a root beer infused sauce that I would have gladly eaten straight with a spoon–except it went incredibly well with the spot-on medium rare meat. The different kinds of potatoes were wonderful, too.
We ended our fall feast with the almond, banana, and sourdough concoction seen below, which is the best dessert I’ve had in a long, long time. What’s that, you say? Bananas aren’t an autumnal dish? To that I say you’re wrong, because any Midwesterner knows that the fall season is full of surprises, Just as the weather can suddenly turn cold, or warm, or blustery with rain, so can a banana creation suddenly grace a fine meal.
The autumn menu at Veritas was so good that I want to go back again, to try some of the dishes I didn’t choose this time around. If the chef can make broccoli an enjoyable treat, even cauliflower is worth a try. in fact, the seasonal tasting menu almost makes me look forward to what winter might bring.
Yesterday the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon took over the downtown Columbus area. The road closures, crowds whooping and shouting encouragement, police sirens, and general commotion spurred us to hop in the car, find a way out of downtown, and head due east. Our goal was the Infirmary Mound Park in Licking County, near Granville.
The Infirmary Mound Park is part of the Licking County park system. It has lots of trail choices, as well as other amenities, including a number of shelter houses, open fields, and kid spaces. Some of the trails even permit riders on horseback. We chose a trail winding around a wildflower meadow for our initial hike. We didn’t see any equine friends, but we did see some happy dogs romping around with their human pals. The meadow trail was wide and made for an easygoing morning hike and an enjoyable ramble through the countryside on a cool, cloudy morning, with lots of interesting and colorful plants to examine.
And speaking of color, the trees were doing their part to remind us it is indeed fall. The classic autumnal palette of rust, tan, orange, and yellow had been liberally applied to the trees at the Infirmary Mound Park, as well as to the trees lining both sides of Route 161 as we drove east from Columbus and then headed west to return after our hikes were over. Yesterday was probably close to the peak fall foliage point in central Ohio, and there was beautiful color to enjoy everywhere you looked.
After we finished our stroll through the wildflower meadow loop, breathing in hearty gulps of fresh country air, we explored other parts of the park. The cloud cover started to break up, some blue skies contributed to the day’s color, and the temperature got warmer. We got a glimpse of Ohio’s agricultural heritage when we came across an old woodshed with a classic split-rail fence in the background.
We wandered along another trail that wound through some woodland and a small ravine. It was quiet and peaceful as we walked along, enjoyably shuffling through the leaves and smelling that high, somewhat spicy scent of leaves that have fallen to the ground and are just starting to crumble to dust. Our feet got another workout when we came across an area where the trail was covered with Osage oranges (technically, maclura pomifera, and also known as horse apples), which look like round green brains and weigh a few pounds. We booted them off to the side of the trail to clear the way for the walkers to follow, variously choosing the soccer-style and straight-on Lou Groza approaches to our kicking. It’s fun to kick Osage oranges–and toss them, too, if they’ve just fallen and you can do so without getting your hands sticky.
By the end of our hike the blue skies had appeared in earnest. As we walked back to our car, we passed an area where the grasses were permitted to grow to prairie length and were adding their subtle hues to the autumnal color fest. It was time to head back, but we enjoyed our visit to this pretty park and a chance to experience some more of the best season central Ohio has to offer.
Autumn is a beautiful time of year in Ohio. If you drive out into the rural areas you’re likely to see a scene like this: brilliant blue sky, farm buildings in the far distance, and a field of cornstalks waiting to be chopped down. The owner of this field decided to stop in the middle of cutting—probably knocking off to watch the Buckeyes game.
The autumnal equinox has come and gone, the weather has cooled off, and the feel of fall is all around us. That means it’s time to don the thick socks, lace up the Oboz hiking shoes, and head out to one of the cool hiking trails you can find in and around central Ohio. Our destination yesterday was Conkle’s Hollow, a state nature preserve located in the Hocking Hills near Logan, Ohio.
The Hocking Hills region is a sprawling and beautiful area of woodlands and interesting rock formations that is home to many camps and hiking areas. Located about an hour and a half south of Columbus off Route 33, Conkle’s Hollow is one of the many potential destinations in the area for someone looking to get outdoors, enjoy some scenery, and breathe in some big gulps of fresh autumnal air. Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones who decided to visit Conkle’s Hollow yesterday.
When you arrive at Conkle’s Hollow, you’ve got a choice–you can take the gorge trail, which runs along the bottom of the hollow, beneath the canopy of the towering trees, or you can take the longer rim trail, which takes you up to the top of the rock walls that make up the gorge. The rim trail is apparently more rugged and also requires more care, as it winds past some spots where there are sheer falls in the event of a misstep. We decided to take the gorge trail to kick off our hiking season, and leave the rim trail for a later trip.
The gorge trail is an easy hike, and some of our fellow visitors were families with young kids. There is lots to see on the gorge trail, too. Almost immediately, you notice the sheer rock cliffs to each side, towering hundreds of feet overhead. The photo directly above, with the trail and the trail sign, gives you a sense of the immense scale of the rocky walls. Many of the trees growing from the bottom of the gorge were dwarfed by the cliff faces.
