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How to Know It's Autumn in Washington State: Signs and Seasonal Highlights

How to Know It's Autumn in Washington State: Signs and Seasonal Highlights

Posted at Thu, Sep 14, 2023 3:00 PM

How to Know it’s Autumn in Washington State

Well, it’s been quite a summer. But we’re sensing a change. 

It’s not in the temperature – not yet. We can’t expect reliably cooler weather here in the Evergreen State for a few more weeks.

And it’s not on the calendar. Autumn arrives according to celestial cycles that come around at the same time, though not always the same date, every year. This year, fall makes its appearance on September 23 in the northern hemisphere.

Maybe it’s when we find ourselves pulling the boxes of holiday decorations out of the garage or storage unit. Or when our favorite restaurants start featuring fall-themed meals. 

We think there’s also something else at work – something subtle but unmistakable. Tradition, maybe, and meaning and a state of mind. Ultimately, it’s about looking toward the future, even as the planet prepares for a rest period.

In some ways, then, it’s already here. In others, it’s still sneaking up on us. Here are some signs that let us know where we are in the grand scheme of things.

Pumpkin Spice

The annual pumpkin spice invasion:

Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte – PSL, for those in the know – dropped on August 24, so by that measure, it is already autumn. Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme and every other caffeine and breakfast-treat purveyor also happily joins in our national obsession.

But why stop there? Check out these other available pumpkin spice wonders: English muffins, doughnuts, Jell-O, marshmallows, M&Ms, coffee creamer, muffins and muffin mixes, pumpkin spice cheesecake cookies, ice cream, Twinkies, bagels, oatmeal, air fresheners and scented oils, hand soaps, body butter, cookie dough, coffee pods…

<pause for breath>

… cereal, yogurt, jellybeans, cream cheese spread, cocoa mix, empanadas, cold brew coffee, popcorn seasoning, beard oil, lip balm, doggie dental treats, deodorant and beer.

About the beer: it’s not some newfangled fad. English colonists in North America began brewing gourd ale – and pumpkin is a gourd, after all – as soon as they got off the boat. Starches and sugars in pumpkin are perfect for fermentation. The American Philosophical Society published the first pumpkin beer recipe in 1771. Cheers.

One more thing: the smell of pumpkin pie is considered an aphrodisiac. And it’s cheaper than oysters and champagne. You’re welcome. 

Football Season

Are you ready for some football?

Yes! Yes, we are and we’re gonna be glued to it every weekend until February 22, 2024 (that’s the date of the next Super Bowl, folks, but you probably know that and have your party plans in place).

Pre-season games have already started and we are ready for the regular NFL season that begins September 7. Pro games. College games. We don’t care. If it’s on TV – or within driving distance – we’re watching it. Give us some team gear and snacks and we’ll be happy campers.

And remember, if you want to go online and taunt your friends whose gridiron warriors failed miserably over the weekend, it’s lose, not loose – spelling counts when you’re delicately reminding people their team got whomped.

Get in the car – we’re going shopping!

The advent of autumn brings out an array of awesome retail opportunities.

Things that go boo:

That empty strip-mall storefront is now a chain-rattling Halloween retail emporium. It’s scary how much money you could spend in a place like this on the necessary interior and yard décor – don’t forget the animatronics or the zombie flamingos! – plus costumes and accessories for yourself and the kids. Matching outfits – why not! Gotta look good for social media. You can even get Fido into the spirit of things. Fluffy, alas, is less appreciative of the holiday’s dress-up possibilities. 

The big-box stores put the spooky stuff on the shelves as soon as back-to-school is over, so if you shop here, be quick about it. Snooze, you lose.

Get your cold-weather gear:

Speaking of wardrobe changes, you may also need a new coat for Florida’s whole entire week of terrible winter. Why, the temperature is going to dip below 70! The horror. Fido needs a sweater because he’s a Floridian, too. Besides, you made him wear that silly costume for Halloween. You owe him. 

