Autumn in Alaska is a kind of reverse Wizard of Oz sequence. The brilliant fall colors shift all too quickly to the gloomy, monochromatic blacks and whites of winters. But while it is going, the colors are not – quite – gone.
That rare combination of peak colors and some sunlight doesn’t happen every year, at least not on weekends when WC can get out to see it. The hills that enclose the upper North Fork of the Chena River, west of the 2002 and 2005 burns, offer some of the best view of autumn colors in the interior.
Probably the most reliable single spot for photogenic autumn colors is Red Squirrel Pond at MP 42.8, Chena Hot Springs Road. The small pond or reclaimed gravel pit reflects the bands of second growth trees handsomely. And the small birches are sheltered from the wind, so they hold their leaves a bit longer than the more exposed areas.
The leaves will all be down soon enough. The winds from the latest Southcentral storm will hasten the process. After the colors of autumn, the drab browns and greys are all that’s left until the whites and dark green-blacks of snow and deep winter.