With so little time left in the autumn season in New England, we were fortunate to have a pair of great days to enjoy this past weekend. The wind whipped rain that battered the foliage again on Friday was a distant memory by Saturday morning, and the lingering breeze quickly dried the landscape.
I took advantage of the weather by hiking up Mount Major, one of my favorite autumn vistas in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Oaks and beeches, in their rusts and golds, made up the majority of the foliage colors, and the entire region was quite colorful, though definitely not peak given this season’s strange foliage gap. In fact, a good portion of the showy early maple leaves had already fallen, leaving the forests bright despite the ever lowering sun angle.
Hiking through the woods in the dark this time of year is hardly a quiet experience, with the recently shed leaves crunching underfoot. Combine the sound with the sights and smells of the autumn woods, and you have an opportunity to completely overload your senses, especially at the moment when you step on to the ledge you’ve been striving for.
Intensely colorful scenes like this are not long for life now anywhere in New England, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t color to be found. The term ‘Past Peak’ does not at all mean ‘No Color,’ and travelers to the region can expect to find a wide range of tones and conditions this coming weekend.
The best chance for finding bright foliage now is mainly in the far southern and eastern reaches of New England. Coastal Massachusetts, as well as portions of Rhode Island and Connecticut have the best chances to see remaining bold colors this weekend, as fewer of their maples have yet shed their leaves.
Peak color has reached all the way down to the southern shores and onto Long Island Sound, and is just about there as well in the city of Boston. These areas all represent the last areas to turn in a typical year, and some color will likely hang on here for a few more weeks.
Further inland, and farther north, color lingers as oaks and beeches are holding strongly to their leaves, but the brightest colors and most maples have now left. In an arc stretching from Central Massachusetts, up the Connecticut River Valley, across Southern New Hampshire and into Southern Maine, the whole forest is awash in dark rusty tones, with the hints of gold speckled in. New Hampshire’s Great Bay, and the coastal towns of Portsmouth, Kittery and York would be well worth a visit this weekend especially now that their quieter season has arrived. Salem, Massachusetts is also in this ‘rust belt’, and they have many festivities lined up for the Halloween weekend.
Further north and west into the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, color of any kind becomes tougher to find. The leaves of young beech trees will hold strong for some time now, often overwintering, but patches of color on the hillsides are becoming smaller and more spotty by the day. One way to still see color in these areas is to head for bogs and other acidic wetlands, where tamaracks dominate. This unique tree is our only deciduous conifer, whose needles turn a gorgeous yellow orange hue before falling at the tail end of our foliage season.
Our New England foliage season is definitely winding down, and all eyes are on the tropics to see if a tropical system might bring the season to a very abrupt end next week. Meteorological models are very much in disagreement as of this writing, but another strong wind driven rain will just about do the remaining foliage in if it hits early next week. We’ll have to wait and see for now.
This is the last weekend to enter our ‘X’ Marks the Spot Sweepstakes, and our annual photo contest has just two more weeks, with a November 15th Deadline. We also invite you to visit our Facebook page to view the photography of other foliage fans, or to submit your own.
I hope you get a chance to get out this weekend, there’s still color to be found!