A pastoral autumn scene from a farm in rural Cape Girardeau County
Sunny days in October are precious. The heat, humidity, and biting insects of summer are gone, while the snow, ice, and bitter cold of winter haven't arrived yet. Hopefully we will get to enjoy some nice weekends before Old Man Winter makes his unwelcome entrance.
Here are some suggested destinations for enjoying the peak of the fall colors:
Trail of Tears State Park
Sheppard Point at Trail of Tears State Park is a favorite of mine for autumn hiking. Not this year, though, as the trail has remained closed since suffering damage in the March 2008 rainstorm. For now, the best fall scenery is at the river overlook.
The park has the annoying policy of closing the river overlook before sunset. If you arrive too late, look for another scenic view at a pullout along Hill Road, between Lake Boutin and the visitor center. On a clear day, the Bald Knob Cross in Illinois is hard to miss.
Bald Knob Cross
The drive to Bald Knob Cross is an obvious choice for leaf-peeping as it offers a panoramic view of the rugged hills of Union County.
For a more challenging trip, you can park at the bottom of Bald Knob and hike to the top. Climbing several hundred feet, the trail looks like a serious undertaking. Look for a future blog about the hike -- if I make it. The trailhead is a few miles southwest of Alto Pass on Rhine Road.
When I visited Indian Kitchen near Eddyville, Illinois, last November, it was hard to find a tree that wasn't basking in yellow or red leaves.
Castor River Shut-ins
The Castor River Shut-ins near Fredericktown is most popular during the summer, but the "Pink Rocks" are worth visiting in all four seasons.
Lon Sanders Canyon
Residents of Piedmont, Missouri, are blessed to have their own shut-ins right on the outskirts of town. McKenzie Creek cascades across boulders at Lon Sanders Canyon Conservation Area. The fall colors are a bonus.
Tower Grove Park, St. Louis
St. Louis may not seem like a destination for fall color, but I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across Tower Grove Park last year in full autumn glory. Stately trees line both sides of the park boulevards.
Established in 1868 by Henry Shaw, Tower Grove Park was built as a Victorian-era "pleasure park" complete with whimsical pavilions and monumental sculptures. Shaw imported more than 8,000 trees and shrubs to populate his creation.
The main entrance features this statue of Christopher Columbus.