NOTE: This is one in a weekly column series, originally written for The Winchester Sun. These are often heavily edited for space in the paper. Therefore, we will offer them in their entirety here. They will often have local references since they are written for the local paper.
You may have noticed this past week that there were a couple of nights/mornings where the temperature dipped down into the 50s. I cannot express to you how much I love that. I often tell people that my favorite season of the year is the one that I am currently in. If you pressed me on the matter I would probably tell you it was fall (but maybe spring). With that said, I thought I would share some experiences that I have had in hopes that they encourage you to create your own experiences outdoors.
For many years when I was in school, there was a fall break in which nearly the entire Caudill clan that I am part of would camp around the Cave Run area. We first started at Clear Creek campground and eventually ended up staying at Zilpo campground. Campgrounds are great places for families to get familiar with the outdoors. I highly recommend you find your own campground or try one of these I have mentioned. You can literally take anything and everything you want to take to make life more comfortable. There are three things that lead most people to get disenchanted with the outdoors; poor sleep, unfamiliar food, and not-so-great hygiene. At a campground, you can fix all three of those. Take everything you can possibly fit in your vehicle to make the sleep and food issues as good as you can pack. With a place like Zilpo (or Twin Knobs) there are hot showers. So, each of the most common issues are taken care of. There are often trails and roads that make it easy for new folks to walk and get out and see, hear and smell nature at its finest. The sheer amount of fun that I had as a kid, as well as what my own kids had while camping during “October Trip” is immeasurable.
Fall was also a special time for my own young family unit as our kids were growing up. Fall meant falling leaves. Falling leaves meant taking the kids to wild places and seeing who could catch a unique or pretty leaf as it fell from the trees. We would gather a few up and take them home and my wife Jennifer would make a wreath, or two, or three with what we brought home. Take some wild grapevine formed into a circle, hot glue the leaves onto said grapevine and voila’ you have a homemade pile of memories to share on your front door. There may have also been a few times where I found very steep hillsides to take the kids on what we called “beaver slides”. All you need, to do this is some energetic kids and a dad/mom, a steep but somewhat short hill with lots of leaves. Sit your butt down at the top of said steep hill and leaves, lift of feet and push off. Fun the old-fashioned way never gets old-fashioned in my opinion.
Last, but certainly not least, I must share with you one of our favorite fall edibles, persimmons. You can see some in the picture with this article. One word of caution, although you may find them on the tree looking so beautiful as those do, do not harvest from the tree. You should wait until they fall from the tree before gathering them. Getting out now and finding a tree or two is a good thing. The deer and the other wildlife love these too. When they start to drop, the wildlife will get to them rather quickly. Find a tree or two (Zilpo campground has dozens of them), and keep an eye on them to see when they drop. Harvest the ones you can, leave some for seed and for the wildlife, and eat them at will. We love them raw, as well as Jennifer makes cookies with them too. Follow up on my blog and I will have a recipe for you in the article there.
As I said earlier, I hope this gives you some ideas or inspiration to get outside with your kids or grandkids. We need more nature and less technology in the modern world. Keep an eye out though. You may see us on, or off, the trail!
For a great persimmon cookie recipe, check out this link for one on yummly.
Craig Caudill is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Nature Reliance School. He specializes in teaching outdoor related topics to include, survival, tracking, nature awareness and more for private or public groups, and government agencies. Craig’s is the author of two books, Extreme Wilderness Survival and Ultimate Wilderness Gear from Page Street Publishing, distributed by Macmillan Publishing.
Craig is a frequent contributor to TV outlets, blog sites, magazines and is a popular online outdoor educator on his YouTube channel. Pick up the books, subscribe to him on youtube, or join Craig and the other NRS Instructors in a class so they can help you be more safe and aware in the outdoors.