With the promise of autumn sunshine, I headed out before dawn in search of some fall color. Gradually the changing colors have found their way down to the Twin Cities, and the landscape has become beautiful and filled with the rich colors of autumn. This morning was cold enough to provide frost in many areas giving an almost-white coating over the grass. The smell in the air is different as the seasons change and it was delightful to greet the day outside on this crisp and clear morning.
The calendar says the end of September, but we were treated to the glory of a summer’s day with temperatures n the 80’s and warm sunshine. Knowing that these are gifts to take advantage of, we headed out for some fishing. Not only were the skies beautiful, but the fall colors are starting to be evident. The golds are showing and the greens are becoming much more faded and muted. Even the fishing seemed to rise to the occasion of this glorious day – we got our share of sunfish and crappies. I came home knowing that if this is the last time we are fishing for the year, at least we had a glorious finale on a late day in September.
Our temperatures have been dropping at night causing the sloughs and lakes to begin their ice-over. It isn’t thick by any means, but it is the start of our shift from fall to winter. I’ve always enjoyed the reflections of trees and horizons in water, and the change over to ice gives these same reflections a much different look. The lines are softer and more muted, and until our lakes are snow-covered the reflections can sometimes be almost mirror-like. On this morning two days ago, the sun was burning through the cold temperatures and the heavy frost causing the landscape to glow in the early light.
November is a transition month in Minnesota; our weather can be anywhere from warm and sunny to gray and cold, rain or snow to wind or calm. It seems like we’ve covered all these bases in the past few days. Early in the week I took this image of the brilliant colors of a cotoneaster in our yard. As the morning sun lit the leaves they came alive with a beautiful glow; perhaps it was their swan song. By Wednesday morning we awoke to two inches of wet snow gracing the golds and reds in the remaining leaves. Thursday night our temperatures plummeted below freezing, followed by strong winds on Friday. The leaf colors were killed off by the cold, and the leaves themselves were blown off the trees and bushes to the ground. Within a few days the colors and leaves of autumn had given way to the skeletal trees of winter.
Come with me for an afternoon in Wisconsin. The air is cool but the sun is warm; the temperature’s about 57 degrees. We head down a Rustic Road in Chippewa County. After twisting and turning through agricultural areas there’s a sign ahead that we’re entering the Chippewa County Forest. To the right is another sign marked Moon Ridge Trail and the forest road heading to the east looks inviting and filled with fall color. Off the paved road and onto the forest road, each mile takes us deeper into the forest. The colors are brilliant – especially in contrast to the blue sky dotted with white clouds. There’s a different smell in the air – of fall and drying leaves. We stop numerous times to photograph the colors and the meandering road. In one hour we have driven less than three miles because of all our stopping. There are many side trails leading from the main forest road but this one ahead isn’t drivable in the car. Off on foot, up the trail, and then down the hillside. As we step out of the forest area the view expands to the Spring Creek Flowage – a lake that meanders through the county – and the colors are intense and wonderful. This is our view (and only ours as there’s no one else around). Breathe in the smell of fall, feel the warmth of the sun, listen to the wind rustling through the leaves, take in the beauty of this day, and be thankful for being here at this moment of peak color in fall.