Exploring Fall Colors in Rural Minnesota

I could hardly contain my excitement when my husband told me we were moving to Minnesota for the month of October.  After living in the land of eternal sunshine (aka Southern California) for the past three years, I was in eager anticipation to finally enjoy a proper fall season.  I couldn’t wait to wrap myself up in sweaters and scarves, make pumpkin scones, wash it down with spiced cinnamon tea, and most of all:

See the colors that make Autumn my absolute favorite season.

Minnesota is renown for having some of the best fall foliage in the US, so last week I set off to Itasca State Park to see just what the state had to offer…. and this is what I found:

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

This is My Happy Place

When I took a few steps into the Two Point Trail at Itasca State Park, I felt as if I was suddenly transported to another world.  The air was cool, yet crisp and refreshing.  An intermittent breeze rustled through the trees and sent a shower of golden leaves dancing in the air.  I was surrounded by hues of yellow, red and orange.  A warm and inviting sun glimmered through the rows of trees lining the trail.

It was just me on an empty trail.  The only sounds I could hear were the rustle of the wind in the trees above and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath my feet.

It was utter bliss.

The entrance to the trail

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

This little guy was my hiking buddy for a while

Where are the Mountains!?

Minnesota is covered in trees, meaning that during the months of October and November the entire state is red and yellow.  Although it was great getting a ground’s eye view of the fall colors, I was dying to see what the rows of color looked like from above.

Unlike Utah, however, Minnesota is flat all-around.  No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t even find a mini hill to climb to gain some elevation.

Although Minnesota may not have mountains, they have the next best thing: water towers.

No mountains? No problem! Climb a water tower!

Although it wasn’t a water tower per-se, this old observatory tower (previously used by the Itasca fire department) was now one of the main attractions of the park.  Boasting the highest elevation for miles around, it’s one of the few spots in the state where one can climb up and get a good aerial view.

Up and away!

Although the tower looks fairly sturdy, it was actually an intensely frightening climb.  The entire tower wobbled with each gust of wind, and its open-frame design definitely had me imagining just how far I would fall if I lost my grip and tripped.

The view at the top, however, was worth the perilous climb:

Treeees!

What a view

As I stared at this perfect Autumn panorama, I couldn’t help but think about how much I love (and need) the seasons.  Growing up in Utah and later moving to Japan made the changing seasons an integral part of my life.  The changing seasons remind me that the colors of fall and the flowers of spring are all the more beautiful because of the cold snows of winter and the heat of summer.

The Japanese have a phrase called ‘mono no aware,’ or ‘the transience of things.’  Fall foliage and cherry blossoms are often mentioned in Japanese literature and art because these objects are poignant, beautiful and short-lived.  They are a reminder that we have to sit and enjoy the beauty of what is here and now before it slips through our fingers, just like the falling cherry blossoms petals or the maple leaves of fall.

My Minnesotan Life

This is my first time living in the Midwest–and it’s been a trip.  People talk with an accent.  Minnesotans are insanely friendly.  The streets are clean and there’s great public transporation.  There are even Tim Hortons everywhere!  Sometimes I stop and ask myself: did we accidentally cross the border into Canada?

It’s hard for me to imagine myself living the Minnesotan life forever, but I can see why my husband loves it here so much.  Family values are strong.  People are kind and helpful.  There’s a strong sense of community and trust.

We may not stay here forever, but this will definitely be a special Minnesotan Autumn that I will never forget.

10 thoughts on “Exploring Fall Colors in Rural Minnesota

  1. autumnashbough says:

    So pretty! So envious.

    I did not know about the water towers, how convenient. But I miss having something on the horizon. I guess being surrounded by trees and not being able to see the horizon is the next best thing to having tree-covered mountains to look at, though.

    Just one month in Minnesota? Well, you picked the perfect month. Where are you off to next?

    • rubymary says:

      I do miss having something on the horizon! I miss mountains a lot, I think that’s why I feel really out of place in the Midwest… California doesn’t have fall colors, but it does have some nice mountains!

      Yes, to be perfectly honest I’m near homeless haha. I’ll be hopping around here and there until January, where we will then stake out our claim in Portland, OR for a few months 🙂 Glad I got that raincoat in Ireland…

  2. Todd says:

    wait! I thought Japan was the only country with 4 seasons. Thats what many of them say. Actually Japan has more than 4 seasons; it has hot humid summer, rainy season, brief fall, cold rainy/snowy miserable winter, nice spring then allergy season, so you get 4 seasons with the bonus allergy and .rainy/humid seasons, so I guess they are unique.

    Minnesota is a very progressive state I hear, and nice people from there also. Winters are brutal but summers surely make up for that. Im sure Minnesota with its vastness makes Hokaido look puny.

    • rubymary says:

      Haha I know, I love blowing Japanese people’s minds. “We not only have the four seasons in the USA… but we have RICE!!! OMG!!!”

      I do have to admit that the seasons in Japan are super distinct. I would say out of everywhere I’ve been in the USA, the midwest is probably most on point with the seasons (and maybe some of the East Coast). I had four seasons in Utah, but because the weather is so erratic sometimes fall would only last one week and it would snow in June. Just reallyw eird stuff.

      But man, summers in Japan are nasty. I really don’t miss those, haha.

      Minnesota IS a progressive state! In a coffee shop in middle of nowhere Minnesota I heard two old guys talking politics–I was almost certain they would be Trump supporters, but then they ended up being flaming liberals! (the two guys literally looked like they just finished a rough game of hunting, haha). Can’t judge a book by its cover.

      Mmmm I don’t know about making Hokkaido look puny, but Minnesota is vast (and flat). I miss my mountains!

      But yes, Minnesotans are hands down the friendliest people I’ve met in the USA. Midwestern charm.

  3. Marta says:

    So beautiful! Here it must be “red leave” season now, I might go to a hill nearby Suzhou to check it out but of course the pictures will be nothing like yours… because there will be people everywhere, haha.

    What’s that about Japan being the only country with 4 seasons? Do Japanese people believe that? We also have 4 seasons in Spain, haha (incredible, right? It’s not sun and beach the whole year!).

  4. Lani says:

    I do love fall. And I miss those colors and the crisp air. Minnesota is a lovely state with lovely people. I seriously was considering moving there, but damn it gets cold up there!

    Enjoy the beauty all around. xxoo

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