Thursday, October 3, 2013

Leaves Left to Peak Upstate

They've peaked.

Those iconic autumn leaves in New York state's famous Adirondack region have finished displaying the best of their de-chlorophylled splendor.  Already.

Nature's green began fading last month, along with summer's sun and heat, revealing a palette that botanists tell us was in the leaves all summer long, but simply hidden by chlorophyll's green dominance.  Indeed, to everything there is a season.  According to the visitor center in Old Forge, one of the Adirondacks' more popular tourist villages, fall's seasonal reds, golds, and oranges are still "brilliant."  Today, however, local experts are saying that the best days to experience them, like the leaves themselves, are fading.

It's never a precise science, of course, predicting when fall's leaves will peak, and across New England, from northern Maine to southern Connecticut, and even out west in Colorado, the schedule is never the same.  Besides, the brilliance of the colors can vary depending on the amount of rainfall and warm temperatures their trees experienced during the past several months.  Some years are better for color than others, and like many things in life, what makes for a good autumn leaf season is beyond the control of any tree.

Which makes the good leaf seasons that much more special.

Back when my family lived in Upstate New York, north of Syracuse, and about an hour's drive south of the Adirondacks, we could expect an autumn visit by folks from an advertising firm contracted by Airstream, the company that builds those all-aluminum travel trailers.  They'd prowl the state's north country, scouting for prototypical fall settings for photo shoots with three or four shiny silver campers, towed by brand-new pickup trucks and Chevy Suburbans.  And the requisite fashion models, of course, dressed to the nines in tailored hunting clothes and casual wear, who'd pose alongside the Airstreams.

You see, the rural road on which we lived was lined with massive old trees whose branches draped themselves like umbrellas over the pavement, and when the leaves turned color, the effect was quite dazzling.  I remember the reds and golds, but also deep purples, and orange like fire.  We had a smattering of white-barked birch trees, and trees with oval-shaped leaves that turned a translucent yellowish-green and fluttered in the breeze like ornamental paper.  Our house was hidden behind sprawling pine trees, and even they were different shades, from dark green to a silvery blue, although they were still evergreens.  And down along the road sat a long, old, rambling stone wall.  The whole tableau oozed a bucolic charm, even if, as a kid, I found it rather boring.

Apparently, the advertising firm had stumbled upon our stretch of country roadway with its tunnels of multi-colored leaves, and admired it as much as my parents had when they bought our home.  Some fall Saturday, we'd just look down our long front driveway to see the campers lining up along the side of the road, with photographers setting up tripods for their cameras.  I remember wondering to myself what made our stretch of roadway so special.  Why was this particular spot so beautiful, that these beautiful people would drive these shiny things out to the middle of nowhere and photograph them?

Indeed, back then, I was not only too young to appreciate nature, but, living year-round in that quaint, four-season environment, I was used to the leaves and the towering trees from which they fell.  It's been said that "youth is wasted on the young," and indeed, if I knew then what I know now about appreciating beauty, I wouldn't have taken the autumns Upstate for granted like I did.

Here in Texas, we have a couple of weeks after the end of October when the leaves change from green to a muted yellow, and then a boring brown. Actually, fall is my favorite season here, but not because of the leaves.  Our temperatures fall in autumn, and in Texas, falling temperatures trump falling leaves, especially after our scorching summers!

Depending on their variety, some Texas trees manage shades of orange, and even some reds, but if you don't like yellow, you're going to be disappointed.  I've heard that in far east Texas, which gets more rain than we do, if you squint really hard during autumn, you can see more colors from the leaves.  Still, it's not likely anything that would impress Airstream's advertising firm.

Meanwhile, this year's colors have peaked up in the Adirondacks.  Time truly flies, and soon, so will the leaves.  In another month, they will be on the ground, creating a new carpet for the coming snows that will blanket the region until next April.

You know, come to think of it, if monochromatic autumn leaves are the price we Texans pay for avoiding months on end of bitter, snowy weather, then I'm content to live with early memories from my youth!

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