Forget leaf peeping. In Minnesota, we're leaf gawkers. Each autumn, when the chlorophyll is fading from deciduous trees around the state, we hit the road, the water, the trail—any path that allows a nice, long look at one of the most dramatic costume changes in nature. (See "Bright Spots" for a list of state parks that offer prime views of the brilliant foliage; kudos to Gary Alan Nelson, whose stunning photos accompany the story.)
And though I'm pro-fall colors, I prefer the subtler changes that occur this time of year. The gradual lengthening of midday shadows, for one. Or the frenzied way in which squirrels are "scatter hoarding" acorns in order to survive the winter. (Fun fact: A University of Richmond study found that gray squirrels may fail to recover up to 74 percent of the acorns they hide, thereby aiding in the dispersal of oaks.)
In the spirit of subtle change, allow me to introduce myself as the new editor of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. A short list of my qualifications: I've spent most of my life in Minnesota, devoting much of that time to paddling and hiking throughout the state; I can tie a variety of fishing knots; I've capsized only two canoes, and the second time it happened wasn't my fault, I swear; in my nearly 15-year journalism career, I've written and edited many stories about natural resources and outdoor recreation for publications such as Outside, Runner's World, and Mpls.St.Paul; finally, I'm a longtime reader of this fine magazine, having discovered it years ago at a family cabin.
I plan to move MCV forward—to improve its digital presence, for example—but know that its mission will not change. The Volunteer will continue to tell relevant, engaging stories about conservation and the sustainable use of Minnesota's precious natural resources, as it has for more than 75 years. And it will continue to infuse each issue with clear-eyed narratives and top-notch photography, whether the topic is horseback riding or advances in duck tracking technology.
My predecessor, Kathleen Weflen, was a gifted steward of MCV. I can only hope to build on her decades of good work. Thankfully, I inherited a talented staff that includes managing editor Keith Goetzman. From all accounts, Keith did a bang-up job as the magazine's acting editor after Kathleen retired, and he has already impressed me with his deep knowledge of the natural world. During one of my first days on the job, he casually informed me that you can tap boxelder trees for syrup. "The syrup kind of tastes like butterscotch," he said. Who knew?
Rounding out MCV's team are multifaceted associate editor Joe Spring, marketing and circulation whiz Jill Anderson, ace art director Lynn Phelps, and the always-helpful Sue Ryan in customer service. Of course, none of us would be here without you, the dedicated reader, whose generous support keeps the magazine running. I hope to bump into you on the trail sometime.
But enough small talk. Throw this issue in your pack and get out there to see the colors. Just don't call it leaf peeping.
Chris Clayton, editor in chief