“I thought I saw a Leaf Looker! I did, I did, I did see a Leaf Looker!”
No, it’s not some new species of animal or insect, or is it?
Ever wonder about those strange creatures traveling inside SUVs, most with “out of state” tags, that stop in the middle of the public roads; and all of a sudden, all you see are two hands and a camera being thrust out the window, clicking and scanning the area for all of the fall color they can capture? They usually linger for a while, not noticing that there is a line of impatient traffic forming behind them, just wanting to get home in time for supper!
Well, just like Deer Season, Bear Season, and Rabbit Season, Fall is also Leaf Looker Season in the High Country of North Carolina, except, thankfully, Leaf Lookers hunt their prey with a camera and not a gun. They just want to take home a little bit of the mountain color when they leave. You would think they don’t have trees where they come from! But, oh well, I guess we can share our autumn splendor with all those who happen down the old country roads of the mountains. We are just generous that way, and I guess you can’t blame them for looking!
However, in the defense of this, sometimes imposing, not so rare breed of animal, though, I have to admit, on more occasions than one, and especially this particular beautiful fall season, I get caught in the act along with these same seasonal Leaf Lookers. And I have to tell you, that I have, actually been guilty, also on more than one account, of holding up traffic for a chance to capture the beautiful fall colors with my camera! So, when I do come across this oddity that is the Fall Leaf Looker, I wait patiently, at least for a moment or two before making my presence known to them, because I understand the sight of mesmerizing colors that you just hate to look away from. I always keep my camera right by my side, loaded and ready to go at a moments notice! Cameras really just do not do them justice, though. In my opinion, only God can create this beautiful fall palette as no one else can ever comparatively reproduce it, no matter their medium.
Just look at what I mean!
The New England states have always bragged about their fall color reputation, however, the Appalachian Mountains usually have more color and a longer leaf season due to the enormous variety of color changing species that are native to this area. The higher elevations and layered mountain ranges account for an extended fall color season that spans over two months total. This fact, in addition, to several fall festivals held in the area, is why thousands of visitors migrate to the High Country at the first hint of cool, crisp fall weather and especially, during the month of October.
October is full of activity as this area hosts multiple events including The Valle Country Fair in Valle Crucis, The Wooley Worm Festival in Banner Elk, The Todd New River Festival in the little mountain town of Todd, Autumn at Oz on Beech Mountain, the Sugar Mountain OktoberFest and the Boone Heritage Festival celebrating the Appalachian heritage at the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum just to mention a few! There is something for everyone throughout the month of October in the High Country, and everyone gets to enjoy the peak fall color season, as well!
Everyone in the neighborhood gets into the act as another show is put on that is simultaneous with the leaf season, outdoor fall displays. Many of the area’s businesses and attractions tend to get in the spirit of the season by decorating their grounds with all of their autumn harvests. Pumpkins, gourds, hay bales, beautiful mums and fall flowers, with tons of color to display, find homes in all corners of the yards and porches all over the area. One of my most favorite places during fall is the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, NC. They know how to put on a show! Just look at some of the highlights of this years display!
We are fortunate in this area to have an expert in the field at Appalachian State University. Dr. Howie Neufeld, Ph.D., Professor of Plant Physiology, has been nicknamed the “fall color guy” for all of his years of experience with trees. He has been predicting the fall peak season for the High Country for years now and has his own fall color guy blog site, as well as, his education website that features useful information about how and why trees leaves change colors. Dr. Neufield has a true love for the mountains and is constantly sharing his information by providing the Fall Color Peak Season Map for the Western Region of North Carolina. Below is this year’s take on how the leaf color season will play out. Leaf Lookers take a look and Cameras Up!
Again, it is nearing the close of the fall color season, the leaf lookers will move on down the mountain to enjoy the splendor elsewhere, the traffic will become unobstructed once again, and the trees will shed their bright coats and sleep during the long cold winter days expected soon ahead.
And me? With all of this new found inspiration, I am ready to grab my journaling sketchbook and my favorite Joe Miller Signature Travel Kit and splash some fall color on those pages! Making an attempt to preserve the memory of such an exciting and intensely colorful season of the fall leaves of 2013.
Have a Happy Leaf Looker Day!And enjoy the autumn splendor while it lasts!
Keep your camera close and your color seeking eyes open!