HIBBING — As pumpkins ripen, ghost decorations find their ways to storefronts and the cool, crisp air affectionately referred to by some as “sweater weather” sets in, so does the final leg of those spectacular fall colors.

The “Weekly Fall Color” report put out by the Explore Minnesota and Minnesota State Parks and Trails, issued an update last week showing that most of St. Louis County is between 75-100 percent for fall colors.

As of Monday, charts showed that the Northland maintained that status, the only exception being a tiny pocket in the southeast corner of the county where colors are only about halfway through their color cycles.

Colorful chemistry

The recent frosts have played a part in accelerating the color change throughout northeastern Minnesota as, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, at this time last year, the leaves still had a ways to go. Even so, many of the area’s maple, aspen, ash and birch trees continue to show off vibrant orange and red as an overcast of yellow glows up the woods.

So what exactly causes the color change? The DNR cites chlorophyll, carotenoids, anthocyanins and tannins as the main groups of biochemicals responsible, each creating its own unique color and chemistry. The amount of chemicals in each tree and each individual leaf can range drastically, which is why there is such a variance of color, even compared to trees of the same type. And the weather plays an essential role. For example, bright, sunny days cause anthocyanins to produce red and purple colors in leaves, while warm autumn days combined with cool nights bring out the vibrant orange shades that are the hallmark of carotenoids. But when it comes to the tannin in oak trees that are indiginous to the northern part of the state, they’re a one trick pony that simply turn the leaves brown.

Leaf watching

Last year, the Hibbing Daily Tribune staff polled online readers about their favorite places to leaf watch. Surpassing the other suggestions by leaps and bounds was Beauty Mountain Road. Located off Hwy 73, just south of Hibbing, the winding road leads drivers through a canopy of trees to Beauty Lake where leaves are still putting on a colorful show.

The next most popular destination locally was the 133-acre Maple Hill Park. Situated in the southwest area of town, between Townline and Lindquist Road with parking down Erickson and Tower Road, this city park is complete with walking trails, benches and a bright display of oranges and golds that can still be seen for anyone who makes the trek.

Other areas suggested by residents as go-tos for leaf watching include Carey Lake, Frank Hibbing Park, Townline Road south of Hibbing, Boy Scout Hill near the intersection of Hwy 169 and east on Howard Street and LaRue Pit in Nashwauk. There’s also the impressive stretch that is the Mesabi Trail as well as another local favorite north of Chisholm: Side Lake. Thick with maples and aspen, visitors can paddle the Sturgeon River channels connecting the lakes throughout McCarthy Beach State Park and enjoy not only the bright foliage display but also the abundant wildlife.

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