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October 13, 2007

Let’s Go
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:55 PM *

Leaf peeping in the North Country. [Leaves in Color] [Leaves in Color]

This is the best year for color I’ve seen in a long time. It looks like today and tomorrow, the leaves will be at their peak up here. Photos do not … cannot … do it justice.

Here are some routes you can try:

A long loop:

  • Take your best route to I-93 north into New Hampshire.
  • Head up through Franconia Notch. Take a right just past the Notch on Rt. 3 into the White Mountain National Forest. You’ll head up through Twin Mountain, Whitefield. Lancaster.
  • Continue north to Colebrook, and head east there on Rt. 26.
  • You’ll pass through Dixville Notch (wild, rugged, really pretty).
  • At Errol, turn south on Rt. 16. You’ll be going alongside the Androscoggin River. Pretty. Watch out for moose.
  • Continue on through Berlin, Gorham, down through Pinkham Notch past Mt. Washington, Conway … and so on to Portsmouth. At Portsmouth, NH, get on I-95 and make your way home.

Or you could take a middling route:

  • As above, I-93 to Rt. 3 North.
  • At Groveton head east on 110 through Stark (a New England village that you’ve seen a Whole Lot of Times on picture postcards — yeah, it’s that village) to Berlin, then south on Rt 16.
  • Continue as above. The State Store in Conway, BTW, has odd lots, bin ends, and closeouts from the entire state system. You can find Unusual Alcohol at Very Low Prices there.
  • At Portsmouth (if you don’t care to check out the Glowing Tombstone), get on I-95 and head home.

Or take a short route:

  • Your best route to I-93 North, New Hampshire.
  • Continue north through Franconia Notch to Bethlehem.
  • At Bethlehem turn east on Rt 302. Continue on Rt. 302 east through Twin Mountain, to Crawford Notch.
  • In Bartlett look for signs for Bear Notch. Hang a right onto Bear Notch Road (Albany Road). (NOTE: Do not even think about trying this road in wintertime.)
  • Go through Bear Notch (woo! pretty!) to the Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112)
    • If you want to wimp out on Bear Notch Road, pick up Rt. 16 when it joins 302 at Glen. Continue through Conway and jump on the Kanc where it crosses 16 just south of Conway village.
  • Turn right on the Kanc to Lincoln, then get on I-93 South and home.

Today and tomorrow will be perfect, with scattered clouds and seasonable temperatures. (That is, pack a sweater and a windbreaker.) The contrast between sun and shadow really brings out the colors. We’re expecting snow tomorrow, but that should end by about 0900.

Comments on Let's Go:
#1 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Lucky.

The leaf peeping in Asheville is utterly pointless this year. I heard rumors that it was supposed to come early, but I went up there last weekend and there were still leaves on everything, and they were still green. I think it's a combination of the extraordinary drought conditions, and the long summer that only just ended.

It was still a lovely vacation, though. Even if it was at least 80 degrees on top of Mt. Mitchell.

#2 ::: jhetley ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 02:04 PM:

"Color" also good in Maine, although the Far North is officially past peak.

#3 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 02:39 PM:

I miss the leaves. New Jersey just isn't the same - living in upstate New York and western Massachusetts has spoiled me forever.

#4 ::: glinda, who is not necessarily good ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 02:50 PM:

Envy. Severe envy. My default for "autumn colors" is upstate NY; I've spent almost 30 years on the Left Coast now, and we just don't have the color. (Other things may be colorful, but not the leaves...)

#5 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Glinda,

The left coast has been satisfying me for the last 37 years, after growing up in PA and NY. There may not be as much color, because there are more evergreens, but what there is, is quite spectacular. Looking out from my deck this morning.

I'm going up to the arboretum in Washington Park this afternoon; I'll bring back some photos from there.

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 03:26 PM:

If you're making your plans in advance, consider reserving 11/12/13 October 2008 for a weekend trip through New Hampshire for the color.

One of these days RSN I'm thinking of taking (and blogging) a Rt. 302 roadtrip from Montpelier to Portland, with photos and such. Maybe with digressions to Neat Stuff. Perhaps I'll wait for spring, though. Last night found me on the shores of Lake Champlain and winter was in the air.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 04:55 PM:

I remember seeing, east of Placerville along US 50, a bright orange tree (probably maple) on a hill covered with evergreens. The contrast was pretty startling.

