Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn in the Northwoods

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Every year we begin our autumn explorations at the end of September, and this year we made plans in earnest. The Wisconsin Fall Color report was predicting an early season and we wanted to be sure we didn’t miss it. Several experts had different ideas about how the summer’s drought would affect our color this year. Some suggested the colors would be dull and leaves would drop without changing color, while others thought we might see the best color we had seen in years.

We left home on the morning of September 27th and headed up I-39. Most people would have stayed on the Interstate to get as far north as fast as they could. We find so many things that we want to hunt up along the way, that we only made it about two hours north before we were off the interstate and zigging and zagging north as we hit some new locations and other spots we wanted to revisit.

As usually happens, when we found a motel, it was already dark. And we had only made it to the Wausau area. We unloaded the car as quickly as we could and began our nightly motel ritual. Right before bed, as Joann was getting ready to set the alarm, she asked what was on the agenda for first light the next morning. I had no plan.

Staring at the map and turning the pages, it dawned on me that we were close to the Dells of the Eau Claire. I had a couple of other single item locations, so I gave Joann a few choices. She quickly chose Dells of the Eau Claire since our last visit occurred in the rain.

The next morning the weather cooperated, and Joann was able to get many photos of the Dells and the park in good weather. It was a chilly morning, so steam was rising from the water. We were there until after the sun was up, and then it was time to move on.

As we continued north, what we noticed this year was that the reds were everywhere. Southern Wisconsin usually has more yellow and orange than red. We were oohing and aahing and pointing out bright splashes of color to each other as we drove from location to location.

At one point I told Joann that this must be the kind of color our stepmother, Mary, had spoken of years ago when she and Dad took the Lake Michigan circle tour one fall. She told us that, at one point, she was so overcome with the beauty around her that she had to pull over and have Dad drive.

At the time, we couldn’t picture it, but the color we were now experiencing made us understand.

In a normal fall, we spend our time in southern Wisconsin looking for rural architecture to photograph with the fall color surrounding it. This trip, we decided that we would capture some architecture, but we would immerse ourselves in the beauty of the Northwoods.

We spent a lot of time driving around small lakes, and through state and national forests. It was day after day of eye candy.

The color of the trees reflecting in the many lakes was outstanding. We decided that we need to spend more time in the forests and will be planning more trips in the future to the Northwoods. We’re sure we can fit that into our schedule somehow.

This has been an odd year for anyone looking for fall color. This weekend we visited our sister in southern Wisconsin, and on the drive down and back, even though it was raining, the oaks and roadsides were still very vivid with color. This year the oaks have been brighter than ever.

We hope you’ve been able to go out and catch some color. Soon winter will be upon us and we’ll only have these memories of the brilliance of the fall leaves to last us until the seasons change through the coming year and bring us back around to another glorious autumn. If only it could last longer!

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. I wish also that the color could last longer. Your pictures capture the beauty of this time of year.

  2. Beautiful photos! It's been a pleasant surprise to see the vibrant colors this year following such dry conditions! We have several white oak trees around our house and they were more beautiful this year than any other year in the nine years we've lived here.