Friday, October 11, 2013

North Shore fall colors: Past their peak

Twice in the last two days I've driven from Duluth up to the middle of the North Shore. On Thursday, we were actually looking for fall colors and a glorious hike. Today it was just for a meeting, but I kept my eyes out.

Here's my blow-by-blow, tree-by-tree analysis:

Pool in a woodland stream, Section 13 hike
The famed sugar maple forests of the North Shore ridgelines are nearly done. Entire hillsides of maple trees are barren. Yellow maple leaves carpet the forest floors. Some smaller maples, tucked into the protection of a forest, still have some yellow leaves. Driving through Finland, there was hardly a colored maple leaf left on the trees.

Ironically, there is one glorious orange maple right by the highway where it passes through Gooseberry Falls State Park. Don't let this tree, obviously planted by a landscaper, fool you. The maple season in the heart of the North Shore is nearly over.

Red oak leaves, Section 13 trail
 Most of the red colors in the inland areas, like on our hike yesterday to Section 13, were on the red oak trees. The red of red oak leaves can be luscious, like lipstick. The oaks tend to stand by themselves in rockier, shallower soil, not in thick groves like the maple. So each colorful oak tree really popped.

Aspens glow yellow, oaks red below Section 13 cliffs
Along Highway 61, clusters of aspen ranged from fully green-leaved to completely empty of leaves. Their color gets better the further we went up the shore. Many solo aspens along the highway and on the hillsides were glorious fountains of golden yellow.

What birch? Especially along Highway 61, the birch are virtually all died out. Their white bark still stands, providing nice contrast to the other, still living trees.

If you're looking for fall colors this week, I'd recommend sticking to the Highway 61 corridor. Go for a walk on the ski trails at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Hit the Superior Hiking Trail to Elys Peak in the western part of Duluth. There's still lots of lovely autumn out there still, you just might have to look for it.

No comments: