The Winter Forecast.

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. If only because it helps us to prepare for winter.

You remember winter? Maybe you were so busy complaining about how it was too hot last summer, you forgot what was coming next. Fortunately, we’re here to remind you that there is no time like the present to prepare for winter.

First, we need to analyze the predictions for the coming season using the best available science.

There are many tools available to today’s climatologists to formulate an accurate picture of the severity of the season.

According to the Office of the Washington State Climatologist’s September Newsletter, El Nino, that dreaded mass of warm water that creeps up from South America every few years, has hit the snooze button, allowing the tropical Pacific Ocean to cool in the last four weeks.

However, these observations are inconclusive enough to institute an “El Nino” watch in case it does show up.

The climatologist’s outlook for September in areas west of the Cascades predicts, “equal chances of below, equal to or above normal precipitation.”

In addition, these same State of Washington brainiacs say, “the three-month outlook for fall has equal chances of below, equal to, or above normal temperatures.”

How’s that for going out on a limb? That’s why they get the big money.

Other winter prognosticators have warned that it could get very cold here in the months of December, January and February — which would be news to no one who lives here.

That is why we are forced to ultimately rely on the exhaustive research of a humble wilderness gossip columnist to nail down a winter forecast you can hang your hat on.

Make no mistake: Winter is coming.

All of the signs are here.

Already there’s been a dusting of fresh snow on the Olympics.

The geese, ducks, sandhill cranes and shorebirds are flying by at a dizzying rate.

And I’m curing my fish eggs with pumpkin spice.

These are signs of the season that should not be ignored.

The deer are getting shaggy coats.

The spiders are large, hairy and more numerous than usual.

Their webs are spun through the forest so thick, the first person up the trail is soon mummified in a layer of arachnid silk.

In the twilight, we see squadrons of spiders riding the air currents on parasails they have spun from their webs.

Other insects tell a darker story.

The massive invasion of caterpillars that has plagued the Peninsula should have us all worried.

It’s not just the large numbers of caterpillars that are concerning, it’s their thick growth of hair, much of which is a disturbing shade of black.

If that wasn’t enough to cause added anxiety, the corn husks are extra thick.

There is a disturbing over-abundance of cones on the trees.

To top it all off, that other sure sign of a hard winter has reared its ugly head, the old guides’ woodpile is large enough to be seen from space.

We have only to observe the appearance of the orange-coated road hunter to know that winter will soon be here.

Then, we will have the first frost and that other unmistakable sign of the changing seasons, the stupid turning of the clocks.

Mother Nature plays hardball. We have to be prepared.

Preparation is the key to winter preparedness.

I may be wrong, but I am positive this winter will be cold, dark and wet. That is a prediction you can take to the bank.

Get ready, this winter will be a bad one. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.