After a half a mile or so, the paved trail ends, and a dirt path takes you farther back into the gorge, where you see many of the most interesting rock formations. The air is decidedly cooler in the gorge, and you don’t get much direct sunlight in view of the towering rock outcroppings and tree cover. The filtered sunlight almost makes you feel like you are underwater as you follow the trail, and makes the green shades of the tree leaves, moss, and plant life seem a lot greener.
At many points along the trail there are small caves and grottos, as well as areas where water from above is falling to join the small stream running along the floor of the hollow. In the past, you apparently could explore more of these formations, but the damage done by hikers (and, sadly, some people who can’t resist carving their initials into rocks, as shown in the photo above) has caused the preserve to limit hikers to the trails. That’s okay with me: I’m willing to forgo an up close and personal look if it means that the pristine state of this beautiful area will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
As you approach the end of the trail, the walls to each side close in, bringing you to the end point of the gorge. The middle of the floor features a small winding stream, with lots of rocks to hop on and felled trees. The kids in the family groups that were with us in this area had a riot leaping from rock to rock and balancing on the logs.
On this part of the trail, the contrast presented by dark shadows of the caverns make the green tree leaves and plants seem even brighter and greener. Whether you look forward, as in the picture above, or backward, as in the picture below, this part of Conkle’s Hollow was a study in black and different shades of green. Chartreuse, emerald, lime, fern, olive, seafoam, juniper–an artist would need a pretty loaded palette to do it justice.
The end of the trail takes you to the last cleft in the gorge, shown below. Water drips down from above into the pool that has accumulated below the cleft, and the dripping sound echoes against the rocky walls. A small ray of refracted sunlight illuminated the point at which the falling water hits the pool. It’s a beautiful scene, and it made us glad to choose the gorge trail for our first visit to Conkle’s Hollow. We wouldn’t have wanted to miss this serene little scene on a crisp early autumn day.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, with cooler temperatures and a crisp, decidedly autumnal feel to the air. Last night we decided to stroll up High Street and do some random rambling through the Short North, perhaps to have a drink and dinner if the fates were kind. We weren’t alone in our thinking: there were a lot of people out and about, enjoying the weather and the many streetfront taverns and restaurants.
One stop on our ramble was the Lincoln Social Rooftop Lounge. I’ve walked past it many times, and last night we decided to pay a visit. Regrettably, the place was jammed, with every table and seat taken and not even much room to stand, so we couldn’t stay–but we were there long enough for us to enjoy an overhead view of Columbus, including this interesting perspective looking north up High Street, toward the Ohio State campus. The view of the downtown area in the other direction is even better, but the crush of people was such that there literally was no way to squeeze in to take a photo. We decided we will have to visit the Lincoln rooftop again one of these days and get there earlier so we can enjoy the view, a drink–and a seat.
Although we had to leave the Lincoln rooftop behind, we found another place to dine outside along High Street, which allowed us enjoy an excellent meal and adult beverage while watching the world walk by and hearing some deafening blasts of bass notes from some cruising cars. It was one of those nights that shows off Columbus, and the fine fall weather, to very good advantage, .
This is a fine time of year to be outside in the Midwest. The high temperature hits the 70s, and conditions tend toward dry and sunny. But if you’d like to enjoy that weather by reading a good book in our backyard, you’d better bring along your hard hat—just in case.
We’ve got a tree back there—a black walnut, maybe?—that drops these little green bombs, some of which are shown in the photo above, on the unsuspecting. The green pellets are just under the size of a tennis ball and solid, with the green casing covering a black nut underneath. If you’re sitting outside, they drop unexpectedly from the tree branches far overhead, first rustling the leaves and then hitting the ground with a noticeable thump. It’s unnerving. The green casing then dissolves, leaving the nut underneath to be enjoyed by the neighborhood squirrels.
I haven’t been hit—yet—by one of the green projectiles, but this time of year I tend to stick to the screened-in porch, just in case.
Kish is a big pumpkins person. As soon as the pumpkins show up at the grocery store, she’ll buy a carload and put out as many as possible to make for a colorful autumn. That’s okay with me, because I think pumpkins are pretty pleasing, with their bold colors and rounded shape. In Stonington we have a nice shelf on our front step that is perfect for displaying pumpkins, where they go well with the remnants of this year’s crop of Black-eyed Susans and the dusty white plant the locals call “snow in summer.”
It’s still fairly warm here; yesterday the temperature may have briefly touched 70. But pumpkins aren’t the only sign of the cooler autumn to come. The edges of the leaves at the tops of the trees are starting to turn, there’s more animal activity, and the summer tourist season has ended. It’s a good time for pumpkins.
There’s still a lot of fall color out there to enjoy. Bright leaves are hanging on to many of the trees and bushes, and multi-hued pumpkins and gourds decorate many German Village doorsteps, but the mums are the stars of the color display right now. They give a strong incentive to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise — while continuing to maintain appropriate social distancing, of course.
