Columbus Day Weekend has now passed, and with it, a definitive shift in themes comes to New England. The season of agricultural fairs has ended, apple picking is winding down, and many campgrounds have closed their gates until May. While fall foliage is nearing peak in Southern New England, in the north the colors of […]
By Jim Salge
Oct 15 2014
Beautiful Peak Autumn Colors in Tamworth, NH Over Columbus Day WeekendPhoto Credit : Susan Cole Kelly
This past weekend, I joined millions of leaf peepers from all over the world on New England’s roads to take in the beautiful colors that we’ve been treated to this season. I traveled through four New England states, and saw colors like I’ve not seen in years almost everywhere I went. Now trying to synthesize all that beauty into some semblance of workable data for this foliage report, I keep coming back to three main themes.
The first, is that the color this year is incredibly bright, but as it moved south and out of the mountains, it has become full of inconsistencies. A great amount of color exists in the forests of coastal and southern New England now, but there is also a tremendous amount of green still to turn. Trees in peak color are standing next to the same species draped mostly in green. One hillside exhibited a patchwork of color, an adjacent hillside with a week left to go. It’s been hard to make sense of, but perhaps it has to do with the temperature roller coaster we have experienced the past couple of weeks.
It is therefore likely that while there is, and will continue to be, plenty of great color, there may be no true peak this year in coastal zones from York, Maine all the way to the coasts of Connecticut. The oaks here are still green, the maples are coming in waves, and colors may even ebb a bit between the two species. We’re not sure how this will play out on our live fall foliage map…perhaps oscillating between moderate to past peak to moderate again. Regardless, there is plenty of good color now, and there should continue to be for some time.
The second theme that I noticed, is that despite the inconsistencies, general terrain and landscape features still dominate the overall pattern of foliage progression. The mountains and north country turned first this year, and have now all progressed beyond peak foliage. This past weekend, peak foliage was found along an arc of foothills, roughly halfway between the ocean and the mountains from Western Connecticut all the way up to Northern Maine. The brightest images I saw this past week were from both the southern White Mountains, including popular hiking spots like the Welch and Dickey loop and Mount Chocorua.
This bright color will predictably continue to spill southward and towards the coast this week. The best chances to see peak conditions this coming week will lie along the central Maine coast and around the Camden Hills and parts of Acadia National Park in Maine, in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, around the Quabbin area as well as interior Eastern Massachusetts, and much of Northern Connecticut. Good color will be found all the way to the coast near Portland, Portsmouth and Gloucester as well, with the inconsistencies discussed earlier.
General terrain features also tell us that there will be some areas of great color in areas you might not suspect. The influences of Lake Champlain always leave Burlington, Vermont an island of ideal color surrounded by areas that turned weeks before. Lake Winnipesaukee has a similar moderating effect in New Hampshire, as do many of the large rivers in Maine on the way to the coast.
The last, and most important theme that I kept coming across this past weekend is that just because a region is listed as ‘past peak’ certainly does not mean that it is without color. The build up to peak color is gradual, as is the fading from. The bright reds and oranges are usually the first colors to leave the landscape, but beautiful rusts and golds from late turning maples, and especially from young birches and beeches can linger for some time after peak has passed.With little green remaining in the forest when it turns past peak, the glow from these lingering leaves can be quite striking. It is in these conditions that I enjoy hiking the most, as fallen leaves crunch underfoot and corridors of late color line the forest roads and trails.
In summary, much like last weekend, finding the best peak color this coming week may require a fairly broad search area, but good color exists almost everywhere, in varying stages, across New England now. Our foliage app and live foliage map will be helpful in planning, as will our Facebook page dedicated to sharing photos and reporting on New England foliage conditions.We’ll see you out there, enjoy it before it goes!