How does a holding pattern affect when the leaves change color? Learn more in our latest New England fall foliage report.
By Jim Salge
Sep 27 2018
“Holding” is a word that I hear a lot in early autumn. It’s a football term, a penalty call that booms through the PA systems at local stadiums in small towns across the country as young players learn the sport — and it’s always frustrating. Plays are called back, and game plans get complicated.
We in New England are experiencing a different type of holding pattern right now: We’re on the precipice of perfect fall color, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Last weekend, we checked in with photographers and foliage fans in the Green Mountains, the White Mountains, the Northeast Kingdom, the Great North Woods, and the Crown of Maine. These are areas where we usually see some peak color during the last week of September, but this year the reports were the same. While there are signs of turning, the forest remains largely green.
This wasn’t necessarily unexpected. The forecasts (including mine) were for heat and humidity to continue longer into September than normal this year for a number of reasons, including El Niño. But for the foliage visitors arriving from all over the world, eagerly expecting autumn awesomeness, a holding pattern is less than ideal.
Still, it was an absolutely beautiful weekend in New England, with subtle changes all around. Single trees changing color caught our eye, and migrating hawks soared through bluebird skies. It was a great weekend for hiking, or for taking the boat out one last time. Orchards are open, farms are full of the late summer’s harvest, and local fairs and festivals are popping up everywhere.
The color will come. When, though, is a tough question!
Here are our thoughts on the week ahead and where to find the best color now.
We know that the most vibrant colors emerge when we have warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights. And we also know that when we get the right conditions, there can be very noticeable changes overnight, with a race from largely green to nearly peak in a week or less — especially when the foliage displays are already late.
And after a sharp midweek cold front plowed through New England, bringing classic cool, crisp autumn air, we think the colors will come in quickly.
For those looking to go leaf peeping and find this beautiful emerging foliage, the best advice is to drive north and up in elevation. All of the areas mentioned earlier — the Northeast Kingdom, the Great North Woods, etc. — should be seeing a rapid increase in bright colors in the forest, and there will likely be plenty of time to see it this year.
We also expect a wider swath of northern New England to reach peak at the same time this year, as this cooler weather kick-starts the change. This could allow for many great photo opportunities from high peaks and roadside overlooks where you can see great distances and wide-ranging terrain.
Lastly, the cooler weather will also bring misty mornings and photogenic valley fog. Wetland areas tend to have both early fall color and concentrate foggy conditions.
Overall, this holding pattern has been a bit frustrating for foliage fans, but the weather in general has been beautiful. More nice weather is on the way, and the foliage will catch up. We hope you get out and enjoy it!
As the colors come on this week, we will continue to look for your reports. As always, be sure to visit NewEnglandFoliage.com for our weekly 2018 foliage forecasts and reports, as well as our live peak foliage map and everything else you need to plan your foliage trip in the region. On Instagram? Tag your photos with #MyNewEngland for a chance to be featured on our feed.