Happy First Day of Autumn! This is my favorite season of the year, and judging by the challenging summers that everyone from my personal trainer to both of my Cali-living friends had, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's looking forward to a new season. While it's not traditional to celebrate this season change in any official way, there are a host of autumnal activities to keep you busy, tune you into the changing season and get you taking advantage of the opportunities fall has to offer — all before winter comes. If you feel like you missed out on summer's bounty, put some of these plans on your calendar before another day goes by. 


Get outdoors: Try trailrunning

If you find yourself dreading the slow-and-steady pace and all-day quality of hiking and you are fairly active already, consider taking your running routine out of the gym and into the woods. It will get you into the fresh air and change up your regular workout, making it more of a challenge while giving you a mental break from interior spaces (the complexity of natural spaces is a visual and physical challenge). Many people mistakenly think that running outdoors is going to be too complicated, but the adjustment is easy as long as you are on a fairly well-maintained trail (think one that rounds a pond or lake, or follows a river; these locales are usually more level and well-trod, making footing easier).  And while it's true that you won't be able to zone out like you can on a treadmill, the focus that's inherent to running in the woods makes this kind of workout more interesting. And cooler fall temps mean that there are fewer insects and a less sweaty workout. (Check out the American Trailrunning Association for local routes and info.)


Go apple- or pumpkin-picking

The beauty of picking your own is not just that you are supporting local farmers (always a bonus) but that you get to really see where your food comes from. While farmers markets are great, they are still one step from the source. Apple and pumpkin picking isn't just for kids and families (not judging by the groups of 20-somethings I see every time I go), so grab some friends and head on out, then plan on making your own homemade apple pie when you get home. (Try this delicious, organic recipe for apple pie.) 


Plant some autumn greens

In many parts of the country, the growing season extends until the end of December (even I've picked chard from my garden for Christmas dinner, and my garden's in Connecticut). But many people, thinking they've missed out on a summer garden, don't realize that they still have months to grow veggies. So-called "winter" greens actually do better when the weather is cooler. Think Swiss chard, bok choi (and its cousin, tat soi), kale, and even spinach can produce healthy dinner fixings if you plant small plants (faster than starting from seed) right now. Keep it simple and put them out on the porch or in a window box so it's easy to water them. Check out the Urban Organic Gardener if you need some tips and tricks for this kind of planting and this page for details on what and how to plant). 


Have a bonfire party

This is definitely not a suggestion for the dry parts of California and the American West, but in most places East of the Rocky Mountains (it's always a good idea to check with the local fire department on their advisories and rules for even small fires), autumn is a great time to gather some of the detritus from Hurricane Irene, dig a hole (clearing the edges of anything flammable) and create a safe and fun bonfire. Stare at the flames and tell stories with friends, roast some marshmallows, look for constellations, and maybe get a sing-a-long going. Be sure to have several buckets or gallon jugs of water just in case, and to put the fire out at the end of the night (never leave embers burning unattended!) If you've never built or had a bonfire before, see this site for more information and instructions. 


These are some of my favorite things to do during harvest season. What are some of your favorite autumn activities?

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Autumn's here! 4 fun activities to make the most of the season
Get outdoors this fall and enjoy what the season has to offer - before winter comes!