The rest of the time, figure on the weather being cool in the morning, toasty by midday and cool again as the sun heads toward the horizon. The solution to staying comfortable all day is layering – which seems like a great idea until you realize it just creates more laundry.

Jingle... nope!

Who turned on the Christmas music? And how can you shop for holiday presents and decorations when it’s still 90 degrees outside and we’re scouting deals on Halloween candy?

Pace yourself. Resist the urge to pa-rum-pum-pum-pum along with the vile noise emanating from the store’s speaker system. And remember: the Christmas stuff will be half price on December 26, and you won’t have to contend with the tunes.

Hiking Boots

Oh, are those new shoes?

A change of season requires a change of footwear. We Central Floridians hang onto our flip-flops and sandals as long as possible but eventually we put on actual shoes – with closed toes – to go outside. Some holdouts sport socks with sandals or Crocs year-round. Eh, we all have our own way of dealing with things.

When the weather cools a bit and the mosquitos go away, we can lace up our brand-new hiking boots – which our shopping buddy insisted we buy because you just need them! Buy the darn things! – and venture out onto trails that provide sights found nowhere else. Some of our favorites include:

  • Nisqually Estuary and Twin Barns Trail: Easy 4.6-mile out-and-back trail popular with birders and hikers.
  • Mima Falls Loop: Moderately challenging route in an area that draws hikers, birders and campers.
  • Chehalis Western Trail: Take all day at this easy 20.8-mile point-to-point trail. Yu might encounter road bikers and people on horseback, but you can also enjoy some solitude.
  • Woodard Bay and the Blue Heron Rookery: See towering maples and hundreds of heron nests. Bonus: this is a great place to enjoy the fall foliage.

Let the leaves fall where they may:

How the heck do your neighbor’s leaves always end up in your yard (even though palms and evergreens are king here and the other leaves hang on until January)? We find the situation a bit sus, as the kids say. But we have a solution: fire up the leaf blower at 7 on a Saturday morning. Problem solved!

Sure, it’s fun to annoy your neighbors, but you know what’s even more enjoyable? Driving to a place to see – yes – fall foliage in all its wonderful, vivid, multi-hued glory. Don ‘t blame us – it’s tradition.

Our favorite foliage spots are in Western North Carolina, where vibrant reds, yellows and oranges delight viewers from mid-October through Halloween and sometimes even later. Which means – road trip! Load up the car and head north to one of these locations:

  • Cascade Loop Highway: This 440-mile loop is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. In the northern section, enjoy the blazing yellow larches of Ross Lake and the yellow-red maple vines near Leavenworth. The Stevens Pass Greenway, a 90-mile scenic byway that can be done in a day, features plenty of places to pull over for photos. If you’re lucky, you can also see spawning salmon.
  • Columbia River Gorge: October and November are the best times to see the fall colors on Mount Hood and the Washington -Oregon border.
  • Mount Ranier: Take your pick of the Chinook Pass Scenic Byway on the north side or White Pass to the south. Chinook offers vibrant yellow larches and yellow-red maple vines, while White Pass is known for the brilliant colors of its cottonwoods, willows, elderberry and aspen. Best time to go is September through October.

One more  thing – speaking of falling out of trees:  if the temps in South Florida dip into the mid to low 40s and stay there for eight hours, watch out for falling iguanas!

Hallmark Channel

Those Hallmark Christmas movies are on. Again.

Sure, these flicks all share one highly predictable, highly improbable plot: She’s a princess, figuratively speaking, who slinks back to her hometown for some reason. Prince Charming is either Mr. Meet-Cute or Mr. It’s-No-Surprise-Why-You’re-Still-Single. Everybody is thin and good-looking, and the couple ends up together in the end – surprise, right?

But many people swoon over these celluloid caprices. If you find yourself trapped into watching one, try not to snore too loudly and at least wake up for the ending.

So are we in the midst of autumn or still preparing? Your call. One thing is for sure – dig out a sweater, just in case, and grab a pumpkin spice latte. Summer can’t last forever… can it?


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