At long awaited last, the high to peak color is arriving in the mountains of Northern New England.
To be honest, I’ve actually been quite surprised how strongly the color came on in the past week. The weather has been not very fall-like, and certainly not ideal for the colors to start popping. A strong, stagnant upper level low over the Midwest has kept a stream of soupy air over the entire region. For almost a week now, it has felt more like early August than late September. When my wife and I went apple picking with the dogs this weekend, we were uncomfortably hot, even in shorts. I had to run the air conditioner at night after canning my concord grape jelly, because the house simply wouldn’t cool down. The humidity has been downright tropical, the skies more gray than clear, and the showers plentiful, but still the color has arrived!
It’s always amazing how fast the color comes on too. Seemingly overnight, the landscape makes the final push from fading greens to bright colors. I noticed the jump last Thursday on the home commute in New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley. The whole way home, I was wide eyed, thinking “the colors weren’t this bright this morning.”
Right now, nearly all of the mountains of Northern New England are showing great color. The Greens, Whites, Mahoosucs and the Appalachians of Maine all are nearing peak at moderate elevations. The Berkshires aren’t too far behind, but likely need another week to ripen. Reds have been the most prevalent color so far, standing out strongly against the greens, which are becoming less dominant by the day. Oranges and yellows are present as well, but have yet to come on as strong. It may actually be a down year for yellows, with many birches in poor condition, which will allow the reds to reign paramount. No complaints there.
Local geographic variation has also been very strong this year. Towns in lower elevations and river valleys have very little color yet, while surrounding hillsides and higher elevation villages are very strong. A great example of this variation is in the Berlin / Gorham area of New Hampshire. A twenty minute drive to places like Jefferson Village, Jericho Mountains State Park or Pinkham Notch will take you from very early color to near peak. Overall, the color is setting up to be good this year, perhaps a bit late in some areas.
For travelers this upcoming weekend, there are going to be two keys to a great trip. The first key is going to be elevation. Anywhere in, through, near or overlooking any of the mountains in New England will provide landscapes filled with color. Great drives might include Smugglers Notch in Vermont, Crawford Notch in New Hampshire, or Grafton Notch in Maine. For hikers, the area in and around Baxter State Park should be exceptional. Camels Hump State Park and Groton State Forest offer varied hiking opportunities in Vermont, and in New Hampshire, the Appalachian Mountain Club is offering a free trial of their online White Mountain Guide with ten great foliage hikes hand selected for the season.
The second key is going to be a watchful eye on the weather. This persistent pattern looks to finally break around the weekend, but uncertainty remains. Early indications suggest that a coastal storm could trigger the departure of the Midwest storm Friday or Saturday. This shouldn’t surprise anyone in the southeastern part of New Hampshire, who know that it always pours at least one day of the beloved Deerfield Fair. If it stays clear, the Deerfield Fair is far from the only game in town, with great fall favorites like the Fryeburg Fair, Topsfield Fair and the Eastern States Expo, or simply, The Big E. And if the rain does come in, there is a solid silver lining. The gray skies make for great foliage pictures, and the rainfall makes streams and waterfalls more energetic and photogenic.
If you can’t travel this weekend, and are waiting until Columbus Day weekend, there promises to even more widespread color next weekend as peak moves down from the mountains. Areas east and south of the northern mountains, like around Conway, New Hampshire, Woodstock, Vermont, or North Adams, Massachusetts should finally get into the act for the three day weekend. Barring any large storms, the trees in the mountains shouldn’t have any real impetus for dropping their leaves early either.
To follow the foliage from your computer this week, besides YankeeFoliage.com, be sure to follow our facebook page, and our Mobile App. Some other Facebook pages that I’ve been infatuated with have been:
And if you do travel, be sure to take some pictures and send in your reports. I’ll see you out there!