Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 11, 2016

Appalachian Fall Color 10/9/16

Appalachian State University reports

It’s rainy and dreary in the mountains today, as we’re getting some light rain bands from Hurricane Matthew. The wind has been gusty also, but lucky for us, the trees are holding on to most of their leaves. Some of the yellow leaves and early turning maple leaves have been lost due to the wind, but the winds weren’t too strong and most leaves are still on the trees.

The colors have started to jump out now – they are mostly the yellows and oranges of the birches, poplars, magnolias, and maples, but a few bright red maples, sourwoods, and black gums can be spotted on the hillsides now. The best weekends for viewing fall color this year in the Boone/Blowing Rock area down to Grandfather Mountain will be next weekend (Oct 14-16) and the one following (Oct 21-23), while the week in between should be good if you can get up during the work week.

I think the hot weather has delayed the peak a few days, as the hills are only about 20% colored now, even as high as 4,500’. But the weather has cooled significantly, and the forecast is for sunny and cool this coming week, and that should speed up color development. Sunday this weekend is supposed to be sunny so if you have tomorrow free, think about coming up, even if the color peak is still a week away. Things are always better when you’re 3,000’ high in elevation!

I traveled the Parkway today down to the Chestoa Overlook (~3 miles south of the US 221 and Parkway intersection, on the left). You get a great view of Table Rock Mt. and the hills going down to Rt. 105 in the valley. There is also a hiking trail next to the parking lot and it’s an easy one.

Just 4 miles to the north on the Parkway is Linville Falls, which is always a great stop, and there are several hikes of easy to moderate difficulty from which you can see the falls and surrounding woods. The Linville Gorge was the first wilderness area designated in the east and has hikes down to the Linville River at the bottom (strenuous though). One tree of significance there is the Table Mountain Pine, a southern Appalachian endemic, which has cones that only open after they have been heated by a fire. The natural return cycle for fire in the gorge is about every 5-12 years, and if fires are suppressed, this inhibits the ability of this tree to release its seeds, and they fail to germinate. The technical term for this is known as “serotiny”. Pitch pine, a close relative, has the same habit, but only where fire is prevalent. It loses this adaptation if it grows for long periods of time in areas free of fire.

I’ve put all the photos I took today on a Google Drive which you can access using this link:
https://drive.google.com/…/fol…/0BxpSVO5IUz-EWjFnN1d1Um91Tk0

So, in conclusion, it’s looking like the best two weekends for viewing fall leaf colors, at least from 3,000’ and up, will be the next one and the one after that. Happy Travels!

 

 

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