In Search of the Autumn Leaves
T. S. Eliot called April the cruellest month, but he never lived in Dallas. We know September is.
September in Dallas is the ultimate dirty trick. You know it’s fall. You want it to be fall. Yet, more often than not, things still look like the middle of summer.
I’m talking specifically about trees. Let me make a confession here: I take autumn leaves very seriously. I simply can’t get out of my summer lethargy until the leaves turn.
This can be a problem in Dallas. The leaves could turn sometime in September. But then again, they may not change until mid-November. You just can’t tell. The "experts" say it has something to do with when the first frost hits and on how wet the preceding summer has been. Like I said, you just can’t tell.
The leaves will turn - sometime. In the meantime, you may as well be up on where to do some great autumn leaf-looking when the big day arrives. The 10 spots listed below are just a start. Good autumn leaves are where you find them.
This is an obvious one. The creek, from Armstrong to Cedar Springs, is one of the most colorful areas in town during the fall. Huge red oaks, masses of elms, maples, pecan and red cedar, with a sprinkling of brilliant red yaupon berries and sumac leaves.
There are several good hiking trails branching out from the fountain across from Lee Park. Near the swings on Hall Street, there are barbecue pits, picnic tables and room for recreational activities or just plain old lounging. A great spot for picnicking, but don’t take wine or beer. It’s prohibited in the parks.
This North Dallas area’s winding streets and heaving hills could easily be Birmingham. Named for its steep bluff, overhung with towering oaks, hackberries, sycamores and ash, Bluffview is an ideal area for a short Sunday drive or a longer bike ride. The heart of the neighborhood lies just south of Northwest Highway off Midway Road.
L. B. Houston Park
This huge park, just a punt away from Texas Stadium, is 500 acres of dense woodland, stitched with nature trails and great picnicking spots. Separate trails - one to the oldest woodlands, another to a newer forest area, another paralleling the tranquil Elm Fork of the Trinity, and yet another to a swamp marsh - interconnect and return to the central parking area on Tom Braniff Drive just north of Highway 114.
There are some 90 varieties of shrubs and trees in the park, including American elm, pecan, red mulberry, ash, bois d’arc and 80-foot-tall cedar elm. Should provide some great autumn colors.
Across Tom Braniff Drive is a three-mile trail called Wilderness Way, which follows the Trinity to California Cross Park - a great spot for a long, autumn hike.
To add to your enjoyment, call the Dallas Museum of Natural History (421-2169) a week ahead and ask for its 35-page pamphlet providing maps, drawings, and photographs of leaves, birds and animal tracks in this area.
This heavily wooded area in and around the campus of Northwood Institute forms a fantastic woodland enclave in Cedar Hill, 17 miles south of Dallas. It looks more like North Carolina than Texas. Super for a family picnic.
To get there, travel south on Thornton Freeway, take the Midlothian exit to Highway 67. In Cedar Hill, turn right on Farm Road 1382.
White Rock Lake
The best part of this huge park in the fall is a five block area of dense woodland at Garland Road between White Rock Creek and Lakeland Drive. Some of the trees here are more than 150 years old and there are red oaks that stand taller than a three-story house. Bike riding is especially good here.
While you’re in East Dallas, drop by Tokalon, a tree-laden residential street off Lakewood. The street is so thoroughly blanketed with huge trees, only random beams of sunlight filter through - just enough light to bring out the fall colors.
Take the Old Lake Road looping Lake Grapevine, and you’ll find 60 miles of heavily-wooded landscape, ample picnic areas, campsites and five park areas.
On the north side of the 7,000-acre lake is outlaw Sam Bass’ cave, where legend has it he used to hide. A walk to the cave on the high ridge is a special treat for children.
The autumn colors are fantastic here, thanks to lots of hackberry, hickory and pecan trees and riotous red sumac. Denton Creek above and below the lake has some good fishing spots.
The lake is 22 miles northwest of Dallas on Highway 114. Turn right on Kimball Road, right again at the four-way stop sign on Dove Road and take the second road on the left.
Kessler Park<BR>This one mile square park, located near Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff, is equally good for a drive, stroll or bike ride. Look especially for pyracantha, hackberry and oak. And if you tire of autumn leaves, roam one of the many winding residential streets surrounding the park. (If you’re on your bike, take a long look at the steep hills before you make an all out commitment. )Fort Worth Botanic Garden
A leaf-looker’s Garden of Eden. Be sure to take a camera and stroll. Nature trails pierce dense woodland and carefully manicured gardens. To get there, take the Turnpike to Fort Worth, exit at University Drive and turn north about a block. The Botanic Garden will be on your left.
By early October, the entire East Texas countryside surrounding Tyler should be ablaze with autumn colors. Eight miles north of the city is Tyler State Park, probably one of the best spots in the state for autumn color. There are plenty of picnic sites, camping areas and hiking trails here, surrounding a small lake. Perfect for a one-day trip.
Drive east on Interstate 20 eighty miles or so to Highway 69, then turn south. To double your pleasure, take some extra time and drive the back roads from Tyler to Kilgore.
This small East Texas Town, 30 miles north of Tyler, is the site of the annual Autumn Trails celebration, which runs October 5 - November 2.
There are special events planned for each weekend during the celebration - campouts, an antique car rally, barn dances, sidewalk art shows - plus the four-day Big D Trail Ride on Oct. 15.
This could provide an inexpensive, get-away-from-it-all weekend this fall. For details, contact the Autumn Trails Association, Box 455, Winnsboro, 75494.