More Autumn Wanderings

No matter where you are in the South, fall is a good time for wandering about. The best place for fall wandering is anyplace with a lot of trees where the leaves are currently changing. But at some point that describes almost everyplace in North Carolina.

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North Carolina is, by the way, the twelfth most heavily forested state in the union. Interestingly, it ranks slightly behind Brian’s home state of Massachusetts in terms of forest cover (actually it’s about even, both about 60%.)

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The emergence of fall colors, by the way, is triggered by decreasing amount of chlorophyll — the substance that makes plants green — in the leaves. The leaves don’t actually turn red or gold or orange — those were present all along, but suppressed beneath the dominant green that comes from the chlorophyll. Rather, the draining away of the green pigment allows these other colors to come to the fore.

Fall color peak times in the US…Note that most of North Carolina peaks in late October or November. Map by Strongbad1982 (talk)

In the Carolinas (and nearby Virginia, where some of these pictures were taken) the main items that determine the intensity of fall colors is elevation and climate, the latter being influenced by the distance inland.

Raleigh is over 100 miles from the coast, and we do get a decent fall color show here. In fact, it often said that Raleigh lies along the ‘Fall Line‘ of the Carolina Piedmont, but this reference has nothing to do with autumn colors. It has to do with the distance inland that falls begin to appear in rivers.

But it does seem to have a double meaning, for Raleigh seems to stand about at the point where far the dramatic colors of the uplands peter out into the dull hues of the eastern Piedmont. East of here we seldom see much. Even as little west as Durham, less than 20 miles away, we often see dramatically bolder colors.

But nothing beats the Blue Ridge Mountains. Well, nothing in the south…New England, for Brian’s money, has the best fall color show on Earth.

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Sharp Top from the Peaks of Otter during a recent visit

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…And while the mountains are best for colors, the coast is always a nice place to visit…but especially after the end of peak season, when the crowds have gone.

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Fitz Roy, the surf dog, has to be restrained from plunging headfirst into the sea.

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Another Autumn of great wanderings in North Carolina and Virginia!

 

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