We’ve had perfect autumn weather in Columbus over the past few days — cool and crisp in the morning, and sunny and warm in the afternoon before sunset. Enjoy it, and the brilliant colors, while they last!
Shuffle Season is that rare, all-too-brief time of year when the trees have dropped some — but not all — of their leaves. There is color in the canopy of leaves above and color on the ground and sidewalks below. And when you reach a stretch of leaf-covered sidewalk, the temptation to shuffle your feet through those drying leaves, to hear the rustle and crackle and crunch, and to kick some leaves into the air and let your inner kid loose, is irresistible.
I’m just old enough to remember when people routinely raked their leaves into leaf piles, let their kids play in the piles for a bit, and then raked the pile to the curb and burned the leaves. The authorities ultimately outlawed the burning, but I remember liking the distinctive autumnal smell of those burning leaves. The specific spicy smell is no doubt stored deep in my amygdala.
I’m too old now to play in leaf piles, but I can still enjoy Shuffle Season and those dried sidewalk leaves. You can, too.
Kish bought some gourds on her trip to the market the other day. They are now on our kitchen table, adding a flash of bright colors and an unmistakable “fall is here” message to the kitchen.
I’ve always liked gourds. Even as a kid, I preferred the gourds that looked creepy, with their curving, duck-like necks and warty bodies that wouldn’t stand upright. Mini-pumpkins have cornered the market on solid orange, but the gourds usually feature an arty and much more interesting mix of greens and yellows and oranges that are an important part of the autumn color palette. I like picking the gourds up and feeling their ridges and curves and pebbled exterior in my hands.
If there are gourds in the kitchen, can Halloween be far behind?
Today is August 31. It’s viewed as the traditional last day of summer. Mentally, we place June, July and August in the “summer” category, while September, October, and November are pegged into the “autumn” category.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this traditional cultural view of the seasons. The scientists among us would point out respectfully that the fall equinox doesn’t actually arrive until September 22. And in most parts of the country summer is still blazing on in full, shining force. The high today in Columbus will be in the 80s, for example, and down in Austin, Texas they’re still dealing with absurd, extreme “fry an egg on the sidewalk” heat, with the thermometer topping 100 degrees.
Not so in Stonington. Here, autumn seems to have come early. The last few days the morning temperature has been around 50 degrees — which is a bit bracing, candidly — and from the wood smoke smell you can tell that some people are using their fireplaces already. Our daily highs are now in the 60s. Add in a hefty breeze when you take your night-time walk, and you’re definitely in long pants and windbreaker territory. The leaves haven’t started to turn — yet — but there’s definitely that whiff of fall in the air.
For many of us, autumn is a favorite season, and in many parts of the country we bemoan its brevity. Summer heat hangs on into October, autumn passes in the blink of an eye, and then we move directly into the winter doldrums. It seems that things will be different in Maine, where fall’s early arrival suggests that it plans on staying for a while.
In short, if you like autumn, come to Maine. And bring your sweater.
Yesterday I walked to and from the office with temperatures in the 20s and a sharp, cutting wind reddening my face and sending my suddenly flimsy raincoat flapping around my legs.
This morning I woke up and, as I stood in our warm kitchen sipping a blessedly hot cup of coffee, I heard rain on the roof. I looked out into the backyard in the pre-dawn darkness and saw the glittering evidence of the Queen Mother of Crappy Weather on every plant, tree, shrub, and fencepost. Yes, that’s right — a dreaded onslaught of freezing rain has coated every object in ice. Freezing rain, for those lucky people who’ve never experienced it, means that it’s not quite cold enough for precipitation to fall as snow, but just cold enough for the rain to turn to ice once it hits the ground. It’s the worst winter weather of all because it’s cold, and wet, and frozen all at once, and it means the commute this morning will be slick and treacherous for drivers and pedestrians alike. There’s a breeze, too, and the weather page helpfully reports that it feels like 22 degrees out there.
It’s the kind of weather that makes February in Columbus inarguably the worst weather month of the year. But, it’s only November 15. Hey, Mother Nature! What gives?
We’ve once again experienced an abrupt mash-up of the seasons here in the Midwest. True fall weather has been fleeting, and it seems like we’ve moved directly and too quickly into winter. For those people, like me, who think autumn is the best season of the year — well, we feel cheated. We know Old Man Winter is going to arrive sooner or later, but can’t he at least wait until after we’ve had our Thanksgiving dinner before he hits us with freezing rain and another round of “wintry mix”?
If you’re in the Midwest, brace yourself, because it’s too cold too soon . . . again.
I was treated to this beautiful autumn scene of fallen, and falling, leaves on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, it was about 26 freaking degrees and a bone-chilling arctic gale was blowing, too.
This illustrates the hard reality of our modern “seasons.” There is no fall anymore, not the kind that we remember — when the sky was clear and bright and dry, the temperatures were in the 50s, leaves crunched underfoot, and sweaters were the apparel of choice. There’s no spring, either. Just hot summer and cold winter, with about a week separating them on each end.