Finally looking like fall

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

in the short rows

This fall, so far has mostly felt like anything but fall. Nevertheless, with the days shorter, and now cooling a bit, nature can’t put off the inevitable, though, and leaves are turning and falling.

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The process begins early here with crepe myrtles. By late September, their leaves had already turned and were falling rapidly. They get a bit ahead of the local schedule because they are non-native, having been imported from Asia.

Leading the parade among native trees are the beeches, poplars and sycamore, which generally produce yellow leaves. Maples red oaks persimmon and sassafras round out the spectacle by introducing red to the palette. And then, of course, there are the white oaks that just hang on to brown leaves forever, it seems.

Now that fall is well underway, it’s time to take a ride and enjoy the view. While New England prides itself in the spectacular fall foliage produced by its prodigious hardwood forests, Virginia more than holds its own, and the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway can be bumper to bumper at times in the fall.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to drive to the mountains, however, take a short trip along the northern shore of the James River up Route 5. It’s one of the most picturesque drives in eastern Virginia. And, if you happen to be a bicyclist or hiker, the new Capitol Bike Trail offers a more leisurely and intimate view of Virginia’s plantation trail.

The trail begins in historic downtown Richmond and runs for 52 miles to Jamestown, thus tying Virginia’s current capital to the first colonial seat of government.

And to make the “capital” connection complete, the Capital Trail ends at the Colonial Parkway at Jamestown, which offers an additional picturesque drive or ride from there to Williamsburg and on to Yorktown.

If this sounds like a tourism pitch, it is. Colonial Williamsburg’s well-known financial problems are a direct result of changing interests. History is considered boring by many today and, as a result, an appreciation for history is declining. And while we value Williamsburg as an economic engine, I believe the declining interest in history threatens far more than a nonprofit’s bank account. It threatens our very understanding of our system of government.

I am a great believer in the idea of immersing oneself periodically in history. It doesn’t have to be in-depth research. A ride through the country, with a stop to read historic markers that are liberally scattered about Virginia will do. It lends an appreciation for the centuries of history — good and bad — that lie underfoot in this part of America.

So, whether you driving through the Valley of Virginia or along Route 5, enjoy fall, but take the time to savor a bit of history as well. It’s a lovely time of year to do so.