Average Brilliance: Fall Foliage 2011 in the Adirondacks

It’s coming.

Not quite yet.

Now now now!

You just missed it.


I’ve just returned from the Adirondacks, which, I’m told, was close to peak foliage, but not quite there yet. (Photo here at the fabulous Adirondack Museum.)

The whole concept of “peak foliage” has always struck me as strange, in a wonderful way.

What we have is a natural process, that occurs at different rates at different elevations and for different tree species, so it is not possible for an entire area you might visit to be “peaking”, although a significant percentage of the trees in that area might be.  And does it really matter if the foliage is at its very best, if indeed such a thing is possible? Is it any less lovely if it’s not?

I’m asking, I don’t really know the answer. But the question should reveal my general skepticism about the value of ultimate superlatives.

The other common topic of conversation about the foliage, which I overheard while I warmed myself near one of the lobby fireplaces at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, and which I participated in, over a breakfast blueberry pancakes and sausage at the Fern Lodge in Chestertown,  is how the weather of late affects leaf color.  No one can fathom all of the variables that produce the fuzzy concept of “peak” color with any sort of scientific accuracy, but apparently warmish days paired with warmish nights, which is a fair description of recent weather, tamps down the brilliance produced by the death of green chlorophyll, the unmasking of yellow carotenoids, and — the big crowd pleaser — the production of crimson anthocyanins.

Nevertheless, New York State’s I LOVE NEW YORK program, caps apparently obligatory, deploys foliage spotters in each county to report on how things are going as we progress towards peak and then rapidly away from it. These reports seem to be outside outside common language — they are informative, strange, marvelous.

I found this poem, hiding inside all the information, in the latest one:



at the midpoint of change

some red leaves of average brilliance

near complete leaf transition.


Trees on some hills are still very green

while other hills have much more color.

Look for some pockets.


Muted hues of goldenrod, russet, and copper

amidst the ever diminishing green.


Muted shades of yellow and a little orange,

along with some beautiful rusts and pockets of red.


Muted shades of gold and bronze,

highlighted with apricot and orange.

some bittersweet oranges

and ruby reds.





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  1. Kerry Dexter Reply