I’ve noticed that during the frigid winter months, friends living in warm climates like to rub it in that they’re sporting T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops while I’m wearing two pairs of socks, Sorel boots, a turtleneck, a down jacket, and long underwear (and driving 5 mph on slick, snow-packed roads). There’s one sentiment, though, that I hear over and over from those who move away—Minnesotans don’t always miss the winter weather, but they sure do miss the changing seasons. And one of the seasons they miss most of all is fall.
Sometimes I think we take it for granted—the fact that our climate, combined with the right mix of aspen, basswood, birch, butternut, elm, maple, ash, poplar, white oak, sumac, and witch hazel trees—creates this stunning kaleidoscope of color right here in our own backyards. You might get the same effect in New England, but you sure won’t get it in California.
There are plenty of memorable routes for fall drives, but a really unique way to see the changing leaves is from a vantage point right on the water.
For awhile now I’ve been wanting to rent a canoe or kayak from Wild Mountain/Taylors Falls Recreation, a close-to-home destination. Once you reserve your boat, you can start out at Minnesota Interstate Park, then peacefully float downstream on the beautiful St. Croix River, all the way to the Osceola Landing. Kids can join in on the fun, the river is great for beginners, and heck! You can even bring your pet along. Once you arrive at Osceola, you can arrange to have a shuttle take you back to your vehicle. A one-way trip is $45 + tax for two life jackets and two paddles, which seems pretty reasonable considering the fact that you’re paying for the experience. If you make advance reservations online, you can save $5. (Hey, $5 is $5. It will pay for your latte some morning.) Check the website for group rates and military discounts.
If you don’t want to do the work of paddling, you can check out the autumn scenery from the upper deck of an authentic paddlewheel boat during one of the daily scenic cruises. Prices range from $8.50 (kids 6-12) to $14.50 (adults). Lunch and dinner cruises are offered for an additional fee. For a full schedule, visit wildmountain.com/boats.
When my fingers are numb as I’m scraping the ice off my windshield this winter, memories of one of these fall sight-seeing trips might serve as the perfect reminder of why I live in Minnesota.
The Taylors Falls Recreation fall canoe, kayak, and boat season is open through Oct. 14.