Saturday, September 26, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: The Worst Wonderful Time of the Year

Being a native of the region all my life I no longer see it the way outsiders do; if that means I'm taking it for granted, that's fine.

"In Vermont, they’re seeing green — but the wrong kind" by Brian MacQuarrie Globe Staff  September 25, 2015

MANCHESTER, Vt. — A swarm of leaf-peepers will descend on this lush valley town this weekend, hoping to gaze upon tree-lined streets and majestic mountains awash in fiery autumn hues.

It’s almost October, but a warmer than usual September means the Green Mountains are still living up to their name. Missing are the broad, dazzling swaths of yellow, orange, and crimson that almost always turn the Manchester area into a carnival of color by this point in the calendar.

What makes some tourists see red — but not yet in the sugar maples all around them — is being greeted by many Vermonters with been-there-before patience.

For now.

A foliage flop in a state known worldwide for its vibrant palette of fall colors could have ramifications beyond a less interesting view. Vermont attracts 3.5 million visitors and $460 million in spending a year during foliage season, which reaches its peak around Columbus Day.

If some of those tourists decide not to make the drive, that’s money lost. And although many lodgings in Manchester are booked months in advance for the season, no one wants to hear that the star is a no-show.


Some blame unseasonably warm weather and the lack of a frost in this valley nestled between the Green Mountains to the east and the Taconics to the west, 40 miles north of the Massachusetts border. Some blame a dry August. And others blame mysterious, fickle factors that Mother Nature uses to confound predictions for the start of foliage season.

“We had two of the warmest weeks of September in a long time, and the leaves need a cold snap to signal the change in color,” said Laura Peterson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Tourism and Marketing.

Every year is hotter, I'm told.

To many locals, the warm temperatures have made the outdoors even more enjoyable. 

I know it is wrong for me to feel that way, what with my creaking bones and the increased food production, but....

“It’s fine with me that it’s late because it’s beautiful and green, and we know that winter is coming,” said Becky Kotler of Manchester, who walked among pumpkins and mums at Equinox Valley Nursery.


Can we have fall first, please?

Nancy Lenhardt, who has operated a hot-dog cart in downtown Manchester for 30 years, echoed that attitude. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” she said with a beaming smile. “We’re going to pay for it later on.”

I don't view it that way. It's Mother Nature, unless someone is fooling with it, and it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. It doesn't have a personal vendetta against us.

Michael Snyder, the state’s point-man for foliage questions, said the change in color is not “late,” only “delayed,” and will fall within the historical range of when the season begins.

Colors are changing significantly in the Northeast Kingdom and higher elevations of the Green Mountains, said Snyder, commissioner of forests, parks, and recreation. Elsewhere in the state, a cold snap — not even a frost, but temperatures in the 30s, he said — could trigger rapid changes.

“We’ll see this thing pop, and then color will come on,” Snyder said.

The ingredients for a robust season are in place, including plenty of moisture earlier in the year that made Vermont’s trees full and lush, Snyder said. Now, it’s a day-to-day waiting game.

Shorter days, less sunlight, and cold prompt a tree to redirect the chemicals that make chlorophyll — the green pigment in its leaves — to other parts of the plant, Snyder said. That process exposes underlying colors in the leaves, such as yellows and orange and reds.

It’s a process fixed by nature. But Snyder, with a deep background in forestry, chuckled when asked to predict a date for peak foliage.

“We know a lot about this, but I’m happy to tell you we don’t know everything,” Snyder said. “It’s a bit of an adventure.”

Not if you have to rake 'em.


“It’s about to get crazy here.”

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