Friday, September 21, 2012

The 'Tudes of Fall Foliage

Today we took a drive north, to the back side of Jay Peak in Montgomery Center, where we own some land, to survey our apple orchard, haul off the last load of wood before winter, and check out the progression of fall foliage. While we were up in Montgomery, we saw our neighbor Marty, proprietor of the Belfry Pub, and we spent about an hour standing on the edge of our property, catching up with each other.

Because Marty’s a restauranteur, and we’re innkeepers, our talk soon turned to the upcoming foliage season. “I think it’s going to be good,” said Marty, a Vermonter who makes one of the best cheeseburgers on either side of the 45th parallel. Marty also makes maple syrup in the spring, and he knows about the land in this part of the world. We spent a little more time talking other things, like why anyone would pollute Jameson Irish Whiskey with ginger ale, and a nice six-point buck he’s seen mooching around lately.

While our chat with Marty reenforced the anecdotal requirements for a good foliage season, what it really comes down to is science. And opportunity. And fate. And a whole bunch of other things that are, as my former employer FedEx used to say about some undeliverable packages, “Beyond Our Control.” For folks about to invade Vermont and the other New England states in search of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, it might be a good idea to have he right ‘tude when you come up here to help get the most from your visit.

The first ‘tude is altitude. Higher elevations will generally show colors earlier than lower elevations. This is because colder temperatures begin to affect trees sooner that are higher up than trees at lower elevations. Colder temps shut off photosynthesis sooner, allowing other pigments in the leaves to present. So if you’re visiting in late September, make an effort to get up to Mt. Mansfield, or Camel’s Hump, if you want to see great early season colors.

The second ‘tude is latitude. As the earth tilts away from the sun, days shorten, and the farther north you go, the faster the days become shorter, sparking the onset of leaf coloration. In general, color change works from north to south, so if there’s no color where you are, look for some altitude and latitude nearby and and you won’t be disappointed.

The final ‘tude is attitude. We’ve been innkeepers in northern Vermont for almost 13 years, and we’ve weathered just about every kind of foliage season, and we’ve managed every kind of leaf peeper. For many folks, the trip to Vermont to experience fall foliage is the trip of a lifetime. The key is to be flexible and understand that if the leaves aren’t blazing outside your bedroom window, it’s likely that just over in the next valley, or at the next peak, they’re in their full glory. They’re somewhere, and you’ll see them.

You’ll see lots more than leaves when you’re up here. You’ll meet great folks, like Marty up at the Belfry Pub in Montgomery Center, and all the other people who’ve grown up in or flocked to Vermont to experience every season, not just fall foliage. Just remember the ‘tudes and you’ll have a great time.

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