A hollowed out stump near the playground.

The kids and I checked out Cedar Falls Park the other day.

We watched a family of bluebirds, a flicker, and talked back and forth with a pine warbler using the very handy Audobon Bird Guide app on my phone.

Saw several groupings of these mushrooms with trumpet shaped tops.

We found some trumpet shaped mushrooms.

And we got a lesson in how to identify poison ivy.

Is this poison ivy? No, this is Virginia Creeper.

There is a very similar vine – Virginia Creeper – which has five leaves. Poison Ivy has three leaves with a very distinctive appearance. Notice the sets of 3 in the photo below. If you look closely you also may be able to see how the smaller leaves are sometimes notched.

THIS is poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let them be.”

Though it is only mid August we found the first few leaves starting to turn color. We gathered them up and put them on one of the park benches.

When I was a kid, the end of summer used to bring me a minor episode of sadness. Sure I looked forward to football, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and of course my birthday. But in those days, August signaled that my carefree days of fishing and exploring the outdoors were almost over. I would be consigned to another nine months of school – indoors! the issue wasn’t with school so much as the fact that it was all indoors!. The birds would leave, along with the Junebugs and fireflies, and the trees would lose their leaves to the stark cold silence of winter, which in South Carolina typically meant shortened dreary days of cold rain.

Now I have a more balanced perspective and have learned to enjoy what each season brings.

Fall brings cooler less humid air. Relief from the torrents of mosquitos. And the ticks. I’ve begun to learn about fall gardening, and have planted some beans, collards and Bok Choy, as well as a 2nd attempt this year at growing pumpkins and zucchini.

The woods in winter can be just as fascinating and enjoyable as in summer, as I learned in my February kayaking trip up Juniper Creek. And of course without winter, there can be no spring.