Walk in the woods any day of the year and you’ll find color, but nothing beats a day like today.
Early this morning, I waited at the Holt Pond Preserve parking lot for Jon Evans of Loon Echo Land Trust. Well, I didn’t actually wait. I walked off the trail, taking in the morning sunlight on the red maple swamp–knowing we’d return to it later. By the time I arrived back at the parking lot, Jon was waiting for me–we hitched a ride to Bald Pate, where today’s adventure began.
Together, we lead eighteen people, including six Boy Scouts from Troop 149, to the summit of Bald Pate and back down, where we connected with the Town Farm Trail and continued on to Holt Pond.
As we climbed up Bald Pate, we paused to take in the western view. This week, the colors have popped.
The fall foliage was delayed because of September’s warm temperatures. Not only does less daylight trigger the chemical change in tree leaves, but a drop in temperature is also important. That being said, it doesn’t have to be cold enough to create a frosty coating.
The decreasing daylight hours and temps below 45˚ at night are signals to the leaf that it is time to shut down its food-making factory. The cooler night temps trap sugars made during the day, preventing them from moving to the tree. Once trapped, the sugars form the red pigment called anthocyanin.
As we witnessed along the Muddy River at Holt Pond, when the chlorophyll begins to break down, the green color disappears. This allows the yellows to show through. At the same time, other chemical changes may cause the formation of more pigments varying from yellow to red to maroon. While some trees, like quaking aspens, birch and hickory only show the yellow color, sugar maple leaves turn a brilliant orange or fiery red combined with yellow.
Not to be left out, the flowering witch hazel, pitcher plants and buttonbush display their own variation of colors.
Five hours and almost five miles later, we were back at the Red Maple Swamp I’d photographed at 7:30am.
The day was too beautiful to head indoors, so after a quick stop at home, I endured the Fryeburg Fair traffic and drove to the Gallie Trail at the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve in Lovell. My intention was a reconnaissance mission for next weekend’s Greater Lovell Land Trust hike to the summit of Whiting Hill.
On the way up, I scanned the beech trees, searching for bear claw marks and wasn’t disappointed.
The beech leaves have yet to take on their golden-bronze hue that lasts throughout the winter and appears like dabs of sunlight in the white landscape.
The maples, however, provide a brilliant contrast in the canopy.
It’s beginning to look a bit like . . . autumn from the summit.
One red maple was particularly dazzling.
This northern red oak provides a much more subtle hue,
while a white ash shows off its magenta-colored leaves.
A goldenrod continues to bloom and the bees know it. This one is doing a happy dance.
As I hiked down a different trail, the community changed and the striped maples dominated the understory
with their yellow-green leaves.
Similarly, the Indian-Cucumber root’s leaves have taken on its lime-green color of fall.
Splashes of color. Nature on display. How fortunate I am to be able to embrace these moments.