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A change of seasons; summer’s fall brings autumnal moods

Rob Bhatt

The end of summer can be a time of mixed emotions. Spectacular changes in the color of scenery as leaves fall from trees create breathtaking views of nature’s power and glory.

At the same time – whether it’s love that never blossomed or cabinets meant to be refinished – the crispness of autumn’s somber air and shorter days can create misgivings about the unfulfilled promises of spring and summer.

Gone are the hopes that came with the rebirth of spring.



Gone is the carefree spirit to accompany every cool breeze that washed away the heat of summer’s sun.

Psychiatrists more than a decade ago identified the symptoms and causes of a mild form of depression brought on by changes of season – referred to as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.



Researchers believe SAD – accompanied by extreme fatigue, a lack of energy, increased need for sleep, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain – is caused by the shorter day lengths of fall and winter.

Some studies suggest SAD is more common in northern countries, where winter days become shorter, a 1996 University of British Columbia research article reported. At least one study concluded that less than 1 percent of the population in Florida experience the depression, while as many as 10 percent of Alaska’s population feel the symptoms.

Some psychiatrists have proposed exposing those with the condition to bright light to stimulate the “biological clock” inside the brain. Others have prescribed anti-depressant drugs.

But enjoying what each season has to offer may be the most effective way to stave off SAD.

“Fall is a great time,” said Bill Marchetti, executive chef at Eagle’s Nest Restaurant. “It goes into our off season and let’s us take a little time off from the restaurant. You have great weather and Indian summer through late October.”

Besides cooler temperatures and shorter days, one of the most noticeable changes at Lake Tahoe after Labor Day is the drop off in visitors to the area.

Fall does not begin for another three weeks on the calendar, but the numbers fall after the late summer holiday.

Bay Area families with children set their sights on soccer practice, piano lessons and other activities that accompany the return to school. College students are heading back to the dormitories

Those who do come to the area are either older couples with grown children or singles who have not yet started families.

For them and year round residents, it is a chance to enjoy Lake Tahoe without the large summer crowds in weather that can stay warm through October, if not longer.

“September is typically the best month of the year,” said Ron Williams, owner of Lakeview Sports, Ski Run Boating Company and Tahoe Keys Boat Rentals. “It’s typically warm. It’s not windy and there’s no crowds.”

A more subtle change appears on restaurant menus and dinner tables.

Certain vegetables and seafoods become less available after Labor Day, Marchetti notes. At finer restaurants, game dishes featuring elk and caribou, winter squashes and heartier soups begin to replace the lighter offerings of summer and its swimsuit conscious appetites

“We think about it (the fall menu) all summer long – about things we can do,” Marchetti added. “We start to phase out our summer menu after Labor Day.”

September starts a seasonal no-man’s land of sorts for Lake Tahoe recreation.

Ski season is still several weeks away. Watersports and other summer activities are winding down.

Now is the time cut firewood, complete procrastinated household repairs and gear up for winter.

“For a lot of people, it’s a time to get busy,” observed teacher Therese Rogers, about the rush to complete summer projects. “They’re like squirrels – collecting things and getting organized.”

Of course, the end of summer marks the start of the frenzy for ski industry workers preparing for a new winter.

After Labor Day, equipment technicians at Heavenly Ski Resort will prepare hundreds of new skis, snowboards and boots for the resort’s rental shops, said Public Relations Manager Monica Bandows. Personnel officials have already begun processing employment application packets. Construction crews are installing a new chair lift and trails on the mountain.

“People start to think skiing right after Labor Day,” Bandows said. “The momentum picks up.”

Clearly, fall has its merits.

Perhaps Dr. Phil Middleton, program manager for El Dorado County Mental Health’s South Lake Tahoe office, says it best.

“Enjoy each day for what it brings,” Middleton said. “The winter does not have to become your enemy. The trick is to stay open to looking at the different seasons of the year and seeing what they have to offer us.”

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