New England Fall Foliage » Foliage Articles » Fall foliage, a six step process

How does fall foliage fall under a six step process?

Massachusetts barn setback from the road with trees of yellow and green around

barn in fall foliage

Most of you, if you’ve been to my blog before, may have heard me say, “fall foliage in New England is a continuum” or “it’s an ongoing process” and you may be wondering about the six steps?

Let me explain, I’m currently experiencing extreme denial (this is step six) which occurs at the tail end of the fall foliage season.

The following steps occur at different times for different people. They can even overlap or regress to an earlier stage and combine two steps into one. See if any of the following apply to you during your fall foliage travels.


view of nearby hills covered in early fall foliage colors

colors of autumn along Hazens notch in Vermont.

To me the first step is anticipation. For most of you it doesn’t start until mid-August when the first leaves of stressed trees start showing early color. Maybe it’s a Birch that has shallow roots or a swamp Maples with its roots below water level.

All of a sudden everybody starts thinking about what’s to come. The comments and questions start flooding in, Should I be thinking about changing reservations because of an “early fall”. 🙂

For me, anticipation starts back in April, sometimes earlier, as I’m looking at climate predictions for the September and October time period. I’m looking at what kind of spring we’re having and what the computer models say the summer will bring. I look at what the general temps have been and how much snow we have gotten. “Even” how much insect activity due to warm temps.. It all plays a roles in the following autumn colors.

Once September arrives, I find myself moving into the second step in the process.

2-Color awareness: (or alertness, or panic)

September 2012 fall foliage color

One bright example of Sept fall color in Sugar Hill

For lack of a better term I’m calling this second step color awareness.I tend to go into a heightened state of alertness whenever I’m out of the house from August on. I’ll be driving down the road and I’ll see a bit of red color which might only be a child’s toy or a business sign peeking through the green foliage.

This heightened state usually leads to a sub-step that I call – neck pain! this sub-step is caused by my head whipping to one side or the other as I catch a bit of color in my peripheral vision. It doesn’t usually cause the third step until later in September or early October depending on where I’m driving at the time.

3-Brake test:

beaver pond at full peak New England fall foliage

sunrise at beaver pond

As you can guess with this third step I and 1 million other leaf peepers need to have bumper stickers that state “Beware! I brake for fall foliage“. This is not for your amusement but meant as a serious warning to the Massholeswho are tailgating you.

This is our attempt to warn them to back off or even go around us because sooner or later a leaf peeper will see a sugar maple (insert your favorite tree here) and slam their foot so hard on the break that the rear end of the car will leap into the air. If the tailgating offender isn’t careful they will neatly slide to a stop underneath the leaf peepers bumper.

4-Incomprehensible Joy:

This step varies for almost every person I talk to. For some, just seeing a branch with red, orange and yellow leaves (or some variation thereof) will cause their heart to flutter and a feeling of incomprehensible joy will wash over them.

For the more jaded of us (like myself) it isn’t until I’m sitting in a location where everywhere I turn, all I can see are trees of various hues of red, orange and gold (with green as a counterpoint). At this point I will usually succumb to the same heart flutter, and the simple joy known only to children on Christmas day. (pick your holiday of choice)

I won’t say it takes peak fall foliage for me to feel this way. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a tough day not finding any fall foliage to blog about or photograph when I suddenly come upon an incredibly red Maple. A maple that’s so red, against an impossibly blue sky that it takes my breath away. Moments like these, bring such joy, that I honestly can’t describe the feeling. (But I’ll keep trying)

As we move into late October I start moving into the next step…

5-Disbelief and Denial:

red and orange sumac set against a maple standing in the background

14 November color in Salem MA

Denial[noun] refusal to recognize or acknowledge, disbelief in facing the reality of a fact.

For me denial takes a while to set in since I live near the seacoast and the color is late to arrive here and even later to leave. It’s usually November when I start to come to terms with my denial.

I will usually tell all of you to “Enjoy what you found” because it’s a continuum and it won’t last. When it comes right down to it, I’m just like you, there are days when I wish the joy of finding all this beautiful color would continue but I know it can’t.

This is when disbelief and denial slaps me in the face… The realization that my words are coming back to haunt me. It forces me to accept or at least acknowledge that the season is fading and soon I’ll be at the final step…


Stick season arrives in my back yard

14 November arrives with a lack of leaves

The only way I can survive my denial is by realizing that I’ve taken a lot of beautiful images that I now have to go through and catalog. Yankee magazine did an article on me a few years back saying “Jeff foliage memorializes fall one leaf at a time“. It’s in this way that I deal with the sadness and denial and with the knowledge that in a little over 300 days will be back at the first day of autumn again.

All the images in today’s blog article were taken during the 2012 season and the ones dated 14 November were taken with my cell phone during my morning walk,  so my denial isn’t quite over yet!

Jeff “Foliage” Folger
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Jeff Foliage

My name is Jeff Folger,
but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as:
My most popular blog is for Leaf peepers: Jeff
I live in Salem, Massachusetts and work as a blogger and Travel Photographer. I'm also the founder of the New England Photography Guild.
Feel free to visit me on my blogs and see what life in New England is like.

I started with Yankee Magazine as their first blogger on everything fall foliage. Now I blog on my own blog on my favorite subject, telling leaf peepers where the fall foliage is showing up in New England and helping them (to some extent) plan their fall foliage vacations.
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Fall foliage, a six step process — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Fall Foliage colors for the 2nd wk of Oct - Exploring New England's fall foliage

    • Thanks, what can I say… It’s my season of denial… I’m heading out to macro shoot the remaining fall colors…

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