Four of us went for a little hike around Secret, Ennis and Blackstone lakes east of Ely over the weekend. The peak of fall color is long gone. Aspen leaves dappled the trail. Spent maple leaves were caught in the boughs of balsam fir. Birch leaves lay curled and brown on the forest floor.
But the tamaracks still glowed their somber gold among the dark greens of spruce and balsam. Tamaracks have needles that are a light green during summer months. In the fall, they turn yellow-green, then a soft gold, before finally dropping.
Tamaracks seem to take a low-key approach to fall. They grow in low, damp country, and unlike maples that seem to call attention to their gaudy colors from the ridgetops, tamaracks are content to turn a more subtle “smoky gold.” Most of them are well past gold now and have turned a burnished copper. Soon, their branches will be bare and gnarly, awaiting winter’s snows.
Most of the tamaracks we saw on our hike were a tarnished gold, but the stand in the photo above was backlit for a bit by the midday sun, and it looked for a moment as if someone had plugged them in. They seemed to radiate light from within.
Not long after we saw the tamaracks, the trail took us above a small pond where a muskrat was chugging across from one side to the other, doing whatever muskrats do. Here’s a photo of the muskrat, leaving a gentle wake as he made his way across the lake.