Foliage Colors Fade in the North, Emerge in Connecticut

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“If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.”

The quote, originally attributed to Mark Twain, has been re-uttered by many and adapted to represent everywhere, but this weekend, the original intent rang ever true. A storm system over the far north continued to swing bands of clouds over New England much of the weekend. It would rain, the sun would come out, it would hail, and then a rainbow before more steady sunshine. There was even snow on the highest mountain peaks. The one constant through the weekend was a steady breeze keeping a fall-like feeling in the air.

Peak Foliage Below Frosty Mountains

Peak Foliage in the Saco River Valley, Below Frosty Mountains in the Presidential Range  – Courtesy Ryan Knapp, Observer at the Mount Washington Observatory

Not deterred by the temperamental weather, my foliage travels took me through the Lakes Region of New Hampshire this weekend. The colors had changed quickly last week in central and southern New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont as well as Western Massachusetts, and I was eager experience peak south of the mountains. The color was good, but already sparse. The wind had taken down many of both the afflicted and early leaves, and in the villages the color in the crowns was far from postcard perfect. The hillsides though looked great, though, with their strong oranges and golden yellows, so I decided to hike to one of my favorite overlooks above Squam Lake. It rained the whole way up, but the payoff from the ridge was pure magic.

Dramatic Sky From Mount Morgan

Dramatic Sky From Mount Morgan Overlooking Squam Lake

While the weather was changeable this past weekend, we’ve all been wishing for an overall pattern change to the weather since late August. There has not been a prolonged period of dry, cool, fall like weather all autumn, and a quick check at the climate data from Concord, NH told the whole tale.  Since September first, we are over five inches above normal rainfall, an incredible departure, especially considering that it doesn’t include the rains in late August from Irene. Temperatures have been above normal as well, and overall, with the moisture, lack of cool nights, and general wind and storminess, there have been some significant impacts on the whole of New England foliage.

So where do we stand now?

In the far north and in the mountains, we are trending quickly towards stick season. Peak color has left the trees and lays mainly on the ground. The hillsides have some residual rust tones, and the river valleys have a few lingering maples still turning, but the big show is basically over. The color came late, and left early, the weather causing a compressed season. In this region, the best places to see any significant color will be in wetlands, where tamaracks turn late, or in beech hardwood forests where the understory lingers longer, and sometimes stays on the trees until spring. With clearing weather anticipated, it will be a great weekend to see some of this spot color.

Fading Foliage in Franconia Notch

Fading Foliage in Franconia Notch – Courtesy Kristina Folcik

South and eastward, in areas like central and western Massachusetts, southern Vermont and New Hampshire, and central Maine, we never really had true peak this year. The maples and hickories turned early last week, but the color has largely blown off now. The oaks are still green, and the color in the canopy is now sparse and muted. Perhaps there will be a second peak, when cold temperatures kick-start the oaks, but with more rain in the forecast, it’s not looking very good for extending the season this year. It’s still pretty, and sets a nice backdrop for all the pre-Halloween activities, but for those looking for the postcard perfect shot, the peak has passed.

Coastal Maine also had their peak this week, with Acadia putting on a nice, but muted show. There should still be some color around the park and Bar Harbor this weekend, but it’s certainly beginning to fade. The Midcoast and further south had the same staggered peak as the rest of the region, and the color overall was generally low, with lots of leaf fall. Problems also persist on the immediate coastlines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where many of the trees are burnt from the salt spray from Irene.

The best color for the coming week will generally be interior southeastern New Hampshire, Eastern Massachusetts, and Northern Rhode Island and Connecticut. Kent and Litchfield, Connecticut, are great foliage towns surrounded by rolling hills, and across the state, Route 169 south out of Woodstock features many pastoral scenes of farms ringed by stone walls. I worry about the quality of the peak colors that will emerge, but the weather looks nice, and the opportunity to get out shouldn’t be passed up.

Even though it’s been a rather down foliage year, people have been finding some great foliage and color, and sharing it on our website and our facebook page. If you’ve gotten a great picture of New England fall color this year, consider entering it in the Yankee Foliage Photo Contest. This year there is also a kid’s competition! Great entries are rolling in, but we are anxiously awaiting your shots from around New England this year.

The weather should be great this weekend, and perhaps our winning photograph is still to be taken, either among the lingering color in the mountain, the fading peak in Acadia, the spot color in central New England, or the emerging peak in Connecticut. It’s all beautiful, enjoy it while it lasts!


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