I've tossed essentials into a bag — my camera, my journal, a change of clothes. Autumn has come to the mountains, and there's no time to lose. I'm leaving first thing in the morning. I'll stop to pick up my parents, and then we'll drive east and north, up through winding roads lined with trees that are rapidly turning red, yellow, and orange.
It's an annual trip I take with my parents. We drive to the small towns and lakes in the western part of the mountains, to the place where my father spent so many summers as a young man. He worked as a musician in the 1950s, playing every night at the mountain resorts. We'll visit his old haunts, including the rambling old hotel on the lake where he stayed each summer. We'll stop at the campgrounds where we camped when I was a little kid: tent sites scattered amongst pine trees, with picnic tables and a small lake where we kids learned to swim. The open dump where black bears used to gather at dusk is closed now, and much of the private land near the towns has been developed, but inside the park, the landscape hasn't changed much in my lifetime.
We're staying at an old mountain inn with crooked floors, flowered wallpaper, and a big fireplace. If the weather is warm, we'll sit in the wooden rocking chairs on the front porch of the inn and look out over the lake. If it's cold, we'll sit in by the fire and drink mulled cider. Mostly, we'll spend a couple of days wandering around, just looking at the bright leaves, the sparkly lakes, and hillsides full of color. For sheer beauty, the mountains in October are hard to beat.