Seven Fall Getaways

The air has turned crisp and the leaves are changing to glorious shades of gold, orange and red. Here’s where we go to experience the season.


Beauty Reflected

Mirror Lake

I peer over the edge of the canoe into Mirror Lake’s impossibly still water, a sheet of glass framed by arching trees and jagged rocks. I catch my reflection, softened by brilliant red and soft gold leaves. My husband sits opposite me, deftly wielding a paddle through the water. We had first come to Mirror Lake as newlyweds, and immediately relaxed into the familiar calm of the lake. Today we are celebrating our second year of marriage—and eight years of raising kids together. A brown leaf rocks side to side on its way to the water’s surface; I marvel at how the trees sacrifice their beautiful greenery to weather the chill of winter. With nourishment, the leaves—like us—will be back.

– Otehlia Cassidy


New Heights

Blue Mound State Park

There’s no better view of Wisconsin than from the top of the world, and Blue Mound State Park feels that way to me. Come fall, swimmers and campers have gone home and vivid color spreads leaf to leaf like a developing watercolor. I slip into the camp store at the foot of the hills, where they still muscle ice cream into cones the old-fashioned way. I drive my scoop up to the top and climb the lookout tower alone, slurp cinnamon ice cream and watch the sun set the trees on fire as it sinks, a blazing parting gift to those who pay attention.

– Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz


Seasonal Splendor


My favorite time of autumn occurs in August, which is summer. And the place is Minocqua. In the north woods on our little lake, that is when fall chooses to arrive. The first sign comes in the form of a single leaf on a lone sugar maple. The leaf, and then its buddies, turns a glorious red well before the Packers’ season begins. This early arrival is comforting to me. It means the lake and the woods will soon be quiet again. The dense humidity of summer will be replaced by a bracing crispness. During the day, in an Adirondack along the lakeshore, we have a ringside seat for the six-week show of color that is about to begin. And in the evening, as the heat escapes from the lake in a mist, we light our first log in the fireplace, dried to perfection by the summer’s sun.

– John Roach


Natural Progression


For thousands of autumns, waterfowl have been migrating down the Mississippi River in a pageant of color matched only by the foliage they overfly. I will be crouching in a willow thicket blind, Labrador retriever at my side, looking over my decoys for the morning’s first flight. There it is—a low-slung cloud of diving ducks moving along the shore! And now there are dark silhouettes in the sky above me. But it’s not until the cloak of dawn lifts that these splendors are truly revealed. On the ground beside me is a pair of greenwing teal—their heads crimson, the wing patches iridescent green. In the lowlands of Ferryville around me, leaves of maple trees flutter red. The bluffs over in Iowa show tawny brown and gold. I am surrounded by fall color. 

– John Motiviloff


Autumn’s Bounty

Dane County Farmers' Market

Each fall I become obsessed anew with the Dane County Farmers’ Market. I also adore the market’s radish-and-rhubarb spring and the almost crazed abundance of its summers, but in those months I do more blanching and plating than cooking. Fall, when the market colors shift toward sunset and duskiness, is when I return to the stove. Suddenly I want to use not lemon or olive oil but bacon, sage and browned butter. Whether my kitchen is stocked or not, I still have to go to the Capitol each week, just to revel in the crisp snap of the apples, the velvety, juice-heavy weight of squash and eggplant, and sturdy sheaves of collard greens. I know fall at the market is the first melancholy step toward winter, but the transition is so magnificent that I welcome it every year anyway.

– Michelle Wildgen


Living History

Driftless Region

Drive west of Madison and the landscape begins to embrace you. Tree-covered bluffs rise, their leaves cooperating with sunlight to create a kaleidoscope of color, each turn of the road revealing a new vista. The Driftless Region is named for what it’s lacking—because the last continental glaciers skipped over this area, they didn’t leave behind silt, gravel and other flattening “drift.” But to me, this special swath
of southwestern Wisconsin always seems defined by having more. More varied topography, from dramatically carved hillsides to tender valleys. More reminders of the land’s history, of a time when rivers and winds took the lead. And more opportunities to revel in the beauty of this place. 

– Katie Vaughn


Colorful Challenge

Odana Hills Golf Course

I hate trees. They ruin my perfect golf shots. Standing on the eleventh tee at Odana Hills I marvel at the stunning range of colors from the mix of ash, maple and blue spruce along the fairway. A voice in my head warns me not to pull my tee shot left among the blue spruce. I hit my sweeping slice and I’m among the radiant sugar maples looking for my four-dollar Titleist somewhere among these colorfast leaves. Lost ball, two-stroke penalty. Or that skyscraper shagbark hickory on number sixteen they call Otto. No one knows if it’s Otto, some German, or Auto because it will auto-matically knock your ball out of bounds. Breath-taking colors, two-stroke penalty. I hate trees. 

– Dan Smith




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