Reason for the (foliage) season? Forests!

So many ways to love the leaves

Dave Anderson | October 10, 2019
Photo by Midge Eliasson

Forest Society "Five Hikes" group enjoys fall foliage view from atop Silver Mountain on the 1,826 acre Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest.

Never fails – the fall foliage is stunning. The October full moon marks the mid-point of the Columbus Day weekend with peak foliage across the Lakes Region and peak leaf peeping statewide.

If the needle gauge has moved at all this year, it’s that fewer people are taking the state’s natural beauty for granted. Social media channels are stacked with breathless exclamations or colorful photos proving the brief fall foliage season remains THE favorite for a majority of residents and visitors alike.

What we may still take for granted is how fortunate we are to be among the ‘most-forested’ regions in the country. A quick fact check reveals Maine is 90%, NH is 81% and VT is 73% forested taken as a percentage of total land area. Northern New England and upstate NY is a vast forested realm. In fall foliage, trees are the reason for the season.

When we make time to ‘see the forests for the trees,’ we might also remember how forests enhance our regional quality of life year-round with clean air, clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, wood products, recreation opportunities and stunning natural beauty that drives this short-lived foliage tourism season.

End of Sunday sermon. Now for the Benediction: Get out there today to enjoy it!

There are likely as many different ways to enjoy the season as there are colorful leaves. Traditions abound. I am watching the ways people celebrate a season for loving leaves Here are some suggestions:

Group-up. Introverts need not apply. Invite a posse of friends or family for a weekend gathering. Make plans to spend time outside in the fresh air and peak colors now - before November’s “bare stick season” and pre-winter nesting impulse drives us indoors with the next rainy-windy weekend.

Hike it! There is a collective genetic memory at work when hikers behold sweeping views. Many people prefer the foliage panorama from atop a local hill or mountain summit when the foliage tapestry stretches across near and distant orange and ochre hills, spilling down into the valleys of red maple-tinged wetlands and along the shorelines of lakes and ponds. The contrast of dark conifers to colorful hardwoods offers a natural kaleidoscope in the White Mountains region.

Walk it! Adopt a slow pace and see more details. Surrender to that childlike impulse to drag your feet or go kicking through fallen leaves. The falling leaves can work on your soul if you slow down to let them.

Special events. Traditional fall celebrations include the Annual Sandwich Fair and Warner Fall Foliage Festival. There are too many more to list. Events are excellent choices for people-watching, leaf peeping and other sights, sounds and tastes of the NH autumn experience.

A mystery tour! Create your own a scenic leaf peeping tour. Leave home with no particular destination. Head north and west from the Seacoast or southern NH to view spectacular roadside foliage along state highways.

Get local. Stop at a general store for cider doughnuts or snappy old cheese. Visit a NH farm stand for apple picking or pumpkin hunting. Then pick a weekend kitchen project? Carve a jack-o-lantern, roast pumpkin seeds, bake a pie or a butternut squash with maple syrup. NH farms provide culinary inspirations. Support local farmers living and working near you on permanently conserved farmlands.

Dine and drink. There are an amazing diversity of restaurants, breweries and wineries hosting Octoberfest themes while serving up seasonal specialty foods and locally brewed beverages. Cool weather triggers a healthy appetite. You can literally eat your way across the Granite State this weekend. Merchants and restaurants count on Columbus Day weekend traffic to end their season in the black. If “Nature’s First Green Is Gold,” (Robert Frost) then the reverse may also be true, Nature’s Last Gold is Green.

Mountain ash. Photo Jan Denson

Sit still. Focus on a single calico green and red swamp maple leaf. Pick out a mountain ash with bright red fruits or a single tree and take a closer look. Follow a falling leaf to the ground. Sit by a brook or mountain stream and watch leaves float downstream. Get small. Rest on a forest floor to study the intricacies of acorns and moss or the architecture of an autumn mushroom.

Nature is restorative. Get in touch with your own “inner foliage season,” a nostalgic tug you may feel as autumn leaves turn - like tiny traffic signals- from green to yellow and red.

Wolly bear caterpillar on red maple leaf. Photo Carrie Deegan