Everything on last weekend's calendar got scratched on Friday night when I added 1+1+1 and came up with THREE compelling reasons why we were going to go to Maplewood State Park on Saturday. 1) Fall colors - which are early this year due to the mild winter we had - were at their peak 2) Temps were forecast to be 80 degrees with SNOW in the forecast for the following week and 3) my State Park sticker was due to expire on October 1st!
I knew parking would be a challenge, so we were on the road by 9:30 and got there just ahead of the big rush. We even caught the very first wagon ride through the park - which was decked out in full autumn splendor. It was a bittersweet day for me, as I realized this was Dee Dee's last hike to the Hallaway Overlook (an annual trek). Her back legs are all but lame at this point, and when she attemps to climb steps, they no longer lauch her forward, but sprawl out sideways. So we did most of the hike with my hand on her butt for support. It was a long walk, doing it that way, but we were rewarded with a view of Lake Lida surrounded by Sugar Maples and Sumac that gave the shoreline the appearance of being on fire.
We had lunch at the main shelter (pulled pork sandwiches ... yum!) and then went off in search of a lake that was clean enough for the girls to swim in. Lake Lida (at least the section along the beach) had a layer of thick, fluorescent green foam ... blue/green algae, which is not only gross to look at but can be toxic to dogs. I did find Trout Lake, just a short hike off one of the back roads, and it was relatively clean, so Princess and Dee enjoyed one last dip for the season.
On our way home, we stopped at Sherin Memorial Park in Pelican Rapids, which was also lovely. That area is especially known for the sugar maples, while back home in Fargo/Moorhead, it is the golden ash trees along the Red River that almost take your breath away. The drought conditions and early hard freeze that we had this year have made the colors more vibrant than I've seen them in years. Unfortunately, a couple of windy days this week have caused the leaves to drop very quickly.