MERIDEN — Children strained to catch tumbling leaves before they filled in the gaps in the rust-colored patchwork on the ground while adults walking alongside them enjoyed the first of the multi-colored leaves in the canopy above the Quinnipiac River.
Though he’s reluctant to let go of summer, Meriden resident John Fama said the beauty of living in New England lies in the rebirth and changes that follow the seasons, which keep his morning walks down the Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail fresh and interesting.
“The green of the summer is nice, but you break into the gold tones and the reds … it’s enhanced by the different tones,” he said.
The trees that are fully in the middle of their transformation provide blotches of warmth in a mostly green canopy. According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, peak foliage across the state peaks between Oct. 5 and Nov. 8 and is expected to be strongest in the Meriden area approximately from Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.
Just a few miles from downtown Meriden, the trail is an oasis of nature, where Fama has seen osprey, cranes and bald eagles perched on the branches and fishing in the river.
The smell of the fallen leaves also signals the start of autumn for Fama, evoking the pumpkin-centered dishes his family will gather around.
For Meriden resident Paul Mankoski, the vibrant canopy is what makes the trail his favorite in the city. It provides needed shade during the summer and allows him to experience autumn in full as the leaves change.
Long before the multi-use trail was installed, Mankoski would ride his bike along the railroad tracks — torn up to construct the path — until he reached a brook near the trail’s southern end, where he and his friends would dismount and carefully cross over on a beam.
Continuing to walk that route every morning the weather allows, everyone seems to know him now. Occasionally, when he stops at one of the benches along the pathway, fellow walkers will strike up a conversation and they’ll finish their strolls together.
“It’s just nice, relaxing. It’s got a lot of shade, a lot of friendly people,” he said.