Chasing the Wild Autumn Skies

Some people don’t get caught up in the pumpkin frenzy.
Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

The big change this past weekend wasn’t in the leaves but in the skies. And the temperature. Like my friend’s old dog, many of us found the sudden cool weather and stiff breezes invigorating and stimulating. Others, including me, found those large swirling clouds foreboding.

Foreboding or not, the weather change signaled the true arrival of autumn and motivated many people to get out and enjoy the season before foreboding gave way to freezing.


Under storm clouds, a large flock of sheep on a suburban farm imparts an Irish experience.


Cold weather boosts demand for hot food at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market: a happy taco chef, an earnest creator of elixirs, and a smiling donut and cider lady.


So on Saturday we traveled the back way to Ithaca (Victor to Naples to Hammondsport to Watkins Glen to Ithaca and their farmers’ market). Along the entire drive, the undulating clouds fought each other across the sky, twisting and tangling and brawling before briefly releasing to open up holes for the sun to spotlight the fields and forests and then just as quickly resuming their tussle in the sky arena.

Despite vine rotting rains in early summer, pumpkin fields persevered to produce a voluminous crop displayed on wagons, “antique” trucks, and in creative arrangements reflecting pricing by size. To draw in buyers, markets ramped up attractions with mazes, jack-o-lantern filled tepees, cider and tasty treats, wagon rides and almost anything to draw in the paying public.

Turbulent skies add a sense of adventure to a late season sailboat outing.

At Watkins Glen, the tour boats like the Seneca Spirit and the True Love schooner carried hardy souls out into the gust-filled lake. Like a frolicking wild horse, the schooner leaped across the lake, sails filled and leaning into the skies.

At the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, the parking maze tops the most challenging corn maze but the recent rains quickly graced us with a space shunned by others. It held a big puddle. But desperation and unwarranted faith in our leaping abilities found us parking in it and opening our doors and trying to leap (unsuccessfully) to dry land. Exotic and excessive foods and crafts made by eccentric and creative vendors drew strolling customers into long lines to savor treats from around the world and the region.

Back home, I wondered why the fall color hadn’t progressed more and feared I might miss out on a glorious display at Letchworth State Park. So on Tuesday, I headed down and found that while the Middle Falls gorge had some nice colors, few other areas had colors worthy of a long drive.

Maybe next week.


Derek Doeffinger spent a few decades at Kodak explaining how people can take better pictures and then encouraging them to use Kodak products — especially digital cameras. That last part didn’t quite work out. Fortunately during his Kodak days he became an obsessed outdoor photographer, especially of Finger Lakes waterfalls. He’s written several photos books about the Finger Lakes and digital photography, and now has written quite a few articles for Life in the Finger Lakes.






True Love schooner






Ithaca market

Cold weather boosts demand for hot food at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market: a happy taco chef, an earnest creator of elixirs, and a smiling donut and cider lady.



Although Letchworth’s Middle Falls had some bright colors, the surrounding hills were still lacking the inspirational colors we all hope for.




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