I call it the golden forest. For 50 weeks out of the year, it’s just a 1.5 mile segment of the Big Rocky Run trail. But for two weeks in mid-late October, the green canopy of leaves turns yellow, and the path glows.
The path runs parallel to the parkway for about 200m before bending to the left and eventually snaking down below the road to the woods line. There’s a noticeable temperature drop. The air feels damper as well as cooler. The creek burbles from the rain earlier today and a pack of deer eye me to determine if I’m a predator or not.
Despite the cloud cover and the setting sun, the path ahead is unusually bright. It's as though someone flipped the light switch on in an otherwise dark room. I looked around and not one leaf is any color other than yellow. I started my quarters and though I was working hard, the effort, the traffic, the noise, the distraction all seemed to slip away on the breeze.
Leaves spiraled down in slow motion from the swaying branches and I could hear the wind gathering in the trees ahead of me. Suddenly it’s on me all at once, and running through the clusters of falling leaves is like swimming through a school of fish. Puddles dot the path and I splash through them, kicking both water and mud up my calves.
Everything about this trail depends on the run. That is to say, some days it’s a frolic through the woods while others it’s a slog that disrupts your rhythm and form. Some days I dread running on it and use a checklist of landmarks to get back up to the street. Other days, it calls to me when I haven’t run on it in sometime.
On my final recovery after the final interval, I ease back on the pace just to enjoy it for a couple extra seconds longer. When I come back to the woods-line, those dark-bluish clouds tinged with purple are spitting cold rain.
During these two weeks in the fall? It never lasts long enough.