For the final Fall Color Report, I traveled east and down in elevation to Stone Mountain State Park, in North Carolina (https://www.ncparks.gov/stone-mountain-state-park). It was my first trip to this 14,500-acre gem of a park, and I would encourage all of you reading this not to wait 31 years to visit it as I have done! This is one of the prettiest parks in the state and the views from the top are spectacular. There are also waterfalls, but I didn’t have time to visit them (I had to get back and cook my New England clam chowder for the family – made from scratch!). But I will be coming back, most likely next year, to check out those waterfalls!
The colors were peaking in the Park, which is around 2,300’ and lower. There weren’t a lot of reds, but the oranges and yellows from the ash and oak trees were spectacular. Some of the red colored trees were black gums (Nyssa sylvatica). The most common oak at the higher elevations was chestnut oak (Quercus prinus), with its distinctive blocky bark. The leaves were turning a nice yellow today. On the rock outcrops, the huckleberrys (or low bush blueberries) were at peak burgundy. Here are the pictures from my trip today.
Colors are about finished above 3,000’ elevation in the southern Appalachians now, although in the High Country, the burnt red colors you see on the hillsides are from the red, black, and scarlet oaks. Oaks tend to be the last species to turn color, and are often silhouetted against a backdrop of gray, leafless trees at this time of year.
If you’re looking for color this week, focus on the band between 1,500’ and 2,500’ elevation. Even if you’re on the Blue Ridge Parkway and above 3,000’, you can still view the colors from the numerous overlooks. Colors in this band of elevation should persist to the next weekend. For example, if you drive up to Boone, the last two miles before you get to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the summit are looking great, with full color display this week.
For those near Asheville, I’d head over to Chimney Rock State Park, which should be seeing good color in the coming week. And don’t forget Gorges State Park below Cashiers – peaking now too. North Georgia is also showing some good color, and if you head to the Smokies, the lower elevations should be fine now.
While the colors in the High Country and other high elevations locations in the southern Appalachians this year were quite poor, due to the record warm September and October, and numerous rain and wind storms, trees at lower elevations were still quite green and most held on to their leaves. Now they are peaking, and only slightly behind their normal schedule. So, this year, the best colors were just below the Parkway, a very unusual situation.
This marks the last weekend that I will report on fall colors for the 2018 season. I’ve enjoyed doing this for you, even though this was a disappointing season. But we weren’t entirely without color, and there were some locations with good color if you searched hard enough. We’ll just have to hope that next season is better!
Over the long winter months, the coming spring and through the summer, I’ll occasionally post environmental, ecological, and science articles that I find interesting and which I think all of you would enjoy reading. That will keep the Fall Color Guy page active until we do this all over again next year!
Have a great Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Christmas trees and “Hanukah bushes” are already for sale in the High Country, so if you want a great experience for the family, especially the kids, come on up and head to a choose and cut farm and pick out your own tree! Always a fun experience!