Fall foliage rules make the trip enjoyable
Fall Foliage Do list
Do go ahead and get lost there are 7400 miles of unpaved roads in Vermont alone and some of the best fall foliage views are hidden along the back roads and Hills. Just make sure you take along a good map book like the DeLORME Gazetteer series.Do observe proper fall foliage etiquette, if you are plodding along taking in the fall colors, make sure you keep an eye in your rear view mirror and if you have one or more cars behind you do your best to pull over and let them get on with their day just in case they’re not leaf peepers.
Do ask the landowner’s permission before you go traipsing off across the farmer’s fields. If you jump the fence and end up in a field with a bull, just don’t say you weren’t warned.
Do get out your car and walk around to enjoy the fall foliage experience. If all you wanted to do was look at the fall colors from inside the car you could have rented a DVD and stayed home.
Do look for classic scenes like the professional photographers do. A day in which you find blue skies and white clouds above the white church and red maples surrounding the church makes more impact than a wide angle of the Valley or hillside.Do look for changing vistas, check your maps and look for the back roads that travel around hillsides, along rivers or through farmland. This way you can enjoy a winding road view with an old red maple and puffy white clouds. If there’s one thing that I thoroughly enjoy its finding rows of Maple trees lining a rock wall. Old New England rock walls and fall foliage just seem to go together.
Do pay attention to the “Watch out for moose signs”. If you are rushing to your next foliage scene because the Sun is dropping down and you want to squeeze one more fall foliage experience in, remember this. If you run into a 1200 pound bull moose you will wish you had stayed at your last location a little bit longer. This is one experience you really do not want.
Do get up early and enjoy the rising Sun as the mist rises above ponds and lakes illuminating buildings along the shore lines. This is one of the best times to enjoy your fall foliage. Make sure that you take time in the late afternoon to enjoy the light as it comes then at a low angle. Seeing the leaves either backlit and glowing or (my favorite) side lit to show depth of field, is another do not miss moment.
Do get off main roads and highways and onto the back roads. If you come on Columbus Day weekend and have reservations in Stowe Vermont and only stay within a few miles of there, you will see really good color and you will also be in a ton of traffic. You can stay in a popular location like that but grab your map book and chart a route away from the popular areas where everybody goes and seek out the road less traveled. You may not find an iconic tourist image but until you’ve been there you don’t know what you will find.
Fall Foliage “Don’t” list
Don’t be in a hurry, if you rush from tree to tree only to get back in the car and rush to the next one, you’re missing the point. The idea is to enjoy what you find and share it with family and friends and have it as a memory for those long winter evenings. Think back to the finding of a special location on a late Autumn afternoon with the Sun lighting up the landscape just before Sunset. All the trees glowing red, orange, and yellow. Just you and a few friends just sitting on a rock wall enjoying the moment.Don’t forget the polarizing filter for your camera (assuming it takes filters) this will make skies bluer clouds whiter and the colors pop more. If your camera doesn’t take filters look for custom shooting modes and see if it has one for landscapes or even brightly colored scenes. Read the book that came with it to see what the different modes will do for you.
Don’t be peak fall color snob. Peak may be the reason for your search but the season is a continuum. One that flows like the ocean with eddies and currents. If you’ll only be satisfied with every tree being 100% covered in red’s and oranges then you’ve set yourself up for disappointment. The idea is to enjoy what you find and if today’s color is bright crimson red, be happy. If the color is yellow and orange across the hillside, be happy. Yes my friends… You knew this was coming.. “Don’t worry, be happy!”
These are my adaptations of Yankee magazine’s do’s and don’ts of fall foliage leaf peeping. The editors of Yankee have been writing about fall foliage for better than 75 years and when I want to know about the fall colors I go and read my old issues of Yankee magazine (I have around 20 years of autumn copies). (1980-current)
I hope you enjoyed this article and it serves to inspire your leaf peeping adventures.
Jeff ”Foliage” Folger
View my Autumn galleries of color on Vistaphotography