Shortening days and frosts in the highlands bring color to the refuge, first in dabs, then in swaths, then finally the whole valley is ablaze with the russets of oaks, the golds of aspen, and the reds and oranges of the occasional maple. Conboy Lake's oak forest are busy with western gray squirrels packing away many a winter's meal of acorns. International travelers, in the form of tundra swans, snow geese and songbirds, pass through on their way to warmer climes, bringing with them the young on their first migration. The push to migrate knows no time limits, as witnessed by flocks of geese flying across the face of the moon, calls reminding one and all that there is still some 'wild' left.
While the birds and squirrels and other, smaller animals are present, this season belongs to deer and elk. Black-tailed deer bucks pursue does across the meadow, and the throaty bugle of elk bulls reverberates throughout the valley as they invite the cows to join them to create next year's young. Sparring matches between bulls and bucks is a treat for the lucky visitor to the refuge. Males lose some of their wariness, making them easier to spot in the open, but making them dangerous to those who venture too close—something the smart visitor keeps in mind.
Fall is the season of preparation, of stocking larders for when food is hard to find, of laying on fat reserves against the cold, of finding the perfect hibernation spot. Like spring, there's a bit of frenzy to fall activities, but unlike spring the mood seems almost serious. Every creature knows, either through experience or through instinct, that they need to be ready for the harshness of the coming season. As fall comes to a close, in reality if not on paper, and the first snowflakes fall, the days shorten and cold settles into the valley, Conboy Lake begins to close down for the winter. Those that can leave are gone, and only the hardiest remain to face another season of silence.