Leaves of yellow, orange and red fluttered to the ground while I sipped from a steaming cup of coffee. The lawn was blanketed in leaves. It was time to face the chilly air and grab a rake.
My 4-year-old son and I dutifully began raking the leaves into piles. Close to 10 piles soon dotted the ground.
“This is hard work, right Dad?” my son asked.
“It is, and once we get all the leaves raked up, I’m going to have to clean them up, so if you want to jump in the leaves, you better do it,” I told him.
He hesitated for a second before he took off, jumping into and running through pile after pile, laughing uncontrollably. Between the crisp air, the raking and the jumping (him, not me), we had built up a decent appetite.
“Time for lunch,” I said.
“Can we eat outside?” he asked.
I hesitated. It was a little chilly, but really, why not?
We grabbed a blanket and spread it on the ground. We munched on sandwiches, pretzels and apples, and I grabbed another cup of coffee.
Some may think of picnicking as a summer thing, but to us, on that bright fall day, it was quintessential fall.
Many of the summer activities we look forward to each year, like picnics and ice cream and campfires, can be enjoyed right up until the snow flies (and even after that, for the heartier New Englanders). You need to make some adjustments for the cooler temperatures, but there’s no reason to cover your grill for the season or put your fishing gear out of reach. Go ahead, extend your summer. Staying outside is easier than you think.
Pack a picnic
Enjoying a picnic as the weather cools can seem a little questionable, sure, but enjoying cool-weather picnics is actually pretty simple: pack something hot.
Instead of packing iced tea, fill a thermos with a hot beverage, like tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Consider filling a thermos with hot soup, too, and watch the steam rise from your cup of soup as the hot liquid meets the cool air.
Having a picnic can be part of some kind of an adventure, like a hike, or the picnic can be the destination itself. Amy Bassett, with the state Division of Parks and Recreation, suggested checking out the day-use area on Catamount Pond, which is part of Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown.
“[It] has that huge lawn to spread out a blanket, plus grills for barbecue and tons of trail opportunities to hit from there,” Bassett said, adding that hiking Catamount Hill or biking the 1-mile trail makes for a fun post- or pre-picnic activity.
Don’t be deterred by a lack of facilities, if you’re traveling to state parks. You might see closed gates and you might not see staff, but no one said you couldn’t have a picnic.
“If people are willing to make do with natural landscapes as tables and chairs, most of our state parks have great locations for picnics,” Bassett said. “The facilities are closed in almost all of our parks and gates might be closed but most places you can walk in.”
A picnic can be throwing a blanket on the ground in the backyard, or you can take it with you. Think about your ingredients before you go. Are you preparing all the food in advance, or will you be assembling sandwiches or other foods once you get there? Make sure to bring ice packs if you need to keep food cold, or consider bringing food items that will keep without the cold, particularly if you’re enjoying a picnic during a hike. (If you’re hiking, consider bringing foods that can take a beating in your backpack, like nuts or granola.)
Catch the sunset
Catching a sunset, for many, is as much summer as volleyball and sunscreen, but it turns out the sun sets every day, summer or not, and colder weather doesn’t hurt the view. Also, try catching a sunset in the fall and you won’t have to wait until 9 p.m. either. Any summertime sunset viewing destination works in the fall — you just have to get there earlier.
The New Hampshire Aviation Museum is devoted to preserving and promoting New Hampshire’s aviation history, but it’s also home to a remarkably breathtaking sunset.
“It always blows me away if I’m around there at sundown,” said Richard Ludders, a board member of the New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society.
Looking from the parking lot at the museum, people can see the sun set over the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. The Uncanoonuc Mountains over Goffstown provide a breathtaking backdrop, Ludders said.
Not only is the view spectacular, but sunset viewers can also watch airplanes take off and land. Ludders said people come up to the museum parking lot all the time just to watch the planes and to catch the sunset.
“There’s always an extra crowd around sundown,” Ludders said.
The property is technically on airport grounds in Londonderry, but the parking lot is open to the public. It was created to provide a viewing area, Ludders said, and people are always welcome to catch the sunset there (though for security purposes, people are asked to move along after dark). Motorists can access the museum from Harvey Road in Manchester. If you’re heading south, drive past the Mall of New Hampshire and turn right onto Harvey Road and follow the signs to the museum.
