LATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON and the sun lights and shadows La Crosse. High above this Wisconsin city just across the Mississippi River from Minnesota, I am aiming my camera toward the valley below. With a bit of trepidation. Even though I am securely fenced atop the nearly 600-foot high Grandad Bluff, I am still unnerved by the height.
Yet, after awhile, I grow comfortable enough to edge to the railing and fire off shots of the scene below. Houses and colleges. Gridded streets. Water and sky and backdrop of bluffs. Trees, oh, the trees. With a view like this, it is not surprising that some 100,000 visitors come to Grandad Bluff annually.
Despite the cold and fierce wind, admirers of autumn, like me, have driven to this bluff park to appreciate the valley view. It is not an ideal time of day to shoot photos here, looking to the west in the late afternoon. But I manage.
Year after year after year, autumn still grabs my heart unlike any other season in the Midwest. Memories of riding in the family car along the gravel roads of the Minnesota River Valley from near Granite Falls east to Morton each fall remain a vivid visual from decades ago. But not until my daughters aimed east for college, one to the Mississippi River town of Winona and the other to La Crosse, did I discover the rugged river valley beauty of this region. This pocket corner of southeastern Minnesota and into Wisconsin is now a favorite to tour as the leaves change color. Anywhere along and near U.S. Highway 61 really.
Oftentimes I reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a state like Minnesota with such a diverse terrain of prairie and rolling hills, river bluffs, woods and lakes and rivers. So much packed into our state and neighboring Wisconsin.
In this final month before winter grips the land, I savor scenes like that which unfolded before me Friday afternoon high atop Grandad Bluff. Soon enough trees will stand naked in the valley. Waterways will ice over. And images of this October day will remain in a computer photo file labeled La Crosse, and in the memory bank of my mind.
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© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling