Hiking into the heart of fall

The colors of fall have deepened as the month has progressed; from hints of color to a landscape flush from a painter’s splash of yellow, gold, orange, red, green, and even some pink.

Earlier this month I was hiking with another photographer friend through the woods. It was a gloriously warm autumn day and the sun had broken through the clouds an hour before. The leaves on the path were noisily crunching under our boots as we followed a winding trail past a lake and into the forest. We both stopped as we looked ahead to see a carpet of pink under the usual fall colors of yellow and orange. We learned that the mapleleaf viburnum can have this pink or rose color in the fall depending on the light exposure and the weather conditions. Neither of us recalled seeing anything like this before and we spent a good amount of time photographing and marveling at the delightful array that Mother Nature had placed before us.

The start of fall

Not only has fall officially started per the calendar, but we are starting to see the change of seasons all around us. I woke up to a cool but bright morning at the lake, with steam rising up off the surface. A couple of extra layers of clothing were needed as I launched my kayak into the water. The morning was quiet except for some wood ducks that I flushed in a small bay and the Canada geese that flew past me, honking as they made their way up the shoreline. The trees have just begun to change, and the reds and golds were beautiful, especially against the blue sky and blue lake. It was a perfect start to my day, and to the season of fall

Stepping stones

We’ve recently returned from a three-week road trip to visit family and explore new places. We experienced sun and heat, smoke-filled days and nights, a full moon, and a sky filled with countless stars. We traveled through miles of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, grasslands, badlands, prairies, mountains, and black hills. The diversity and beauty of our country is truly amazing.

On our return to Minnesota we stayed one night at Lake Shetek State Park in the southwestern part of the state. As we explored the park and lake we walked across a causeway connecting the lake shoreline to Loon Island. The causeway was constructed as part of a WPA program. Earlier in the day I had seen a family swimming and relaxing at the end of the causeway. But as I walked again in the calm of late evening my attention was drawn to these rocks that extended from the sandy beach into the lake. Their pattern seemed to be welcoming me back to the land of 10,000 lakes and asking me to come along, follow each one, into the coolness of the lake.

After the summer storm

With the heat of summer we often have storms develop in the late afternoon after the high temperatures have built up throughout the day. One early evening I walked south to Como Park but noticed a large and dark cloud to the northwest. It was threatening but there was clearing after it. When I reached the McNeely Conservatory the sun was just sliding below the cloud, it’s rays streaming and illuminating the sky above and the sun itself lit up the dome of the conservatory. It was a beautiful albeit fleeting moment. Sometimes we are put in just the right spot to see and appreciate the beauty around us, if we will only look for it and take it all in.

A quiet morning at the lake

It was still early in the morning. The red sun had risen and managed to shine its light through the smoke and haze that has blanketed our area. There were swallows sweeping above and over the lake, gathering insects, resting on the pontoon cover, then continuing their aerial acrobatics. Occasionally I could hear a bird off in the distance. But as I sat at the end of the dock, my attention was focused about 20 yards in front of me. A loon was gracefully floating by, intent on things other than my presence. It went to the south, then to the north, and then it dove under the surface. After what seemed like an unusually long time, it reappeared…with a snail and some greenery that it found on the lake bottom. It floated by me, turned, dropped everything from its beak, dove down again, and disappeared for another long time, only to resurface way out in the center of the lake.

I treasure these simple moments – the quiet of the morning, the birds, fish, and animals doing what they do in the early hours of daylight, and the ritual that has played out for decades and eons. And I try to imagine someone sitting by this same lake shore observing a similar moment one hundred, two hundred, maybe three hundred years ago.