In a state tied closely to its scenic beauty, the Aviation Museum is hardly the only place boasting a great sunset. Responding to a post on the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development’s Facebook page regarding sunsets, one poster suggested visiting the top of Stratham Hill Park in Stratham.
“Is there really a bad spot in New Hampshire to see the sunset from?” asked Massachusetts resident Stephanie Colburn.
For those willing to head farther north, Colburn suggested the Base station at the Mount Washington Cog Railway, Highland Center at Crawford Notch, Bear Notch Road, the Kancamagus Highway, and the visitor center in Colebrook.
Hooksett resident Carrie Trocha suggested taking Ocean Boulevard from Hampton to Salisbury to spot great sunset views, including at the Underwood Bridge.
Other posters suggested taking in the sunset from the Merrimack Premium Outlets in Merrimack (there’s a huge parking lot with wide open views, if you’ve never been), Temple Mountain in Temple, Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, the boat launch on Route 121 on the east side of Lake Massabesic, Pack Monadnock or Mount Major.
Make a fire
S'mores taste good, and they require very simple ingredients: graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, a stick and fire. The recipe works just as well when the mercury drops, but not everybody thinks of sitting by the fire — outside — when the weather cools. Maybe they should.
Christina Theriault, the officer manager for the landscape design company, Dirt Doctors in Pembroke, said autumn fires have become fun family events. Two years ago, using stones she found in the nearby woods, her family constructed a homemade fire pit. The result is a fire that’s a little more contained than a big bonfire and plenty relaxing to sit beside.
“You sit around and have a glass of wine and throw some hot dogs on the grill,” Theriault said.
And if it’s chilly, just move a little closer to the fire.
While anybody can dig up stones to make their own fire pit, people can also purchase fire pit kits that are fairly easy to put together. They generally work even in small yards.
“It’s a nice simple thing,” Theriault said. “It’s a cleaner look, a more pleasant look than a big pile of brush and sticks.”
Theriault said it would take one or two people an afternoon to put together most fire pits. By that evening, they’re sitting by the fire, hot cocoa in hand. Theriault said her family uses the pit usually until there is snow on the ground. The other night, the family was out by the fire, laptops in hand, just relaxing.
“It’s always a nice, warm, inviting place for any yard, and it’s simple and easy to do,” Theriault said.
Even better, people can use their fire pit to cook their food, too. Theriault said many of the fire pit kits people can buy also come with grates for cooking.
“You start off with cheeseburgers and you end up with marshmallows,” Theriault said. “We find we use it more now than we did during the summer.”
Theriault said people should check with their local fire departments to make sure they’re building the pit to regulations. For example, according to the city of Nashua’s website, a Category I fire, which is a camp or cooking fire, must be a minimum of 25 feet from any structure, and the fire itself must be no more than two feet in diameter, contained in a ring of fire-resistant material.
Cast a line
Fall is arguably the best time of year to fish. Fish are more active during the day, as dropping water temperatures stir them into a frenzy. They’re hungry, as they gorge themselves in advance of winter. So bundle up and get out there.
“Some of the best fishing is right now,” said Mark Beauchesne of the state Department of Fish and Game.
Some water bodies are closed for the season, so make sure you check wildlife.state.nh.us, before you go, but for many, the time is now. Many water bodies in the state have no closed season.
If trout is your fish of choice, then now is perfect. Trout activity is tied directly to water temperature, and fall temperatures have likely fallen into the low 60s and high 50s, which is particularly comfortable for trout.
Many water bodies get fall stockings as well, meaning there should be hungry and plentiful fish.
Beauchesne, an angler himself, suggested Manning Lake in Gilmanton, Canobie Lake in Salem and Beaver Lake in Derry.
“The trout are there,” Beauchesne said. “They don’t all get caught in the springtime, they just go to deeper water.”
On lakes and ponds, anglers will often use boats and kayaks to troll spoons and flies in an effort to cover big stretches of water, paying particular attention to areas where inlets and brooks enter lakes and ponds. Those inlets bring in fresh oxygen and potential food sources.
If bass is more your style, New Hampshire, as a whole, boasts great smallmouth bass fisheries. Beauchesne, speaking last week, guessed that Turkey Pond in Concord was probably in the 60s, water temperature-wise, which is close to perfect for bass activity.
Beauchesne, who said everybody has their preferences, suggested throwing curly tail grubs on jig heads to try to cover water. Largemouth bass can be had with soft plastic baits, by targeting spots with visible plant cover, docks or tree stumps.
