Cool nights mean fall colors
By Ben Gruber
Addy and I were out on the farm this week, setting up our trail camera and a blind for bow-deer hunting, when she used her superpower to point out the obvious to me: The maple leaves are already changing colors.
If I have not explained her superpower yet, let me do that now. Her superpower is to observe, question, and share literally everything, but especially those things I have begun to ignore as ordinary. It is a real revival of my own observation skills, and it has caused me to slow down and appreciate once again all that nature has to offer.
It has been many, many years since I stopped to smell every flower or tried to identify every bug (if ever), but seeing it through the eyes of an almost 3-year-old girl does change the way I view the world. With one simple question of, “Why is that tree orange and purple?” my mind shifted from thoughts of deer in the freezer to fall color hikes.
I suspect that this superpower is not unique to my tiny human, so if you do not have one of your own, I suggest borrowing one from a friend or neighbor to heighten your own awareness on your next adventure. Here are some local favorites to get out and enjoy the fall beauty.
Levis Mound Recreation Area in southwest Clark County is at the top of my list because I have not been there yet. Over 34 miles of trails in the beginning of Wisconsin’s “driftless” area means variable elevation. We will be heading out here this fall to check out the views from the top of the hills.
Powers Bluff is a Wood County park 15 miles southeast of Marshfield and is another local favorite that I have yet to experience, but I hear it has some nice hiking and great views. Rib Mountain State Park near Wausau is great hiking, and one can see forever from the top. This park does require a state park sticker for admission.
The Mead Wildlife Area between Marshfield and Stevens Point has some nice hiking trails, and you will get to see and hear some migrating waterfowl here as well, but it is pretty flat, so do not expect to see for miles here.
There are even plentiful opportunities without leaving town. The Hamus Nature Preserve and Recreation Area, Wildwood Park & Zoo, the UW-Marshfield/Wood County Arboretum, and the McMillan Marsh all have hiking/biking trails and plentiful forests.
Looking for more of a road trip? Here are my top three fall day or weekend trips.
Canoe the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway from Boscobel to the Mississippi River. This is beautiful country, and the views from a canoe on the river are unrivaled. Camping is allowed on sandbars throughout, and Wyalusing State Park is at the confluence of the mighty Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers.
Door County during the fall is vibrant, with fall colors ushering in the harvest at the area’s numerous orchards. Camping at Peninsula State Park is always fantastic, although currently the “Eagle Tower” at the park is undergoing some renovations. Normally, there is pretty amazing fall color viewing from the elevated perch, but we will have to wait until repairs are completed. A ferry ride to Washington Island is always fun, and from there you can hop on another passenger-only ferry to Rock Island, where you can visit a historic mansion and lighthouse.
Last on the fall color road trip is straight up Highway 13. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest covers more than 1.5 million acres of northern Wisconsin. My choice of destination would be the Clam Lake area, where hiking the forest this time of year gives you the opportunity of hearing a bull elk bugle, something missing from Wisconsins forests for many years.
Check out travelwisconsin.com/fall-color-report for a full report on local fall color status.
Ben Gruber can be reached at email@example.com.