Witnessing Wisconsin’s Breathtaking Autumn Foliage

dsc01272As an international teacher living in Europe, though I had spent summers Up North, I never had the opportunity to witness Wisconsin’s autumn foliage. Seeing the leaves turn colors was one of the first things on my “to do in retirement” bucket list.

From our cabin on a lake tucked in the woods of Central Wisconsin, nature offered an stunning show. Each day as leaves turned red, yellow, orange, amber, and gold I became more greatly enamored with the Northwoods.

“The trees are so beautiful!”

“Oh you haven’t seen anything yet,” my dad told me.

Then almost overnight, it was as if an artist spilled primary colors on a green canvas, creating a new panorama. Red sumac, orange maple, yellow birch, and fir, spruce and pine in every shade of green etched against a baby blue sky made me long to paint like my dad and grandma. No words could capture this radiant sight.

dsc01273Now I understand why people plan holidays around the peak foliage week. As I drove south on route 45 from my doctor’s office in Eagle River, I stopped the car to shoot photographs of lakes – Pelican, Otter, Townline – along my route. Then I finished my tour on foot hiking around the western shore of Summit Lake and to the end of the road towards Upper Clear Lake.

My favorite childhood haunts were transformed into a riot of color. The sun, peeking from behind the clouds, cast a spotlight as the leaves burst into flaming glory, fluttering to the ground in their final dance.

While the wind whistled through the pines, leaves like giant, colored snowflakes spilled out of the sky carpeting the dirt roads in calico.

I never dreamed that the event was such a drawing card. My neighbors had friends coming to see the colors, hoping they could time it just right. Every year, experts try to determine the dates of the peak foliage for tourists to map out; I followed the foolproof advice of the Wisconsinite next door.

“Never fails,” he said, “colors change around my birthday. End of September.”

As the days grew shorter and the weather turned cooler, I wanted to prolong the show by catching the leaves before they landed to magically hold them on the trees longer. But Mother Nature is a fickle friend with a mind of her own. Part of the nature’s majesty is her fleeting quality.dsc01277

As I walk in the woods, I gaze upward toward the treetops as the leaves snap, crackle and pop under foot. Or I sit on the dock watching the clouds swirl in the sky above while the trees reflection in the still, blue waters creates a multi-colored collage like an impressionist’s painting.

With the lighting and color changing every instant, I stare at an unfolding pageant, knowing that this beauty queen will strut her stuff, and then disappear in the blink of an eye.

But take my advice come next September; be sure to head north on Bob’s birthday.

Posted in inspiration, travel.


  1. Pat, our colors aren’t as brilliant this year but I agree “the riot of colors”, though fleeting, is usually spectacular. How you must long for your cabin in the woods all year long. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures.

    • Alana, my friends in Illinois, where I grew up, are still waiting for the trees to change color. If I was in better shape, I would travel southward following the trail of the trees.

  2. Your pictures and descriptions are gorgeous. Thank you, and thank you to Alana Mautone, for the reminder to get north of New York City to experience some fall foliage soon!

  3. We’re not “scheduled” to see peak color here in Central Illinois until mid-October. I sure hope we get at least some of the beauty, but thus far, things don’t look too spectacular. Must not have had the right weather conditions. Oh, well, at least I can enjoy your beautiful photos — thanks for sharing them, Pat. We went to Wisconsin one late summer when I was a kid, and it was spectacular!!

  4. So poetic Pat – thanks for sharing this 🙂 Lovely that you could stay a while longer out there to witness such colour palettes of Autumn. Here we have Spring arriving, but the European trees are not so prolific and the gum trees just aren’t a real substitute. Hug a tree while you are there – they ground us and give us their strength and life wisdom. Miss you, love Rach xx

    • As you will remember Switzerland is lovely in autumn, but no where is the fall setting so spectacular as in the Northwoods where the forests are so dense and the lakes so blue. I love your image “hug a tree.” I will do so today and bet I can feel your strength seeping through the roots across the miles.xx

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