A few fleeting hours of respite

Jeff Fox
Headed for trouble
Jeff Fox

First of all, the museum was pleasant and the sand hill cranes were, well, awesome of course. One should count one’s blessings. 

But still ... 

I count this as two autumns in a row of pandemic and an urgent need to break free, even for a day, of the routine. Somewhere safe, somewhere different. And now two autumns in a row of underwhelming fall colors. We look to Mother Nature for solace and find her lacking. 

June in Missouri is lush and green, and it’s lovely when it stays in the 70s. We won’t talk about the rest of summer nor the five months of wintry mix.  

But October in Missouri – now that’s where it’s at. Cool, dry and sunny. Bugs mostly dead. Trees mostly red, yellow and orange.  

At least that’s the plan. I look around this week and see stands of trees that look like late August.  

My wife and I took two day trips in October 2020 – once even foolishly following the Missouri Department of Conservation’s guidance on where the colors were peaking at that particular moment. We took two more day trips last month. Altogether, two state parks, two national wildlife refuges, many points in between – and not a lot of bright red maples. 

But Weston Bend State Park last Sunday was fairly full of families just enjoying what the day had to offer. The drive from there to Atchison and then Atchison to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge is wonderfully non-interstate and generally scenic. 

Atchison is where we saw the one brilliant red maple. The old depot, now a museum, is worth a brief stop.  

That drive bumps you up against the Missouri River a few times, with its subtle beauty on a calm fall day.  

It’s too early for the influx of bald eagles at Loess Bluffs, so it was a wildlife grab bag during our two visits last month: tens of thousands of ducks and geese, numerous deer and coyotes, one pelican.  

Then for 10 minutes we watched three sand hill cranes before they flew away. I assumed they were about the last ones out of the station on their way to Texas for the winter. That alone made that trip worthwhile. 

And then you drive home. Back to the laptop full of email and chores. Back to cooking and cleaning and bills. Back to the certainty that wintry mix is in the near future. At least I haven’t had to rake leaves, yet. 

If Congress can dictate the setting of our clocks this weekend – messing with time itself – surely it can do something about tree leaves. I’m not asking for New England or Colorado. I just want to get as much as possible out of a pleasant drive in the fall. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net.