We have an annual guessing game here in Western North Carolina (WNC). It begins in early September and while anyone can play, the stakes are much higher for some than for others. The question? When will will the leaf color peak? The inns and motels get dozens of calls every day asking that question.
WNC has a brief respite from tourists from Labor Day until the fall leaf tours begin. During that respite, local businesses gear up for the onslaught of people coming to the mountains to look at the fall color. Autumn displays fill the shop windows. Apples, pumpkins, squash and dried corn await the new customers. All the tourists want to come during the "peak." The truth of the matter is, you can drive a relatively short distance and climb several thousand feet or go down several thousand feet. If it isn't peak color here, you won't have to drive long to find it.
There is no scientific method for predicting the leaf color with any accuracy, but almost everyone who lives here has an opinion. This year, the opinions are quite varied. Some say the trees are so stressed because of the drought, there will be little color as the leaves simply turn brown and fall off. Others say the trees are so stressed because of the drought, the color will be even more brilliant that ever.
One thing is certain. The leaves are beginning to have a dull look to them and as sure as anything, they will indeed turn. Exactly when, and for how long, and with what degree of brilliance is still part of the Autumn Guessing Game.
I have the best of all worlds, for I love the mountains in all seasons. Even in the dead of winter, the mountains are magnificent and awe-inspiring. So, I'm prepared for lots of color, and not-so-great color. I will love it just the same.
Here are some shots from last week, all taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway. You may notice that some of the trees in certain areas are already beginning to change. Some of these areas are above 4,000 feet. I will take this section of the Parkway often until it closes for winter, so you can see the changes that fall brings to the mountains.