#8 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Seattle was lovely with leaf color. Yeah, I know, not even a patch on New England -- but when you're living in Texas you take what you can find.

#9 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Went up the Kanc a few years ago on the absolute peak day for leaves. It was incredible. If you get the chance, go there.

#10 ::: Linkmeister in Hawai'i ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 06:24 PM:

What is this "turning leaves" phenomenon?

#11 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 07:39 PM:

Well, I did exaggerate a little; my nostalgia for autumn color is not completely satisfied here in the Northwest. I have this dream of taking about 6 weeks off and going from Maine down to the Smokie Mountains following the colors in the fall. I'll be retiring soon, so maybe it will really happen.

As promised, I took some pictures this afternoon: More color from the land of evergreens.

#12 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 09:41 PM:

In NoVA, we've got enough drought that the leaves are turning brown from lack of water.

#13 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 04:38 AM:

Trying very hard here to think of an excuse why work needs to fly me to the Boston office with a spare weekend there, but not coming up with anything....
(I have been before, and your fall leaves are so much more spectacular than our autumn ones.)

#14 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 07:43 AM:

If for any reason, your travels take you either up or down I-87 (The Adirondack Northway in NY) make sure to look out the windows. The colors are awesome! But things change very quickly here. I'd give it another week or so TOPS and then we'll be in that gray, dismal, pre-snow phase.

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 08:20 AM:

The Adirondack Northway (I-87) is at the same latitude and has much the same geography as New Hampshire/Vermont. It's just on the other side of Lake Champlain.

(Some years ago, when visiting Lake George, I came on a wax museum that advertised The Black Hole on a banner out front. If they're still in operation, go see it. It's a spectacular illusion.)

When you're going up the Northway, don't forget to visit Ausable Chasm. Then take the ferry across to Burlington, VT, and continue across Vermont and New Hampshire on US 2.

Happy fun holidays in the North Country!

#16 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Ooooo....a little bird I know in the Mad River Valley, Vermont, says that this week has been a better week for leaf peeping than last week. (But they had more people last weekend, because the predicted peak was the day after Columbus day.) Now all the tourists have straggled out and the inns are freed up, so you can still get the spectacular colours without fighting to find a room.

(This route is up I-93, to I-89, and then off at the Vermont-100, about exit 10 or 11. Alternately you can go to the Quechee River Gorge area too.)

Now if you decide that it's too late to go this year, and you decide to go next year, may I suggest making reservations during peak times. During peak weeks, apparently any open spots in local hotels will fill up within hours.


I had my first Northeastern fall, and my boy and I went apple-picking. I got some nice shots of staghorn sumac and maples and all sorts of lovely colour changes.

#17 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 11:05 AM:

If you're in the UK, the next week or two would be ideal for a trip around the South-East; the Chilterns, Windsor Great Park, northeast Oxfordshire are all recommended. It's a pity you can't use the Great Park due to foot-and-mouth precautions.

#18 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 02:35 PM:

A selection of autumn 2007 photos -- mostly foliage, and all taken in Vermont -- can be found on Flickr, here.

#19 ::: Tara ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 03:29 PM:

The Lake Champlain islands are a great leaf-peeping tour; in many spots you can see the Adirondacks across the lake in New York. From I-89, go through Milton toward the islands on Rt 2. Cross the sandbar and into South Hero, where there's apple picking at the Allenholm Farm for this season's pies.

Head north through Grand Isle and North Hero. Hero's Welcome general store makes excellent sandwiches on homemade rolls... and sells hemostats if you find yourself with a bleeder.

Keep going through the peninsula of Alburgh and make a left at God's Little Brown Church. Isle La Motte, the final island, is the end of the line, but the 480 million-year-old fossils on the Goodsell Ridge portion of the Chazy Reef are incredible. Bundle up and walk the ridge trails to see and touch the fossils, as well as view tree damage from the Ice Storm of '98.

#20 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 05:42 PM:

Linkmeister in Hawai'i (10):

What is this "turning leaves" phenomenon?

