Fall Color Report for Week of October 27, 2019

Grandfather mtn


Getting up early to view the fall foliage displays is becoming a habit with me this fall. It’s also something you all should consider, because you can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and see nary a soul and have the views all to yourself. Today I was fortunate in getting out early because around 11:30 am, clouds moved onto the Parkway and it became fogged in with very limited visibility. This is the result of former tropical storm Olga, which is bringing up lots of moisture and warm temperatures to the High Country. However, before the clouds came, this was the peak weekend for the High Country. However, it may not have looked all that great because the skies were overcast all day. This puts the peak this year 12-14 days (two weeks!) behind it’s usual timing of around Oct 12-14. A few more years of this and I’m going to have to adjust what I consider the usual timing of peak fall colors for this region!

As I write this Saturday evening, I can hear the rain outside. Luckily, there is little wind, but nonetheless, when the leaves are near or at peak color, rain will bring many of them down. As I wrote yesterday, the colors are really good this year, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating, with two rainy weekends in a row. The rain is supposed to stop early tomorrow, so if you’re still up here, you might be able to get a drive and hike in on Sunday.

I took a video of part of my drive going north on the Parkway from Chestoa Overlook to give you a feel for how it looked. Colors are fine on this stretch of the Parkway, but they are even better between Beacon Heights and Boone Fork Overlook farther north.

I stopped at Linville Falls, which is just north of where the Parkway crosses U.S. 221 in Avery County, NC. Instead of crossing the bridge and taking the path that most visitors use to see the falls, I instead stayed on the Visitor Center side and took the path on the left that takes you down to the river at the bottom of the Gorge. Linville Gorge was the first declared wilderness area in the eastern United States.

This is a 0.7 mile hike one way, and the last 0.2 miles are tough because they go steeply downhill in a short distance to the river bed. However, if you are fit and determined, the hike is definitely worth it because you get a view of the falls from the bottom that most people never see. You also travel through some interesting ecosystems. For example, about 2/3 of the way there, you go through a Mountain Laurel thicket, with some of the tallest laurels I have ever seen. Some are 15’ tall here. There is almost no vegetation beneath them, probably because so little light gets through and so all you see are gnarly stems. It is eerie in some respects. I felt I was in the Wizard of Oz movie in that haunted forest where the trees talk!

Although this rain will take down some leaves, I think good color will persist into the coming week. So, if you missed visiting this weekend, I suggest coming up midweek. Even next weekend should still have some remaining color, due mostly to the late turning oaks. A cold front is expected that may shorten the duration of the color display at this elevation, but forests below the overlooks will be coloring up, so the views from places like Beacon Heights, Flat Rock and Rough Ridge will still be good.
That’s the color report for this soggy weekend. Sorry I couldn’t do anything about the weather. I do have a call into Mother Nature, but she hasn’t returned it yet. I may need to push her on this, but as you know, it’s not nice to fool with her! Happy Leaf Looking!