“It’s a great time to be out fishing,” Beauchesne said. “I can’t believe more people don’t do it.”
For bass, Beauchesne suggested Turkey Pond, as well as Elm Brook Pond in Contoocook, and Lake Massabesic in Manchester. He said the Merrimack River is an oft-overlooked but great fishery for a number of species.
“There are no guarantees, unless you go, and then you’ll figure it out,” Beauchesne said.
Beyond the fishing, the scenery in New Hampshire is beautiful. Angling is a great way to take in the scenic splendor of the Granite State, if you can take your eyes off the water.
If you’re in a canoe or kayak, Beauchesne stressed the importance of wearing, not just bringing, a life jacket.
“It provides a little extra warmth on those cool mornings,” Beauchesne said.
Lace up your sneakers
It would be easy to just snuggle under the blankets this time of year and ignore exercise until spring, but as hard as it might be to get outside, ultimately you’re going to feel better having gone for a walk or a run.
And while it may be hard to get your foot out the door on a particularly brisk fall morning, for many people, the cooler temperatures — as opposed to oppressive, thick, humid summer air — make for a more invigorating experience.
“Many runners look forward to the fall,” said Betsy Coco, manager at Runner’s Alley in Manchester. “I love running in each season for different reasons. In the fall, the leaves are falling and you get that ‘swish’ running through the leaves.”
You can always change up your schedule too; if you typically exercise in the morning, wait until afternoon, when the temperatures have risen. On a sunny day especially, there can be a dramatic difference between temperatures at 7 a.m. and at 3 or 4 p.m., or at noon on your lunch break.
“It’s a great time to pick up a routine,” Coco said.
Try running along the Manchester Rail Trail. Begin at the Fisher Cats stadium, and run along the rail trail to the West Side Arena and back, which makes for a four-mile run. Consider hitting the trails this fall too. (Make sure to wear bright colors, so you stand out to hunters.) Plus, running at this time of year, people get to take in the foliage. Coco said she enjoys running throughout Manchester. Many runners opt for the trails surrounding Lake Massabesic in Manchester.
In Nashua, runners flock to Mine Falls Park, which provides miles of paved and unpaved trails following the Nashua River. The Goffstown Rail Trail has become a big draw, as have the Windham Rail Trail and the Derry Rail Trail. You could also try the Horse Hill Nature Preserve in Merrimack.
Coco suggested dressing as though the weather was 10 or 15 degrees warmer than it is. As you run, you’ll heat up.
Think layers at this time of year. Women often wear capri pants at this time of year, while men typically wear shorts and a long-sleeved running shirt. Coco said it’s important to have a base layer, a mid layer and some type of shell to repel strong winds. In the fall, you might need just the base layer, or the base layer and the shell.
“You can mix and match,” Coco said.
That approach should get most runners through the fall and into the winter. Make sure to wear wicking socks.
The only challenge is that it gets dark earlier, so throw on some reflective gear if you plan on running after work. (Runners may want to familiarize themselves with city ordinances — in Manchester, ordinance 130.05 stipulates that any runner must wear bright clothing, regardless of the time of day.)
Runners will find several road races just about every weekend this fall, including the Manchester Marathon, though it’s probably a little late to start training for that now. The race takes place on Sunday, Nov. 3, but the event features a full weekend of activity. But go out to cheer on the runners and get inspired.
“It’s amazing how many types of races there are,” Coco said, of race popularity in general.
Make your own sundae
If you stop eating ice cream when the weather cools, you’re missing out. Ice cream is great in the summer for it’s chill-out factor, yes, but ice cream in the fall provides a slew of options for delicious fall flavors.
Pumpkin ice cream is obvious. But what about apple crisp ice cream or pumpkin cheesecake ice cream? Those are just a few of the options made at Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Nashua.
To make the summer last a little longer, set up your own make-your-own sundae bar. Choose fall flavors for the ice cream or stick with traditional vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and then load up on toppings.
Hot fudge, caramel sauce and butterscotch sauces are staples, said Roni Vetters, owner and chef at Jake’s. She suggested staying away from strawberries at this time of year and instead maybe making an apple compote, almost like an apple pie filling for the ice cream.
“To dress it up, toss on some toasted nuts … or any sort of cookie — crumple up your favorite cookie, like Golden Oreos or graham crackers,” Vetters said.
Vetters has seen a sweet and salty trend develop in terms of toppings, a trend she enjoys herself.