I'm sorry, we forgot that we need to give detailed explanations for the poor benighted souls from bland and uninteresting tropical archipelagos, with nothing in sight but the endless tepid gray sea.

Here in New England, even the most common tree has leaves made of a fine and wondrous micro structure similar to that of a diffraction grating. Every Autumn, as the sun appears to travel south, the leaves' inner structure turns to follow the sun, so to collect the most possible energy from the changing spectrum of the sun as it diffracts through the atmosphere. Even the most casual observer will be amazed at the stunning brilliance of the incredible array of colors produced by this process. People travel from far and wide to view this display every Autumn, visiting such exotic locations from legend as Colebrook and Errol. To sustain themselves as the perambulate about the north country, they drink heady local ambrosia such as Moxie.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 06:19 PM:

deCadmus @ 18

Lovely pictures; thank you.

#22 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 07:14 PM:

#15: Au Sable Chasm is most wonderful -- if everyone in your party is over the age of 18, the rafting trip through the chasm is very cool (although I don't think it's running at this time of year, you'd be risking hypothermia!) Otherwise, you can take a self guided walking tour around the top of the Chasm for a few dollars, and it's really quite beautiful.

*Resists the temptation to go on and on about all the cool North Country things -- especially for history buffs*

(You can tell I'm a transplant. This level of enthusiasm is taken as decidedly not normal by the locals)

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 07:17 PM:

John @ #20, Oh, well done.

I once lived in a subdivision called Tall Oaks in Annandale, Va., but that was 40 years ago. In all the subsequent moves I've been out of temperate zones or in desert climates (even while I was living in Japan I don't recall seeing trees turn, but then Yokosuka was mostly gritty gray buildings, not parks).

#24 ::: Victor S ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 09:36 PM:

We took the middle route above, today, starting from Cambridge, MA. Jim -- We owe you a beer or something next time you're in town.

The highlight of the day was the practically-solid rainbow across a valley just south of Franconia. Your mileage may vary.

Also, our allergies cleared up just before we reached the boundaries of White Mountains National (Forest|Park|Whatever), and stayed gone until the steep descent into the Conway metro region. It's the first time we've been able to go walking outdoors together since Labor Day. "Thank You" doesn't even begin to cover it.

#25 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Bedford, Pennsylvania had its foliage festival last weekend and this weekend. We drove through the area going to Capclave. The foliage is still about 80% green in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Last year, I was mowing my lawn and raking leaves well into November. Looks like the same will be true this year.

#26 ::: Shannon Stacey ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 10:25 PM:

Coming home from camp (N. Stratford down 3/93 to Exit 20) we go through Franconia Notch and not only was the color beautiful today, but there's snow dusting the tops of the taller mountains!

#27 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 10:44 PM:

#15&19: There's an intermediate route (between ferry-to-Burlington and north-Champlain islands) that crosses Champlain just north of Plattsburgh and Burlington; the advantage is that the ferry there is 24/7 with 3 ships during daylight, so you don't have to wait a couple of hours if you miss one. We came that way returning from Montreal and found seriously good pizza and greens, and reasonable draft beer, at a corner a couple of miles east of the ferry -- I think it's where 314 runs into 2.

Unfortunately we've used up all our free time for the next few weeks, but next year we will not be working on WFC and may be able to take a spontaneous trip on a weekday.

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 11:07 PM:

We went to Conway today ourselves, by way of Crawford Notch (US 302). It was Very Pretty Indeed, and we went all touristy and took some pictures (which I shall have to post).

If you're going down Rt. 16 at West Ossipee, you can find the Yankee Smokehouse, which has the best barbecue in New Hampshire. That may not sound like much of a recommendation, since New Hampshire isn't exactly renowned for its barbecue, but it is seriously good.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Victor S (#24) -- I'm overjoyed that you took the trip and had a good time.

The slope down into Conway is the southern part of Pinkham Notch (the road under the flank of Mt. Washington) to Glen.

Let's see -- in Pinkham Notch, next time you're up that way, it's worth stopping at Glen Ellis Falls. A short walk off the highway (nice parking area), and a very nice waterfall.

