Maple Lined Reading Road After An Autumn Snowfall in Vermont
Photo Credit : Jen Hannux
Generations of artists and writers have drawn inspiration from autumn in New England. In the works of authors ranging from Thoreau and Frost to Donald Hall, who passed away just this year, you can sense how important fall and its traditions are, both to individuals and communities. And in paintings by masters from the Hudson River and White Mountain schools, you can see themes of both land use and color, as resonant today as they were back then.
Here, we pay tribute to that tradition by asking some of our region’s artists, historians, educators, and scientists to share their favorite autumn experiences. Though each sees autumn through a different lens, we were struck by some recurring themes that all of us can relate to – and perhaps lead to a renewed sense of inspiration as well.
“With so many autumn attractions in New England, picking a favorite is a challenge. But one that definitely stands out is moose watching in the North Woods, especially Maine’s Baxter State Park. Fall is mating season, which means moose are active and in their physical prime. Moose have been hard to find in recent years, due to population declines related to winter tick infestations and other issues; however, sighting reports this year give some cause for optimism. Offering great wildlife viewing opportunities and scenic mountain views, Baxter’s ponds, especially Sandy Stream Pond, are outstanding destinations – and with a bit of luck you’ll get to see moose in a picturesque natural setting.”
“Once fall rolls around, I can’t wait to lace up my hiking boots and load my backpack with my camera gear. This is my favorite time of year to explore Acadia National Park, and I will spend as much time as I can hiking the beautiful trails and finding spots to shoot the fall foliage. My most memorable fall hiking experience was many years ago, when I had just moved to Maine from Boston and wanted to begin exploring the park, so I chose the South Bubble Trail. When I got to the top, all I could see for miles was the most beautiful red, yellow, and orange colors. It was the most breathtaking sight! All I had with me was an old Kodak film camera, but I shot the whole roll, needing to capture every bit of that beauty before me. It was that hiking trip that started my passion for landscape photography — and even though I love shooting scenes in every season, fall has always been my favorite because of this first hike!”
“My favorite autumn experience was hiking up the Sugarloafs in New Hampshire back in 2007. Growing up in California, I never really got the full foliage experience. Sure, there were groves of aspens around my house in the Sierra Nevadas and oaks in the foothills, but in New England those fall experiences are dialed up to 11. Hiking up to the Sugarloafs for the first time provided 360 degrees of foliage the likes I had never experienced before. While working atop Mount Washington as a weather observer provides a 360 view, I feel so removed from the forests below that it all melts together. But down on these lower peaks, I was close enough to actually see the forest for the trees. Think of it like a Georges Seurat painting: From far away, you see the scene, but up close you can perceive the individual dots that make up that scene. My memories of that hike, the foliage, and my first full-on New England autumn are something I will never forget.”
“A wonderful place to see the changes that fall brings is along the longest highway in America, U.S. Route 20, which runs through Massachusetts. The greens and pastels of the plants and flowers that ushered in spring and carried through summer now give way to a bounty of oranges, reds, and golds. Creatively assembled displays of pumpkins, corn, apples, and gourds transform the roadside farm stands in New England into an autumnal works of art. There is something magical about this transformation, as the fruits of fall allow Mother Nature to shine. When you drive through the countryside, you can’t help but stop and wander through mazes of future jack-o-lanterns, feast on a warm cider doughnuts, and marvel at what the now-lowering sun has produced. This is my favorite experience of fall.”
“Autumn certainly is my favorite non-snowy season in New England: crisp temperatures, dry air, apple orchards, farm-fresh corn, pumpkin carving, a taste of the majestic winter soon to arrive. But my favorite autumn experience would have to be rock climbing in Mount Washington Valley. The crowds of summer, both human and insect, have long since dissipated, so it’s unlikely you’ll be waiting in line to climb a classic New Hampshire granite route. Climbing is definitively easier, too — you’re less sweaty, you need less chalk for your hands, and even the soft rubber of your climbing shoes seems to stick more surely to minuscule footholds that felt greasy and insecure just a few months earlier. Local climbers have long referred to the best climbing months as ‘Sendtember’ (to send is to climb a route effortlessly) and ‘Rocktober’ (which speaks for itself!).”
“My favorite autumn experience is visiting Maine’s Baxter State Park to watch the sunrise from Katahdin. While most leaf peepers find themselves on Route 16 in New Hampshire, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, or in Acadia National Park, I prefer being in places where other people aren’t. After staying the night at Roaring Brook Campground, I like to wake up super-early and take the Helon Taylor Trail to Katahdin’s Pamola Peak. From here, sunrise lights up all that orange, yellow, and red across the eastern boundary of Baxter and into Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. As a bonus, the drive through Baxter State Park usually brings even more stunning foliage views — and maybe even a moose sighting.”
“Autumn in Vermont can sometimes bring a mix of two seasons, winter and fall. When this happens, it is my absolute favorite. It’s an incredible scene when the first snow and peak foliage collide, something that’s most likely to happen in the Northeast Kingdom and higher elevations of the Green Mountains. Nothing makes fall color pop more than fresh white snow. Sometimes, the best part is the anticipation: watching the weather and seeing where snow is likely, then scoping out rural roads to travel when it falls. There are a lot of high-elevation farmlands and old roads across the hills of Vermont that are photogenic even without snow, but especially with. Climbing up a hill on a dirt road, as the elevation increases, seeing the snow begin to accumulate and stick — it’s breathtaking.”
At NewEngland.com, we have lots of tools to help you plan your autumn visit, from our fall foliage map to our road trip guides. So take a look around our site, and then go out and start exploring!