I was asked this week about, my opinion on past peak colors and was it still beautiful? (*note all images are from previous years, not current!)
Past peak, my definition
First, I want to once again try to explain the process of fall colors progression. Imagine if you will a giant tidal wave flowing down from Canada. This is real, sort of. It’s a wave of cool to cold air flowing into the Northeastern US from Canada. It’s also known as the jet stream.
Generally, it starts out at higher elevations and if it continues to push southward, it will start to move to cover the lower elevations. But just as I’ve said before, it’s always different.
In the graphic below you see where the peaks of the White Mountains are feeling the colder temps (Highlighted in red) but not into the lower valleys. Those valleys are where you and I drive. Routes 93, 302, 16, and route 2 all wind their way through and between the peaks of the White Mtns.
You may also say that, hey Jeff, your marker went off course because you marked some red in a valley between Bridgton and Poland Maine, down through Naples to Casco Bay.
Basically, this can be caused by a wave of cold air moving down into a valley and then for many different reasons it stays there and the weatherman will tell folks to cover their more sensitive plants till morning. This frosty valley could start developing well before all the valleys around it. It may not happen again for years. Remember, I said, it always arrives differently every year!
Cold and Frosty nights
Even though the weatherman is calling for slightly above temps in New England this fall, it doesn’t mean autumn will be canceled, far from it. The shortening of the days with less sunlight has already started the fall color turning process. Warm air only slows this process.
What is Jeff’s “perfect” transition into fall?
My perfect summer with a transition into fall, would have a hot August 80-90s and then near the end of August the heat will break and the daytime temps suddenly hit the low 80s to upper 70s. As we get into the first half of September we spend our days in the 60s-70s and we would have lows in the 50s to upper 40s.
At mid-Sept, our daytime highs flirt with the low 60s with a few lower 70s with our lows steadily in the 40s with some lows around freezing.
Hard freeze versus gentle freeze
Generally, there is a differing opinion as to whether a hard freeze is bad or good. My opinion that getting down into the 20s is bad. I have no proof but take it for what it is, my opinion.
Generally, foliage experts (anyone who has lived in New England for a period of years will consider themselves experts), Anyway most of them agree that sunny days with daytime temps in the low 70s and nights that border on the frosty side (35ish) are perfect for the New England fall foliage colors to develop.
So, is past peak fall color, still beautiful?
So, “past peak” means many things, to many people. Most times as the leaves lose their “peak” color and brightness they will get duller and darker and they will either still be on the tree or they will be on the ground. Especially after a windy day.
All of this “past peak fall color” can be just as glorious as the mystical and highly elusive “peak” so many will look for. To me, the definition of “peak” is more of a state of mind than an actual event.
Here is an example. If you look at a small hill on ANY given day, none of the trees will be, all the same. In mid-Sept, there may be one or more trees that for some reason are feeling stressed, so on this fine day in mid-Sept they are bright red but the rest of the hill is mostly green.
In a week or two, half the trees on this small hill are yellow, orange or red. while the early ones are past peak or even bare. But if you are in the state of mind that takes in the whole hill, you are ecstatic that you found “peak” when in reality the trees at the bottom are well past “peak” so by MY literal definition (Jeff’s peak definition) All trees and all branches have to be turning or turned by at least 50-75% or more and NOT past peak yet.
Basically, it’s not very realistic and I doubt I’ve ever really seen it.
- To me, if 50% of the trees have turned it’s great to see.
- To actually see 75% of all the trees in full color in one area is enough to cause heart failure.
- if I was to see 100%, then that would probably mean I’m on my way to fall foliage heaven. I’m not in a hurry for that.
Generally, just as the fall colors come in at different speeds it goes away at differing speeds. So for some of you, past peak is just as thrilling as early fall colors. If you keep waiting for the mythical “peak” then you are not enjoying what you have in front of you.
I don’t intend to sound too philosophical here but isn’t this also the secret to happiness in life?Jeff "Foliage" Folger You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
- My Gallery on Fine Art America
- Try out the new Fall foliage forum
- Join my New England Fall Foliage page on Facebook
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but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as: http://www.4cornersnewengland.com/
My most popular blog is for Leaf peepers: Jeff Foliage.com.
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.