Every year during the middle of October, I head north to spend a blissful week in the mountain resort town of McCall, Idaho. Leaving Boise, the weather is warm and sunny. We experience glorious Indian summers here in the Treasure Valley. Usually sometime during late September a cold front will race through the area, blasting out the scorching days of lingering summer. But the cold front rarely includes a killing frost and the following days warm up to shorts-weather with temperate evenings. We know from the calendar that fall is around the corner, but it hasn’t yet touched Boise.
For those of you unfamiliar with my area, McCall, Idaho is one hundred miles north of Boise and about two thousand feet higher in elevation. The town hunkers around the outlet where Payette Lake drains into the Payette River. Cabins, varying from old rustic to new palatial, finger their way up both sides of the lake. What was once a timber and ranching town has metamorphosed into a popular recreational escape for Treasure Valley residents. Winter months lure snow lovers to downhill and cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and snowmobiling. During the summer, an armada of water craft ply the sparkling waters of Payette Lake. Hikers, bikers, horseback riders, fishermen, and backpackers fan into the surrounding mountains, cleansing their lungs of stale city air. Spring is this town’s equivalent of a bad-hair morning. Melting snow flows downhill to inundate every inch of unpaved ground with boot-sucking mud.
During the fall, the town more closely resembles its old, quiet, unassuming self. Driving or hiking the back roads, you may encounter a few hunters. You gage your elevation by the degree of color; the lowest aspen are still green, a little higher is a range of yellow aspen and red shrubbery, topped by the highest, bare-stemmed trees where a brief fall has already come and gone.
A bit of magic happens to Boise in my absence. During that one week, fall arrives. I know because of the two trees across the street from my house. They are green when I leave. The day I return they stand there, blushing at their yellow transformation. The rest of the trees in town are still untouched by fall, but the temperatures have changed enough to merit the summer/winter closet change-out, along with furnace inspection and fall gardening chores. The rest of Boise will soon follow my neighboring sentinels, turning the town into a dazzlingly clown of color.