Saturday, August 8, 2009

Embrace the sweet melancholy of autumn

Published in the Post Register in September, 2009.

Well, the leaves have come to turning
And the goose has gone to fly
And bridges are for burning
So don't you let that yearning
Pass you by
Walking man, walking man walks
--James Taylor, from “Walking Man”
There are a lot of ways to embrace the sweet melancholy of autumn – have a bonfire, slip on a sweater and go for a walk, clean out the garage.

Of course, you’ll also go for a drive to seek out the changing leaves. It promises to be a good year for leaf-peeping, given the wet spring.

Fall will come first to the Jackson Hole toward the third week of September and works its way into lower elevations. If you want to see the colors in Grand Teton National Park, don’t wait until the leaves turn in the Snake River Plain – you’ll be too late.

Closer to home, here are your best bets to see the leaves:

Teton Scenic Byway: Covered in detail earlier in our Destination: Eastern Idaho series, this route takes you up against the western slope of the Tetons, often with ranches and forestland in the foreground. Basically, go to Driggs and look for trees. You can do this all the way from Driggs to Ashton, take an additional loop up to Mesa Falls to Harriman State Park.

Skyline Drive: A dirt road that essentially parallels the southern ridgeline above Swan Valley, this route is best experienced in a high-clearance vehicle. If you stay on Skyline all the way east to McCoy Creek Road you’ll end up at the beginning of Palisades Reservoir and can return to eastern Idaho on U.S. 26, another great drive for foliage.

To find the western entrance to Skyline Drive, take Bone Road to Kepps Crossing Road, which takes you to Skyline. Or, take U.S. 26 east to where Conant Valley and Swan Valley converge, take the Falls Creek dirt road on the south side of the river and drive to where Fall Creek tumbles into the river. From there, either continue east along the river and into the mountains, or turn uphill and drive southwest on Fall Creek Road. Either way, the road eventually will take you to U.S. 89 and the highway route back home. Consult a good topographic map before setting out or call the Palisades Ranger District at 208-523-1412.
All the leaves are turning
Autumn's fingers burnished
Furnished here in hope and in faith in the meantime
Kinda working my way through a dream I
was having alone.
--Cousteau, from “Last Good Day of the Year”
Another good afternoon drive not as well known as some others is the Dry Bed Creek area near Rigby, Ririe and Archer. Particularly after this year’s wet spring that kept the creek full all summer, the leaves are bound to be beautiful after those in higher elevations are gone. You can also go south toward Blackfoot and take any road that takes you toward the Snake River where the cottonwoods grow, or take a run up to Wolverine Canyon southeast of Idaho Falls.

For a longer trip, it’s pretty simple – just pick a route that will take you into trees and hit the road. There’s U.S. 93 up the Lost River Valley, State Road 22 into the Pashsimeroi Valley, State Highway 28 into the Lemhi Valley or State Road A2 from Dubois to Island Park.

Wherever you go, take along a Thermos of hot chocolate or a jug of cider and embrace the season.

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