In Whitefield, as you start up the steep slope to the north out of town, you'll see a small graveyard on the right, beside the library (a library built thanks to the munificence of Andrew Carnegie, as the marble plaque inside will tell you). That graveyard has an unusual feature: some of the tombstones have thumbs-up or thumbs-down carved on them. The story is that those represent the locals' opinion of the dearly-departed's chances in the next world.

In Lancaster, near the McDonald's (last McDonald's in New Hampshire) at the junction with US 2, there's a two-story house on the left (white house, black shutters). That's the oldest two-story building in Coos County. The cellar hole was started on the Dark Day in New England.

As you go through Stark, on the right, you'll see a historical marker. That's the marker for Camp Stark, the only prisoner-of-war camp in New Hampshire during WWII.

Berlin has a lovely Russian Orthodox church with an onion dome. (Berlin also has a Catholic church with a bleeding crucifix (St. Joe's).)

#30 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Lake George? A popular name. We have several in Australia, but I think the most famous, or notorious, is the one in NSW, near Canberra. (Pictures here; Map) Tho' as one of the photographers says: "traditional definitions of 'lake', 'river', and the like don't really hold in Australia". Geomorphology; A brief but clear description down near the end, around Figure 7. (In the context of the detailed broader geological area)

Like Linkmeister, ain't got no turning leaves here … well, some imported plants, put in the right places, like round Canberra, the mountain ranges and our high Alpine plains, will deign to put on a display in the right year.

The flush of desert flowers after rain (one day will scan my old photos) and the massive winter/spring blossoming of wattles and heathlands might have to keep us in colour, along with the colours of the rocks and soil. But travelling showed me that bright green grass & deep green forests look subtly wrong to me. Grass should be straw-coloured, and rolling forested ridges dark olive up close, turning to blue-mauve in distances.

#31 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2007, 11:51 PM:

Lake George? A popular name. We have several in Australia, but I think the most famous, or notorious, is the one in NSW, near Canberra. (Pictures here; Map) Tho' as "yowchaballyhoop" says: "traditional definitions of 'lake', 'river', and the like don't really hold in Australia". Geomorphology; A brief but clear description down near the end, around Figure 7. (In the context of the detailed broader geological area)

Like Linkmeister, ain't got no turning leaves here … well, some imported plants, put in the right places, like round Canberra, the mountain ranges and our high Alpine plains, will deign to put on a display in the right year.

The flush of desert flowers after rain (one day will scan my old photos) and the massive winter/spring blossoming of wattles and heathlands might have to keep us in colour, along with the colours of the rocks and soil. But travelling showed me that bright green grass & deep green forests look subtly wrong to me. Grass should be straw-coloured, and rolling forested ridges dark olive up close, turning to blue-mauve in distances.

#32 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 01:30 AM:

Thanks for the invitation, but this year we seem to be letting the foliage come to us.

"Stark, New Hampshire" and Camp Stark are of course named after the revolution's General John Stark, who deserves to be more widely famed. He was hero of both Bunker Hill AND Saratoga - and he was apparently the kind of officer that men wanted to follow.

When NH answered Vermont's call for help in stopping Burgoyne, NH called out the militia and put Stark in command:

"Within days, twenty-five companies - almost fifteen hundred men - signed up to follow him, some of them walking out of a church service to enlist when they heard of his appointment. That number was more than ten percent of the males over sixteen in New Hampshire; in one town some 36% of the eligible men volunteered."

(Sorry for the digression, but it's the 230th anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, and I've just been reading Ketchum's Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, and finding NH's John Stark to be fascinating.)

#33 ::: Shannon Stacey ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 08:57 AM:

In Lancaster, near the McDonald's (last McDonald's in New Hampshire) at the junction with US 2, there's a two-story house on the left (white house, black shutters). That's the oldest two-story building in Coos County. The cellar hole was started on the Dark Day in New England.

We've driven past there probably a hundred times and never knew about the house or the Dark Day. My sons love history and mysteries so I've made a note of it and it'll give us something to pass the time next trip up.

I've got a couple of Notch photos and one of Stratford Bog taken this weekend up on my site, even though my husband laughs at me for taking pictures of the leaves.

#34 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 09:18 AM:

Jim, we went to the Yankee Smokehouse a few times in the late '80s (we used to rent a cabin in Jackson from time to time for long weekends). A very good place for BBQ.

