Fall is the best time in the desert. The temperatures are backing off and no longer abrasive. Trees and plants are taking a break from the stress of growing and just surviving through the heat. They seem somewhat relieved. It’s as if everything is taking a deep breath to relax. There’s a smell in the air that is organic and refreshing. It’s a time of renewal and gathering of energies to face another change that is forthcoming. I call it “impending metamorphosis,” holding all the hope and excitement of new things to come in the next year.
One of my favorite smells is that of fall leaves. Desert kids can jump in piles of leaves just like in other areas of the country, but you may have to gather bags full from scattered places. Though not many trees turn brilliant colors in the Vegas valley, there is the Chinese pistache, and in the mountains, the aspens. Take a drive around to see them. You may also have a better chance of seeing wildlife in the daytime in the fall as they are busy.
Our pet desert tortoise is out a lot and eating a lot, preparing for his winter nap. Some birds are taking off for places more southerly, others are tidying their nest while getting ready to hunker down. Snakes and lizards, too, are soaking up the last warmth of summer in the waning autumn sunshine.
And snowbirds, the human species, arrive again in the area. The mild fall temperatures mean that people can exit their abodes and be active outside again. Summer in the desert is like winter back east – staying inside with an artificial temperature maintenance system. So, in the fall, southern Nevada residents can once again enjoy hiking, day trips, picnics, and barbeques. We’ve had a bit of cabin fever and are now anxious to get out again. Even the dog appreciates extra time outdoors (you kept him in during the heated hours of the summer so as not to burn his tender paws).
Fall also gives us a second chance at gardening. It’s said that there are two gardening seasons in Southern Nevada: spring and fall. Of course, I spend the first part of fall cleaning out everything that died in the blistering heat. Then, it’s off to the garden centers to fulfill dreams of a colorful yard once again. This is also a great time to get back to those projects you put on hold when the heat started.
Any time outdoors is beneficial for you. We are drawn outside to commune with our natural selves. Healing, reinvigoration, joy – all await us outside our houses, and an internal clock seems to give us a sense of zugunruhe, or anticipation, just like the migrating animals. My advice is to get out now because the desert winter will surprise you one day when you’re not quite prepared.
Margie B. Klein is a freelance writer, nature lover, and retired environmental educator who’s lived in Las Vegas since the ’90’s. Follow her on Twitter @NatureWriterVgs.