GENERATIONS: Add this to your autumn to-do list
September is almost over, but the upcoming week’s forecast looks as if October will offer more opportunities, whether it’s on my own or at organized functions.
Shelves in the big box stores are filling up with Christmas season items and the kids have been back in school for a month.
In northern Minnesota, most of September continued the pleasant moderate weather of August, extending summer a few extra weeks, easing us into fall.
Transitional seasonal tasks demand our attention. We take in the dock and boat lift, harvest the last of the garden, get the vehicles ready for cold weather, store away the lawn furniture and boat, rake leaves and give the lawn one last mowing. I check several items off the “to do” list, but add one more: “Enjoy fall.”
Sometimes my favorite season slips away without my having basked enough in the autumn sun or savored the magnificent colors because I was dreading the inevitably long stretch of winter ahead.
That item on my list has several sub-tasks:
- Enjoy the colors of the leaves, the chill that makes me appreciate inside warmth.
- Enjoy walks through the woods, the soft rustle of leaves underfoot, the fresh breeze.
- Enjoy the longer nights. Sleep more.
- Slow down to watch the geese fly.
- Listen for the farewell calls of the last loons.
- Resume feeding the chickadees and nuthatches but beware the bears that are stocking up, getting ready for their winter sleep — pull those feeders in at night.
- Enjoy the open water, the lapping waves, the gray lake. Get in a few more paddles before I put the kayak away and ice covers and the water.
Last year I put my dread away and made a similar list for enjoying winter, and guess what — I had the best winter ever! I need all four seasons, and this year I’m looking for the best in each of them.
On the third Sunday of September, I headed north from Bemidji to Buena Vista, where, for the past 25 years or so (minus a few pandemic cancellations) the ski resort has hosted their Fall Colors Festival.
I hadn’t been to one in several years, but the sky was clear, the sun was warm, and the timing was right to kick off the fall season with a visit to the Continental Divide.
Five teams of draft horses pulled wagons driven by members of the Go and Whoa Harness Club. In the wagons, riders of all ages, often full families, rode from the starting point toward the main lodge where the empty ski lift chairs dangled over a snowless bunny hill. Some people only visit a ski hill in the winter, but fall offers a completely different experience.
From the lodge, the ride looped back through the little “town” of Buena Vista with its church and school buildings, past the old yellow caboose and two Pullman cars, along a trail up to the big white barn and back.
Inside one of those Pullmans, by the way, was an art exhibit of paintings by Andrew Stenstrom, colorful pictures of logging scenes. LeRoy Stenstrom, Andrew’s son, chatted with visitors, answered questions and showed us his father’s sketchbook.
Outside, sunlight caught a few colorful leaves, just transitioning from greens to golds and oranges, hinting at what’s to come. In another week or two, I thought, the colors will be more dynamic, the variety and contrast more distinct.
I could have enjoyed the day alone, but sharing it with other people at Buena Vista — watching families on the wagon rides, visiting the Hall of Fame, listening to Figuring It Out (a talented family band) strolling through the ski resort — all of these things allowed me to relish the afternoon and seal this perfect fall day into my memory.
I wandered about and took a few photos of things that framed themselves — an old wagon, a few old trucks, the grassy ski runs, the old buildings. I’ve put other things on hold to immerse myself in this beautiful taste of autumn, but I’ll leave the item on my list to continue; I’m not finished yet.
On my drive home, I stopped at the Fall Fair Food Festival in Paul Bunyan Park, hosted by myBemidji and the Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department. Food trucks in the parking lot by Paul and Babe were selling everything from cotton candy, cheese curds and ice cream to corn dogs.
The all-inclusive playground was alive with busy kids. I arrived late in the day and was momentarily disappointed when the line I was standing in was told the vendor had sold out. I would not be eating cheese curds today, but I was glad for the vendor’s successful weekend.
I stopped by the Tourist Information Center and found a handout provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that lists five different fall color tours. Some were one to two hours long, others three to four hours long, and one billed as an all-day tour.
What great ideas for fall “stay-cations” and opportunities to bask in the beauty of fall in northern Minnesota. Check it out at www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors.
September is almost over, but the upcoming week’s forecast looks as if October will offer more opportunities, whether it’s on my own or at organized functions. After I stretch autumn out, I’ll be better ready to make my winter list.