At Kent, Connecticut.
I’ve said many times over the years that the fall foliage color is never truly bad, that, yes, some years the leaf color is better than others, and, yes, some years maybe it is not as dazzling. Well, this year is one of those off years. There is color to be sure, and there are some spectacular trees out there – there always are – but overall, the season is a dud.
Only a month ago stories began to appear in the newspapers, including The Hartford Courant, predicting a great year for fall color. At the time, that likely was a reasonable forecast. We had plenty of rain over the spring and summer, and moderate temperatures, plenty of sunshine. Happy trees. But we’ve had almost no rain since then, and the trees are parched, many of them shedding leaves that never had a chance to come to brilliant color. Mild temperatures the past couple of weeks could be a factor, too, delaying things a few days, though at this late stage we are most unlikely to see anything approaching the color of the best years.
I drove this morning to Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent to hike the trail to the summit of Cobble Mountain, elevation 1,365 feet. Not a big mountain, but it nonetheless has long views to the south, west and north from its rocky, fairly open summit. Sunshine and deep blue sky as I hiked, the temperature warming nicely, the 44 degree starting temperature quickly forgotten.
From the small cabin that is the park headquarters, with a parking area, it is a hike of about a mile, probably 1.1 miles, to the top. The trail begins on a flat, wide, mostly grassy woodland road then enters forest proper and begins to climb on a more typical footpath through the woods. About half the trip up the trail is easy-to-moderate difficulty, but the last stretch, easily a quarter mile, is much steeper and involves climbing over boulders or scrambling over sheets of ledge.
I had this thought, a hope really, that when I reached the summit, especially on a bright, sunny day like today, that I would find I was wrong, that the view before me would be a mosaic of brilliant red, yellow, and orange hues, that I somehow had failed to really see, really appreciate, the fall foliage display this fall. I wasn’t wrong.
Looking west, before me was the Taconic Range, which extends well into New York State. What I saw was a muted mass of color, plenty of green remaining in the vast forest before me, when this area should already be past peak color. Far off in the distance I could see the Catskills, but they were so far away, probably more than 30 miles, that they appeared only as a grayish-blue undulating feature on the horizon. The immediate scene before me, extending for miles, was pleasing to be sure, but blah as far as brilliant fall color.
Still, just as I always say the autumn color is never truly bad, I also like to say that assessing the fall color in New England is a very subjective thing, an enduring Yankee tradition in which we all get to have our say – and never hesitate to do so.