Amazing Autumn Across America
You can still catch the color this fall as these amazing days stretch on. Even in the derecho band of destruction from Eastern Nebraska through Illinois, some trees offer eye candy in November to lift our spirits. Outside the narrow tunnel of downed trees, the world is quite stunning.
A recent Iowa outing found us motoring north on IA 150 and US 52 past fields of ripening corn and bean of various hues – green-yellow and earth-brown to russet – undulating over the rolling landscape. The descent into the Volga, Turkey, and Upper Iowa River valleys offered pleasing, pastoral scenes of church spires, roadside stands replete with pumpkins and apples, trails busy with bicyclists, and rivers dotted with bright kayaks.
The roadsides and hillsides are most interesting where patches of prairie have been planted, and milk cows and horses graze. New England, many-flowered, and heath asters contrast purple, pink, and white against the tawny hues of big and little bluestem waving in the wind.
Country tree color is more subdued. Walnut, hackberry, locust, and catalpa tend to turn dull yellow and drop their leaves early. Shrubs like flowering, red twig and grey dogwoods, and ninebark do form pleasing borders of various reds and tans. You can always spot the brilliant sugar maples often the only remnants of a long-gone farmstead. All contrast with the varied greens of pines, spruces, cedars and even, verdant cover crops.
Color is most vibrant in towns, parks, cemeteries, and on golf courses. Overflowing flower baskets and bright banners line the main streets of towns like Independence and Calmar. Ashes and maples brighten residential streets. The streets radiate yellow of green ashes and deep plum of white ashes. These contrast with the maple coloration which ranges from fiery orange/yellow to brick red to wine.
Around toward the Mississippi River, the vistas could not be more pleasing. In autumn, a light mist rises over The River. The sun slants through brightly colored leaves spotlighting golden Cottonwoods dancing in the breeze.
To get a sense of the close-up beauty of fall, pull into any of the several state or county parks, preserves, or recreation areas and step onto the trails. One of our favorites is Effigy Mounds National Monument. The short climb up the bluff offers a spectacular view of the Mississippi. Along the way, we noted yellow-green grape leaves framed by merlot-infused Virginia Waterleaf.
Around Cedar Rapids, as trails open up, look closely at the goldenrod and Maximillian sunflower where pollinators still busily work. Late migrating Monarchs rest and snack waiting for the next north wind to head south.
Go South for Color
It seems that as the winds knock early changing leaves like maples off, the oaks come into their own and linger into the fall. All the oaks, especially our state tree, the bur oak, sport handsome ginger, tawny, sepia and, rufous shades. Pin oaks with their downward slanting lower branches often hold their leaves through winter.
A short drive south offers even more opportunities to catch the oak colors. A great source to decide your route is the scenic byways of Iowa. Not surprisingly, most routes follow The Mississippi or other Eastern Iowa rivers. The pdf includes pictures, text and routes to follow.
Enjoy the eye candy of Iowa’s fall colors.
No matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere, early November holds color in surprising places. Go early in the morning or later in the afternoons to catch the sun’s lowest angles highlighting trees and landscapes. America’s Byways is a state-by-state resource of interesting trails to follow. And, any country road is sure to bring delightful surprises.