While autumn in New England is, in the most basic sense, a celebration of both the harvest and the autumn colors, every town in every region carries on with their own special flair, and finds their own niche in the celebration. The northern states gear many of their festivals and celebrations around Columbus Day Weekend, while southern New England, where the foliage peaks later, feature many celebrations that have a distinctively Halloween preparatory feel. Past now are the agricultural fairs, coming soon are the pumpkin festivals and the haunting hayrides. The big weekend may have come and gone, but at this point we are only about halfway through the foliage season.
Foliage HAD been just about perfect this year…some were calling it epic in the far north. Colors had emerged early as predicted, and were bright.
Unfortunately, the weather has taken a dramatic turn in the past few weeks, and the change has not been kind to much of the foliage. In the far north, the season is nearly over, and the first snowfall has already occurred in the mountains this past weekend. At the other end of the spectrum, Rhode Island and Connecticut are just getting into the game. The area in the middle had some great color, has now lost a good deal of that good color, and is awaiting another cold snap to continue turning. There is a lack of continuity in the season this year, and the foliage conditions are changing fast.
The situation is definitely complex, and significantly less rosy than it was merely a week ago. The blog this week will be as straightforward of an honest reflection as I’ve been able to piece together in this evolving situation.
The root of the foliage issues that we are currently seeing arose around the official start of autumn. Using data from the legendary Mount Washington Observatory in the heart of foliage country, it has rained (or snowed) 12 of the last 16 days now. Temperatures have been generally cool, but with little day/night variation, and sunshine has been very minimal. This was a distinct change from the lead up to autumn in the beginning of September, where in the previous period of 16 days, it only rained during 4, with abundant sun, and cool, crisp mornings.
The stretch of dry, sunny weather was perfect to bring out the fantastic early foliage that we saw throughout much of central and northern New England. Peak foliage was amazing in the far north, and by the beginning of October, much of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine all were experiencing high color, with strong reds and oranges abounding.
The poor weather of recent unfortunately caught up with us over the past week though, leading to a significant muting of the colors. Three frontal systems also brought periods of heavier rains and gusty winds, and a subsequently significant leaf drop.
While both the far north and central regions are now muted, the differences between them are quite stark. In the far north, much of the early color lays on the ground, and there are plenty of bare trees in the landscape. With few oak trees in this region, and the only remaining color is on beech trees and straggling maples. It’s mostly a palate of gold and rust. Pretty, but definitely past peak.
South and east of the mountains and far north, and over towards the coastal plains, the region has seemingly regressed from beautiful high early color to muted moderate color, with mainly yellows and oranges again. There are some bare trees now, but there are also plenty of oaks and late maples that haven’t turned yet in a strange lack of continuity to the season’s colors. This is true from Acadia, down to the New Hampshire coast and through central Massachusetts. There is definitely foliage around, but more color is coming to these regions, as soon as some clear cool mornings come back.
Further south, the foliage is more dominated by the later turners anyway, and the color should be continuing soon and on schedule, as soon as this wet pattern breaks down and we get more dominant sunshine.
It’s not all bad news though, as there are some select areas are riding this weather pattern out better than the rest. Route 302 from the base of Crawford Notch through Conway over to the Lakes Region of Maine always turns a bit later than the rest of the mountains, and looked good even through this pattern. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire as well as Southeast Vermont also held onto color a bit better than other areas, and should look nice this weekend. And in some hollows of the Berkshires, there actually could be some nice peak color this weekend!
Elsewhere, I’ve also heard that Acadia has plenty of trees ready to pop, and if we get some cool weather, they should also look good there! Central Massachusetts is patchy in ready to emerge high color as well, and a drive in the western and central parts of the state could be a fun treasure hunt this weekend.
As you are driving around, we certainly would appreciate your reports on your foliage findings to our website foliage map, or though our foliage app. You can also check in and leave a picture or report on our Facebook page, which has shared many amazing pictures from fans this year.
To sum up the week, there is plenty of color around outside of the far northern zones, but it is not as bright as we had perhaps hoped for, at least not now. It may be a great weekend to go to an autumn destination…a festival, a farm, an orchard, a corn maize, a haunting. There’s so much that New England has to offer in autumn, and we can relish in those with the leaves in a lull. And hopefully by next week, favorable weather will return!