Fog on the Mississippi River

fog-and-fall-color-ms-river-bluffs_14225-staatsWe have some wonderful friends near Wabasha, Minnesota that have a vineyard on the bluff above the Mississippi River.  Each year we journey south to help with the harvest, and today the grapes were calling us.  We left the Twin Cities with a clear sunrise, but as we headed towards the river the fog became thicker and thicker.  Even when we got to Lake Pepin, where the Mississippi is so wide it’s called a lake, there was no lake to see.  I love to photograph in the fog because it can create a clean palette to work with designs and lines, and we stopped along our trip so I could do just that.  But as we headed up the bluff, away from the river to the vineyard, we broke out into the sunshine once again.  Some of the trees in the area are just starting to show some yellows and golds for fall colors.  From the top of the bluff I was amazed to see the layers in this photograph:  the grape vines are loaded with grapes, the trees are showing some color, the Mississippi River is socked in with fog, and the Wisconsin bluffs are visible on the other side with blue sky above.  It was a beautiful day to be outside picking grapes, visiting our friends and the others that were gathered to help with the harvest.

Grape harvest time

Frontenac grape cluster 3310_StaatsAs fall starts its arrival in Minnesota the days grow shorter, the nights are cooler, and the harvests begin.  For the past few years we’ve helped some friends in the Wabasha area with their grape harvest.  On a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, they have a beautiful vineyard that’s expanded every year.  Last weekend we spent a day with friends and family picking grapes for this year’s harvest.  Our work began under an overcast sky.   After a couple of hours we stopped for a lunch break, only to look outside and see it raining.  We continued harvesting in the rain for a few hours (not a problem except for the rain drops that ran down our arms when we’d reach up to cut the grape clusters), and then the clouds cleared and the sun came out leaving the grapes glistening with the rain.  These are Frontenac grapes, a variety bred by the University of Minnesota and known for its cold-hardiness.  As the sun started its descent to the horizon we left the vineyard feeling good about a full-day’s work outside.  We shared a wonderful meal with our fellow grape-harvesters and then headed home with gallons of fresh-squeezed grape juice to enjoy in the upcoming months.

Quickly slipping into fall

Just as the calendar shows us passing the autumnal equinox last week, it seems that nature is truly slipping into fall here in Minnesota.  Our nights are getting cooler and the sun is lacking the heat it had even a few weeks ago.  Yesterday morning we got up early to drive south to Wabasha, a town that sits right on the Mississippi River in the heart of the bluff country.  The air was heavy with moisture and we drove through thick fog in places.  As we were going to be helping some friends harvest grapes in their vineyard, we had been hoping for a sunny and warm day.  When we arrived at their home overlooking the Mississippi River Valley we were still in the fog, but I was delighted to be able to divert my attention from the grapes to photographing their gardens.  These fall-colored mums were in full bloom, and upon closer examination I saw that they were laced with the dew of this damp morning.  The fog and low clouds eventually gave way to sunshine and a warm-enough fall day as we worked throughout the morning and afternoon picking grapes.  The time passed quickly with conversation amongst friends, and our fingers and hands became stained and coated with the color and smell of the ripe grapes.  By the time we drove home after a celebratory dinner preceded by a toast to the wine harvest, the clouds had passed and the sky was filled with a full canopy of stars overhead.

Dawn on the Mississippi River

MS River dawn Winona MN 51034_StaatsWe spent some time this past weekend driving south along the Mississippi River.  On a beautiful fall day we drove to Wabasha and helped some friends with their grape harvest.  With the warm sun, the smell of grapes on our hands, beautiful scenery, and good friends and conversation we picked Marquette grapes for about seven hours.  After a delicious dinner-feast (coupled with the best wine!), we drove further south to Winona and spent the night.  I got out of bed early, anxious to explore a town I hadn’t been to before.  As the sun rose on a beautiful morning, the old bridge crossing the Mississippi River was silhouetted against the clouds that were streaming across the sky.  After a couple of hours the clouds increased, the sun disappeared, the wind came up, and it started to rain.  Luckily we had indoor activities planned – a visit to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (a hidden gem, worth a good 2+ hour visit) and the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.  It was a busy weekend, but one filled with new sights, good conversation, great company, and new adventures.