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Fall is the season of pumpkins, falling leaves, and Halloween. When I think of fall, an autumnal front porch scene springs into my mind, complete with a scarecrow, gourds, and straw. The scene is comforting; I can almost smell the smoke of a neighbor’s campfire.
Fall is also a season of change as it signals the start of a new school year and football season. For me, early fall was abound with change. A late-summer wedding and two new jobs along with care for a new puppy have me constantly busy. To keep my sanity, I strive to keep myself in shape, so I’ve added training for a fall race to my agenda.
The fall season in Door County is also a new season of many outdoor challenges, from road and trail races to bike rides. In late October, I plan to run the Door County Fall 50, a race from Gill’s Rock to Sturgeon Bay that I’ll complete with a team. I’ll run a total of 9.3 miles over a total elevation of over 800 feet. The Fall 50 is one of my favorite challenges; adults dress in costume, decorate their cars, and dash around the peninsula demonstrating outstanding teamwork and laughing constantly. To be well-prepared to support my team, I have developed a few routes that focus on improving performance over distance and over hills. An unplanned perk of my routes is the gorgeous colors decorating my view. During my runs, I am continually surprised and inspired by my vibrant surroundings. The colors I see are certainly browns, oranges and yellows, but they are also greens, golds, reds, and blues.
This year September re-embraced summer. Plenty of rain and warm temperatures preserved summer’s lush verdance. As I run a five-mile loop over country roads near my house, I am struck by the amount of green that still remains. This loop, or rectangle, connects Old Stage road, Scandia road, Woodcrest road, and Plateau road. It is a fairly flat run that takes me past thick woods, orchards, picturesque farms, cornfields and hayfields. In fact, in early September, the only clue of the season is the shape of the hay. As this route is convenient for me, I use it several times a week and have been watching the green slowly dissipate into other shades.
Crunch, crunch, crunch the leaves mutter under my feet as I plod along Hemlock Trail in Peninsula Park. I have chosen the state park for a long Saturday afternoon run. The mix of trails and paved roads is a nice challenge to my agility. I begin at the Northern Door Program Center in Fish Creek and run about one mile into the park on a bike trail. I carefully evade roots and rocks that might tug at my shoes. Bronze, orange, copper, and yellow swirl around my feet.
It’s difficult to take in the colors while focusing on remaining upright. Along the roads, the transforming beech and birch trees and scenic view are therapeutic to my running spirit. I pick up Middle road and follow it through the forested and meadowed landscape. I turn left on Highland road and begin a slow but steady climb to Skyline road. I bear left again and power still uphill beneath canopies of bright green and lustrous yellow.
I am rewarded for my toil when the trees part to reveal a spectacular view of the park, the gilded woods spreading out below me toward Nicolet Bay. I pause for a much-needed breather and selfie session, in which I note that the colors of my own face are transforming.
I set off on my way again, south on Skyline Road, and pick up the Nicolet Bay trail. After an hour in the park, I’m lost, with only a vague idea of how to find where I started. However, the afternoon is clear and warm, and I still feel strong. Red maple leaves dust my path like rose petals at a hipster wedding. This path eventually leads me back to my origin, only 30 minutes beyond my intended run time. I map my route later to find I have covered about seven miles.
Red graced my running route on a separate occasion. I brought Riga, my pup, on a jog with me one evening when hills, and not distance, were my objective. My four-mile route takes me to Water’s End road in Sister Bay. I start from the Green Bay and run east, up a quarter-mile incline. As the steep hill levels out, orchards are on either side of road, dotted with the crimson fruits that are in season. Riga spots one that has fallen by the side of the road, and cannot resist a taste.
A canopy of trees arches over us as we continue beneath it. We turn right on Old Stage road and follow it to Hill road. Hill road brings us back into Sister Bay, and we finish our run taking in the sunset over the bay along Highway 42.
Riga and I pause at the end of our run to Water’s End road. The water is perfectly still and mirrors the steel blue of the dusky sky. Riga wades in for a much-deserved drink. I’m just starting to catch cold, so we don’t stay long. Even though I’m not yet ready for my challenging race, I am energized to continue my fall runs.
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