I’ve been following the schizophrenic Christmas weather forecasts as closely as anyone. In part, because I love a white Christmas and haven’t seen one since the Denver blizzard of ’82. I’m also keeping a close watch to see whether I should dig out the cross-country skis (in the event of 6 inches or more), the sled (a minimum of 3 inches), or the hiking boots (a photogenic dusting).
All signs were pointing to a lackluster display of fall color in the Piedmont this year: An exceptionally hot and dry summer stressing out the trees; a wet early fall, which in the leaf peeping world is akin to throwing water on a sparkling fire; a first freeze that came late, that freeze often being the light switch that turns on the fall show.
Dogs are distracted by squirrels, cats by mice, men in midlife crisis by red sports cars they can barely fit into. Me? A cloudless sky and 70-degree temperatures.
For most of this past week, I managed to avoid the temptation to leap from my desk and run out into the woods chasing after fall. After the changing colors, the curious quiet, the long shadows knifing across the forest floor. But by Thursday afternoon my discipline was shot. I looked out the window, saw another leaf fall and grabbed my day pack and was off. Off to my favorite place to greet fall in the Triangle: the Eno River.
Death, taxes, a hot-as-blazes Fourth of July — the givens of life here in the Piedmont.
Except this year the hot-as-blazes Fourth took a holiday. Or at least the humidity did: The temperature may have been 90, but the humidity was a dry 30 percent. Perfect weather for a summer hike, perfect weather for exploring the Eno River.
For several months I’d been ruing the fact I hadn’t been in a kayak for, well, several months. I made up for my lapse over the weekend.
Saturday, Marcy and I went for a hike on the wild side of Lake Johnson. (That would be the nearly two miles of unpaved trail on the Raleigh lake’s west side.) As we crossed the footbridge toward the boathouse we took note of the $5-an-hour rental sit-on-top kayaks on the adjoining beach. A little hot right now — it was in the mid-90s at mid-afternoon — but an ideal way to spend the evening. Which we did, returning around 6:30 and taking out a tandem for an hour or so. We paddled west, checking out where we’d hiked earlier in the day. We paddled east down to the dam. We stopped occasionally, pulled our paddles and floated, watching the sky change from an oppressive haze-blue, to a muted yellow to blazing pink.