Every year, Fall catches me off guard. It’s usually somewhere around the last week of August when I suddenly realize, Summer is almost over. Of course, summers in Maine are no joke. Summer is the season of canoeing the many lakes and rivers, or laying out in the sun, or rolling the windows all the way down on my drive home from work. It’s the one time of year when wading in the ocean is bearable, even though the water is still frigid and you still might develop hypothermia if you stay in too long. As a born and bred Southerner, you might think I love the summertime heat. Here’s a fact: you’re wrong. I’m always hot, I even have the ability to raise the temperature of any room I’m in (non-scientific tests have been run), and if I take even the most casual stroll, my hair curls on it own.
It’s during that last week of August that I usually catch a whiff of “Fall Smell” that I’ve only experienced in Maine. Fall smells like the dark, loamy earth that you dig up when you’re planting in the garden, but it’s also like cinnamon and perfectly ripened apples. Along with it comes a slightly cooler breeze, just cool enough to remind you the heat of summer won’t last forever. It’s the promise of pumpkin scented candles, bonfires, and apple cider. It’s my cue to dig out every bit of fall decor and start switching out all of my summer clothes for winter clothes (which is basically just putting cardigans over all the tops I’ve been wearing all summer, because let’s face it, I’ll still be overheated).
And the only thing better than regular Fall, is Fall in Maine.
Regular fall happens in the South. Don’t get me wrong, the fall colors are beautiful in the South…for the entire week that they last. During my years in college in South Carolina, I would suddenly notice the trees were orange, brown, and red without much of a drop in temperature to warn me. I’d snap a few cool pictures, and then just like that, I’d blink, all the leaves on be on the ground.
Due to my time in the South, when my first Fall in Maine rolled around, my expectations weren’t high. The intensity of Fall hit me so unexpectedly, and I wasn’t even prepared for what I was about to experience. Now that I’m in full swing of my fifth Maine Fall, I know what to expect, and every year I wait for it like an impatient child before Christmas (Maine winters are another topic entirely). The burst of what seems like a thousand different shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown absolutely blows me away every time. It’s a slow, gradual evolution from vibrant green, and it makes Fall last for weeks and weeks giving me plenty of time to do all those Fall activities against the most beautiful background. I’m convinced the salt in the air that is carried from the sea makes the colors last even longer, like a natural preservative.
One of my favorite activities in the Fall has been hiking the Bangor City Forest Trails. Bangor is one of Maine’s largest cities, and during college season, it can become as close to a grid lock as Maine can have. After a week of staring at a computer screen at work, there is nothing more refreshing than hiking in the Maine woods. I typically go on the weekend with my boyfriend and his dog, and every week it’s as though more colors were added to the palette, extra little touches of color splashed across the canvas. Once again, those colors never cease to amaze me.
Fall is also when Mainers can finally dig out their plaid shirts, wool socks, and best of all, Bean Boots. Any boots will do, really, but Bean Boots are a Maine classic. I was lucky enough to snag a pair from the flagship store, even in the midst of a frenzy that caused Bean Boots to be back ordered for months. Now, every Fall, I wait patiently until it’s just chilly enough for boots before I dig them out and proudly wear them every chance I get. The perfect Maine Fall outfit is completed with a thick scarf or a cozy vest, just enough to keep one warm through the chilly mornings and evenings.
To outsiders, Fall in Maine may seem like Fall anywhere else, but I have yet to see colors so vibrant, to feel air so crisp, or find apples that taste so sweet anywhere else. It may seem like Fall is just a bridge between the heat of Summer and cold of Winter, but for me, Fall is a total journey that is meant to be enjoyed slowly, savored, like a hot maple coffee or an apple turnover, piping hot from the oven. There isn’t much of Fall left, a fact I’m harshly reminded of every time I enter a store and see Christmas decorations; but there’s still time left to savor. Go take pictures of the trees, even if you look like a tourist. In fact, take a long drive up Route 1 or an extra long walk just to look at the trees and don’t even interrupt your time with taking pictures, just soak it all in. Cook a huge Thanksgiving dinner full of local Maine produce, like butternut squash, apples, and pumpkin. Enjoy your sweaters and boots before you have to struggle into a coat or pull on bulky snow boots to clear a path.
Savor Fall. Savor Maine.