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Feel that crispness in the air? Fall is here
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One of my colleagues asked this week, in a sort of rhetorical way, why people make the annual pilgrimage to the mountains to look at leaves.

It's a good question.

A few weeks from now the roads leading to the mountains will be filled with folks from all over, provided they can find an open gas station.

Before anybody jumps all over me, I do it, too.

We will drive and look at a part of a tree that is dying and is about to fall to the ground.

If you went to a garden center in the spring and they had dying plants, you'd probably turn around and leave.

But if you go to the mountains and you see dying leaves, you keep going to look at more of them.

We also will gripe like crazy when the high temperature is 32 degrees and the wind is blowing at about 40 miles an hour. The first nip in the air, however, does something to our psyche and makes us yearn for autumn leaves, hot cider and caramel apples.

I love this time of the year. The autumnal crispness in the air is something we wish could be bottled and pulled out on a sweltering night in the middle of dog days.

The season also brings us mountain fairs and festivals. We act as if we've never seen a Mason jar filled with sorghum syrup or have ever tasted a boiled peanut. The ritual is repeated yearly.

It must get more appealing when you get older. The road to the mountains is filled with silver-haired folks in their Buicks and Mercurys. Many of them venture to the same hotel or inn, eat at the same restaurants and, in previous years, bought gas at the same stations. Let's hope that gas situation continues to get better.

As I inch closer to reaching that point of crossing over the Jordan River, I find myself yearning for that drive to the mountains. We don't have any little kids at home, but we'll still go and buy a pumpkin.

I don't want to get in a debate about how this world started, but when I venture to a mountain vista and look out at the incredible shapes of the sprawling peaks, the colors of the changing leaves and the flowing creeks and rivers down in the valley, I can't help but believe it didn't happen by accident.

We are really fortunate to live in a place where we have changing seasons.

If you live in some parts of the West, the landscape doesn't change very much. They have two temperatures, hot and hotter, with two levels of humidity, dry and drier.

I've been to Arizona and folks use cactus for landscaping. About the only thing a cactus is good for is providing a backdrop for your souvenir picture. If you stand in front of a cactus, they'll know where you've been.

Somewhere in the great pile of family pictures is a shot of me and my brother standing in Cherokee, N.C., next to a guy wearing an Indian headdress. We're holding genuine rubber Indian tomahawks that were made by tribal leaders in Japan. It's a mountain thing.

For whatever makes us love it, we welcome fall. Enjoy it while it's here.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.