Let me be honest and admit that the most amazing fall foliage I’ve seen was in 1970 in the Susquehanna Valley of New York and neighboring Pennsylvania. I’m not sure how it would stack up today, if I had a way of reviving the actual color, but the experience was unlike any before or since.
I was fresh out of college – free of being cooped up on campus and indoors. I had my own wheels and a job that had me free by midafternoon, when the angular sunlight was kicking in. And the local forests blended the species of New England with those of the middle Appalachians. What I had known before was Ohio and Indiana, without the big foothills that propped the forests up before my eyes like giant canvases or, from the crests, arrayed them below me like vast quilts punctuated with villages and farm fields and meadows.
I suspect another major factor was a killing frost by late September, which would intensify the color and make, officially, Indian summer. With global warming, that frost has been delaying until all of the leaves have fallen.
All the same, living in New England for nearly half of my life now, I recognize how profoundly the autumn change strikes the region. My in-depth reflections and accompanying photos from New Hampshire are found in the archives of my Chicken Farmer blog. Do go there, if you can. The posts and slideshows appear in the New England Spirit category from August through October 2013.
What I’m now encountering is Coastal Downeast Maine, with its own variations. The forest is largely evergreen, which of course stays green. But it does provide a solid background for the deciduous trees as they change.
Having written that, I encounter an early morning drive across stretches where everything is perfect. The foliage is prime, a full range of the palette, nothing holding back. The temperature’s still chill, so maybe they’ve already had that hard frost up here. Better yet, the sunlight’s brilliant buttery and straight-on, rather than overhead, illuminating the leaves from the side facing me.
It reminds me of other “oh, wow!” epiphanies in northern New England that no doubt would equal or even surpass the year further south that set the standard.
So here’s a taste of how it happens around here.