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|The Hunt for Red October
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by Joe Harkins - Sep 16, 98
Back around 1987, at age 54, I moved to a Caribbean island to begin my career as a journalist, working for a local English-language newspaper. I lived in a terraced house on a cliff high above the sea, surrounded by acres of exotic tropical flowers. Fruit from trees and bushes around the property sweetened every meal.
I stayed three and half years. It was summer every day, all year long. But each year, when the calendar said it should be Fall, and it brought only another unvarying season of afternoon rain-showers, intense rainbows and even more tropical greenery, I longed once again to see the burning hills of a North American Autumn.
Most people who have had the virtually religious experience of a New England Fall, claim that the region has the best, most riotous color plus just the right kind of rolling-hill vistas. However, it's not the only place blest with an annual tumult of arboreal color. There's at least one fall foliage information site for each of some 40 states. Almost every part of North America except the southern-most sub-tropical edges or the arid desert areas has a viewing period.
As the daylight hours shorten, broad-leafed deciduous trees prepare for their winter sleep by shutting down the production of chlorophyll, the chemical that makes their leaves green. When the green color that saturates all the cells of a leaf in spring and summer fades, the underlying reds, yellows, browns and even purples produced by the other chemicals in the leaf shine forth. The exact timing of this depends on the variables of rainfall and temperature.
At press time, the US Forest Service hadn't posted the 1998 nation-wide leaf-viewing page but a spokeswoman assured me "it will go online any day now" as in past years (Note: 09/16/98 - it's there now!). Until it is, both Dr. Dewpoint and Senior Circle offer lists of best viewing times for spots in dozens of states as well as hotline phone numbers. Yankee Magazine's Foliage Central is a good regional resource.
As usual, a passionate amateur has built one of most comprehensive and best-organized web sites. Clint's Place is clearly a labor of love. There are links to foliage tourism for states from Alabama to Wyoming. Others give one-click access to optimal viewing-date maps and academic sources to enhance your enjoyment of the phenomenon.
Meanwhile leaf-viewing information for individual states, especially those in the Northeast, is on the web. In some cases the same area is covered by more than one web site.
Maine is especially gifted with large tracts of beautiful forest views and many well-done web sites about its carpets of leafy color. The Maine Department of Conservation invites you to take a cyberstroll and experience the vibrant colors of Maine's autumn on-line. Highlights include a photo gallery created by Maine Forest Service and Park Rangers, peak color dates and best viewing locations.
Vermont's official tourism pages are visually and navigationally uninspired. The site's value is mostly in its variety of useful links. Fortunately, those and other resources fill the gap.
The Vermont Foliage Pages invite you to copy excellent photos from their gallery and install them as "wallpaper" on your own Windows desktop. Just select a photo for your monitor's size, click on it with the right mouse, and choose "set as wallpaper That's all there is to it.
If you can't make it to Vermont to watch the sugar maples flare through their shimmering shades of red and gold, the 61-minute video available at Vermont Autumn presents the majesty of Vermont's renowned autumn beauty. The planning guide on the site may be one of the best around because it is simple, basic and apparently complete.
Finally, to capture an autumnal aura, visit another enthusiast's site, All Vermont Pages. There you'll find details on getting flaming autumnal leaves sent to you by postal mail.
Leaves of another color:
(Official State Site)
Round The Bend (Upstate NY)
Adirondack Mountains Fall Report
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