– by Gary Marks
Exit Summer, Enter Fall
The calender has finally rolled over into October, the time of change in the Shawnee Hills. This is the month that the forest gives a final bold pop and a confetti of leaves comes raining down by the end of the month celebrating another successful growing season.
The bold pop is not quite here as we enter the first week. Green is still the primary color, but that does not stop me from grabbing my gear as the cool, damp morning calls me out into the hills of Southern Illinois.
To “The Bell”
As I drive to “The Bell” and I don’t mean Taco, I know the chance of seeing spectacular fall colors are slim, but that has never stopped me before. Just being outside and breathing in the moist air fills me with energy and reminds me that there is more than just the habitual rhythm of life out there.
I park the truck at the Hunter Branch area at Bell Smith Springs and a wall of green greets me. Tinges of yellow scatter the area, alerting the forest its time is limited. Heading up the red marked trail, the first encounter with fall occurs. A lone red tree turning amongst the sea of green blazes red. It reminds me of the the desert where you see a single sandstone butte shining amongst the emptiness of a vast wilderness. I try to determine just where the best photo-op is and find myself sliding on the slick sandstone. Time to readjust.
The challenge of the situation keeps my mind active as a smile lights up my face. I continue the exploration of “The Bell” and find several different areas where brilliant eye-popping reds and sunshine yellow leaves take center-stage. Iconic places like Devil’s Backbone and the Natural Bridge take a backseat to the seemingly random brushes of fall color.
The Cypress Trees Are A Callin’
I look at my watch and notice it is well past noon, but I still want to explore the swamplands of the Cache River. Less than an hour later I stand upon the boardwalk of a nearly dry Heron Pond.
The cypress tree needles are just turning their brownish-orange that contrast so well with the grayish tree trunks. The lack of water makes composing a photo a struggle. I will have to come back later this month to get the golden colors of fall, but I am patient person.
One Last Stop
The last stop of the day is quick trip to Ferne Clyffe State Park. Walking the waterfall trail I notice this place has hardly been touched by fall. This is by no means a disappoint and I enjoy the hike up and over to the BlackJack Oak trail. There I find a tree glowing yellow between the cracks of the bluff. Nice.
What’s The …
As I end the day I realize that I may not have photographed the best fall photos of the Shawnee Hills, but honestly for me that did not make a difference. What did make a difference was that I got off my butt on a gloomy day and took time to explore the upcoming fall colors in my own backyard and what a great time it was.
Loved turning the gloomy day into cheery photos.
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