This past weekend we made our first fall leaf peeping trip of 2012. This year we started a week early because we have had strong winds throughout the spring and summer and they seem to be blowing good this fall. Last year heavy winds took down many of the leaves just as the trees reached their peak.
Our trip took us from Menomonie, Wisconsin north to Bruce, Winter, Park Falls, Fifield, through The Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation and on to Ironwood, Michigan. For the most part there were only spots of color. The Fifield are had some nice color. The Reservation is clearly a couple of weeks away from peak color. This is a bog shot near Fifield.
As we neared Ironwood on Highway 51 we started seeing much more color. Gile Flowage was our first stop. The color here was outstanding and will probably reach its peak this coming weekend. Unfortunately it was very windy so there were no good reflection shots be had. We then drove on to Ironwood to check-in to our motel. We had some time before sunset, there wasn’t going to be any, so we drove out to the Black River Harbor. There was some nice color along the way but as we neared the harbor there was very little color. Just as we got out of the car it started pouring rain so we made a hasty retreat to the car and drove back to Ironwood.
The next morning it was still cloudy so we drove down to the Presque Isle river in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The color along highway 519 was outstanding. This was some of the best color I’ve seen in some time along this road. Unfortunately as we neared Lake Superior the color diminished to the point there was almost no color. I suspect this area is several weeks from good color.
We decided to hike the loop trail from the harbor parking lot. We crossed the river and hiked up the east side. The water levels were low but it had rained quite a bit overnight so there was enough water to get some good photos. This was the first time I had hiked this section of trail. When we reached the South Boundary Road we crossed the bridge and headed back down the west side trail to the parking lot. By this time the sun had come out so it was difficult to get any good photographs.
We debated where to go next and decided to head for Copper Peak and take the ride to the top of the top of, what is billed, as the world’s largest ski jump. The ride to the top consists of a 36 story chair lift to the crest of the hill followed by an 18 story elevator ride to the “top” of the ski jump followed by a long walk to the actual top. The views from the top are amazing. You can view 2,500 square miles of the Lake Superior Basin. The view can include the Apostle Islands, Isle Royale and the Porcupine Mountains. Copper Peak is open on weekends during the fall color season. More photos from Copper Peak can be found on my website.
This is a not to be missed adventure in the Ironwood area. Unfortunately there has not been any ski jumping for Copper Peak since 1994. At that time they started making changes to the jump to improve safety and disaster struck and most of the improvements were washed out in a violent storm. The non-profit group that runs the jump have been working to restore the facility to where it can once again offer competitive ski flying. If things work out they hope to offer jumping on plastic in the summer of 2014 and winter jumping the following winter.
After our exciting trip to the top of Copper Peak, my wife can’t stand heights and probably left her finger prints embedded in the railing, we headed back toward Menomonie.
On the return trip we drove highway 77 to Mellon, Wisconsin. The color along highway 77 into Mellon was outstanding and should reach peak this next weekend. We then took Highway 13 to Park Falls. The color from Mellon to Glidden was also outstanding.