#35 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 09:53 AM:

General John Stark also gave New Hampshire its state motto: "Live Free or Die." (In a letter written long after the Revolution, declining an invitation to come speak to a group of Bennington veterans.)

#36 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Fall seems to be coming late to the midsection of the country. Still green as can be here in Oklahoma, and on my recent trip to DC, I didn't see much color to speak of. Well, it doesn't get too impressive in my part of OK anyway, since it's mostly oaks. There will be some sumac here and there, and sometimes the cottonwoods and redbuds will put on a bit of a show, but I miss the maples of western Pennsylvania at this time of year!

#37 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Fall is pretty bleh this year in Minneapolis, alas. Am hoping for better when I go to WFC.

#38 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 03:32 PM:

The leaves turned here about a month ago, and it truly was a lovely autumn with russets, golds, and the occasional flash of scarlet.

We've had a wee skiff of snow on the ground for the last few weeks, just enough to remind us that winter is here, but not enough to cover up all the leaves, gravel, etc...

Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures.

#39 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Bob Oldendorf @ #31 - don't forget the reason General Burgoyne is known in my hobby circles - Burgoyne Surrounded.

I find the pattern to be a little fussy for my tastes, but one of my friends thinks that the block and pattern are the bees knees.

#40 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 06:50 PM:

Was up in the Cascade mountains at Leavenworth, WA, about 120 miles ne of Seattle last week and the colors as you got above about 1000 feet were absolutely breathtaking. Bright yellow birch and other trees surrounded by scarlet bushes. Down around Seattle level, the colors are almost uniformly muddy. I'm going to try to plan a visit next fall about this time to really enjoy it.

#41 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 06:58 PM:

Maryland is way out of whack this year, what with the drought and the fact that fall really hasn't started yet. (It has just this weekend turned even chilly, must less had a frost.) I'm predicting dullish colors.

We have a two-phase leaf season. In the first phase the red things-- most maples, sweet gums, tupelos, and callery pears-- turn; then a few days after they drop the oaks and hickories turn and everything goes yellow. The callery pear is an awful weed, but it has turned entire fields the most incredible colors. For some reason, like the red male it doesn't change color the same way every year, and some years each leaf is a riot of colors. I'm not betting this is going to be one of those years though.

#42 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 08:04 PM:

When you start with Take your best route to I-93 north into New Hampshire., all the loops are virtually equal, at least from California. I would imagine they're even more equal (heh) from Europe, Africa or Asia.

Just sayin'.

#43 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2007, 12:21 PM:

If anyone is wondering whether there's still time to swing through Vermont to catch some autumn color, I can assure you it's still awfully pretty here.

I work in Waterbury -- square between the Mad River Valley to the south and Stowe / Mt. Mansfield to the north. My daily commute leads me through some of the prettiest mountain passes anywhere. (Yeah... I'm lucky that way.)

This autumn season is easily bests the two years prior in terms of color, and the last five in terms of durability. There's still leaves everywhere but the highest ridgelines, and they're most all of them a pretty glorious range of burnt orange to all-out crimson right now.

Route 100 between Granville and the Warren / Waitsfield area is lovely. (Stop for a photo at Moss Glen falls and get some maple syrup from Mom & Pop's stand there.) For my money, Bridge Street / E Warren road south off the covered bridge in Waitfield can't be beat right now.

#44 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2007, 09:10 PM:

I did my own version of the leaf trip today:

MA to Franconia Notch on 93, Hi Cannon trail to Kinsman Ridge trail to the top of Mt. Cannon at 4080 feet, with about 2300 feet of climb. Saw some Snow (my first for the season), but most of the white stuff was rime ice.
Then down via Lonesome Lake trail. Good color, great views of Lafayette wearing his white winter veil.

(I got too late of a start to bag the two Kinsmen as well). Pretty comfortable climbing day for this time of year.

#45 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Jeff@41: there's \always/ a worse option; e.g., you could take I-10 to Jacksonville and come north on the frequently-congested I-95, instead of going more diagonally (and possibly seeing good color in the high interiors of PA and NY). Just sayin'.

#46 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 06:59 PM:

Color is starting already this year. Two weeks, maybe three, to the peak.

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