“I like a little bite of salt,” Vetters said. “I personally love the sweet and salty.”
An easy way to get that combination of flavors is to add just a little sea salt to whatever jar of caramel sauce you pick up at the store. Or, crush up some pretzel sticks. People are even putting potato chips in their ice cream now.
Or, for those really looking for that sweet and saltiness, try pairing bacon with ice cream. Vetters said Jake’s maple walnut bacon ice cream has been a hit. If you’re trying to do that yourself, make sure to render the bacon down so it’s really crispy.
“You almost have to burn it,” Vetters said. “And then chop it very finely. ... So you get the crunch and then you kind of wait and the flavor appears in the back of the profile.”
This time of year people are also looking to unique flavors like rum raisin, which is a traditional, old-fashioned flavor, as well as Mexican chocolate, which is chocolate and cinnamon ice cream.
Fire up the grill
Tossing burgers and hotdogs on the grill, along with a few ears of corn, screams summer. But your grill works just fine all year round, so maybe this fall, the time is right to master your grill.
Picture a nice juicy steak, crispy on the outside, warm and tender on the inside. You can make this vision a reality this fall. And besides, you should probably get grilling now, because once the snow falls and you have to shovel a path to the grill, you may be less inclined to do just that.
“Right now, it’s beautiful outside, even though it’s a little chilly,” said Billy Steeves, store manager at The Prime Butcher, which has locations in Windham and Hampstead.
“[The grill] gives you a different option,” Steeves said. “I get bored using the stove constantly.”
Regardless of the time of year, grilling isn’t complicated, but Steeves said it’s surprising how few people really know how to use a grill. He’ll see people at the butcher shop just slip past the red meat case and look to marinated options. Those are tasty, sure, but after talking with folks, it often becomes apparent people slip past the red meat cooler because, well, they’re a little afraid of ruining the meat.
“People don’t really know how to grill a steak,” Steeves said. “And they definitely don’t know how to grill chicken.”
With a little practice, though, you’ll probably be grilling all year round. So get that shovel ready come winter.
To start, get to know your grill. Grills, just like ovens, vary in terms of heat. High heat on one grill might be a hotter heat than high heat on a different grill. So practice.
Grilling steak is not difficult, but it does require some attention. To begin, take the steaks out of the refrigerator for at least an hour — meat will cook more evenly if it’s at room temperature, Steeves said.
“When you take a steak out of the fridge cold and put it on the grill, the outside starts to cook immediately, but the middle has a long way to go,” Steeves said.
(Do the same thing with a roast for the oven. In fact, Steeves said when you take a roast right out of the fridge and pop it in the oven, sometimes you can spot a ring of red on the meat when you cut it, which is a sign it wasn’t cooked properly. The same is true for steaks.)
Steeves chooses Delmonico steaks for the grill. Delmonico are the most flavorful and they have the most fat, Steeves said, adding, “That’s why you don’t eat them every day.”
Season the meat with salt and pepper. That’s it. You could do more, sure, but if you’re buying quality meat, the meat should be able to stand on its own pretty well, Steeves said.
Now, turn on your grill and set one burner to high and a second burner to medium. Steeves figured most grills have at least four burners. Preheat the grill for five to seven minutes or until it reaches full temperature.
Take the steaks and sear them on the high side with the lid open. It should take about two minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the meat. Don’t walk away while searing, as there is potential to burn the meat, since you’re cooking over high heat. After searing, slide the steak over to the medium side and shut the lid, effectively turning your grill into an oven, Steeves said.
The degree of doneness is a matter of personal preference. Steeves suggested using a meat thermometer. For rare, take steaks off the grill at 122 to 125 degrees. It’s not an exact science, but meat will keep cooking once you remove it from the heat, so let it rest for a few minutes after you take it off the grill.
When grilling chicken, people need to take more care to not burn it. Try cooking chicken over low to medium-low heat. Don’t be afraid to flip chicken wings or thighs a few times. Chicken is done once it reaches 165 degrees in the center.
Steeves typically opts to marinate chicken thighs in barbecue sauce before tossing them on the grill. Even over a lower heat, chicken will crisp up on the grill. Steeves figured it would take 15 to 25 minutes to cook chicken thighs on the grill.
Let your butcher guide you to the appropriate cut. While some steaks will remain flavorful and juicy when cooked to medium well, others will dry out.