Thursday, October 15, 2020

Take a "Leaf-Peeping" Fall Foliage vacation in New England


Fall colors are beginning to burst from the top of Mt. Kearsarge near New London, N.H. 

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, NH (courtesy New England Tourism)

Hi all,

I visited my son, Quinn, at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, last weekend, and I was hoping that my trip would be well-timed to experience the fall colors building to a peak in New England. 

As things turned out, it was close to the peak! Midway upstate in New Hampshire, where we visited our cousins in Waterville Valley, the leaves were a bit past the peak in the White Mountains. In New London, a bit to the west and south, the colors were beginning to burst with color, but yet-to-peak fully. Still, I felt blessed to experience the grandeur of fall colors while climbing several mountains with Quinn. Always great fun to hang out with Quinn! I also got to see my sister, Sue, who is president of Colby-Sawyer, and take some pretty walks in New London, a charming little town.   

For this week's outdoor tip, I'd like to recommend some popular places to see and go as part of a New England fall folliage vacation. Tuck this idea away for post-Covid life, if that ever occurs! 

If you haven't heard, New England is considered a national tourist destination for fall colors. A unique mix of sugar maple trees, hickories, paper birches and tulip poplars create an amazing kaleidoscope of colors, including varying shades of red, yellow, orange and purple! 

And here's a new one for you ... people who travel to see fall folliage are known as a "Leaf-Peeper." The overall practice is known as "Leaf-Peeping." 

From Wikipedia: Leaf peeping is an informal term in the United States and Canada for the activity in which people travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in areas where leaves change colors in autumn,[1] particularly in northern New England[2][3] and the upper Midwest, as well as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.[4][5] An organized excursion for leaf peeping is known as a foliage tour or color tour.

Last Friday, Quinn and I climbed Mt. Kearsarge, kind of the local mountain for Colby-Sawyer students, staff and faculty. The college holds a Mountain Day event each fall, where everyone climbs to the top of Mt. Kearsarge (elev. 2,923 feet), and enjoys a picnic aftewards. This year it was an on-your-own version of Mountain Day, and that happened to coincide with my visit with Quinn. It's a steep trail with lots roots and rocks to climb over, but once on top of the granite slabs at the summit, it's a great 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. 

On Saturday morning, we ventured to Waterville Valley to climb a mountain and visit my cousins who have a ski house in the 'hood. Quinn and I were going to hike a national forest trail to the top of two peaks, but as we neared the trailhead, we saw 200-300 cars parked on either side of the paved road. So we're like, no thanks! We decided to climb the Waterville ski area instead -- a 2,000-foot vertical climb over several miles, hiking up the grassy slopes next to thick and colorful trees.

From the summit of Waterville, it seemed the leaves were just a bit past the peak ... 

Top of Waterville Valley ski area. Nice day for a hike! 

I get a kick out of Quinn wearing his river hat on a hike. It was an uncommonly warm, fall day.  

They actually mow the ski slopes at Waterville presumably to enable them to open as early as possible with natural and man-made snow. But that made the hiking and footing quite nice.

Now, here are some other recommendations for fall foliage destinations/tours:

  • Drive the Kancamagus Scenic Highway in the White Mountains. This route is considered to be one of the best scenic drives for fall foliage in New England. The route is 35 miles long. Find a cool B&B or AirBnb to stay in near the route! 
  • Drive the Mountain Washington Auto Road to reach the highest summit in New England on Mount Washington (elev. 6,288 feet). It's also one of the coldest and windiest spots in the whole region, so plan for that! There are hiking trails nearby from the summt. 
  • Take the cog railway to the top of Mountain Washington. The train climbs the mountain at a 25 percent grade in places. It takes an hour round-trip, according to the web site. 
  • Here's a guide to 15 scenic drives for fall foliage in New England. 

Courtesy Mt. Washington Cog Railway

Hope that whets your appetite! If not, check out these photos! 

Courtesy Great Train Escapes

Courtesy Stellar Travel 

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