Friday, October 09, 2009

It's the trees stupid!
Okay, here's my seasonal pet peeve. I'm tired of hearing about how pretty the fall colors are here in western Washington. What fall colors!?! Now, don't get me wrong, western Washington is beautiful and I love hiking here. The mountains here are grand and spectacular. The alpine meadows are sprawling and resplendent. The waterfalls are ubiquitous and stupendous. The trees are stately and magnificent. But what is not grand, magnificent, stupendous or gorgeous out here is the autumn foliage. Seriously, my Northwest friends and colleagues, there are no "beautiful fall colors" out here! Big leaf maples turn turd yellow. The rest of the trees are green! This is after all the Evergreen state-and it stays ever green in October too!

You want spectacular fall colors? You need to head to my home state of New Hampshire and its New England neighbors. Autumn is stupendous in New England. There are few places on the planet that rival this part of the country when it comes to dazzling fall colors. The ridges turn into hillsides of fruit loops. Red, yellow, orange, and every tone of these colors. And why is that? Because of Northern hardwoods! Beeches, sugar maples, red maples, silver maples, witch hazel, yellow birch, paper birch, sycamore, hickory, walnut, poplar, cheery, ash, even the cruddy oaks turn red! You need hardwoods for colorful foliage!

The few hardwoods in western Washington, like the Big leaf maple just turn crappy brown. Yeah, there's the occasional avalanche chute of vine maples and they turn a crimson red. And blueberry bushes turn scarlet too-but still the mountains and forests of Western Washington are overwhelmingly green!

So, yes my Northwest friends, you can be smug when talking to me about my beloved White Mountains and state that they are not real mountains. But I have boasting rights when I say you haven't seen gorgeous fall colors until you spend a Columbus day weekend in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Quebec! I'm going to once again miss autumn this year-no trip to New England this fall. But at least I have my Eastern Washington larches and aspens to lighten up my fall and maybe next autumn I'll get back to the Whites for a hike or two! In the meanwhile check out VisitNH for some nice autumn photos and check out my brother Jeff's book (pictured above) for some great Maine and New Hampshire autumn hiking destinations. See that cover-Pisgah State Park in early October. I was there for that photo. Now, that's some pretty fall colors!


Anonymous said...

LOL, Craig - I've got to de-lurk long enough to say I totally sympathize. When I first moved here, folks would say "look at all the pretty colors!" and I'd be "whuh? colors?"

I knew I'd lived here a long time when I a) could figure out what people meant when they said it was "humid,"* and b) when I started noticing all the pretty colors in the fall.

But be gentle on 'em Craig. If folks out East can call their little wooded bumps "mountains," surely Northwesterners are entitled to admire the fall colors before being plunged into six months of unrelenting gloom!

That last bit may represent a bit of west-of-the-mountains lowlander bias, but one of the few things I really miss about living out East is snow on the ground. It really brightens things up.

*And because I can't resist, the humidity story: One summer while visiting my sister on Long Island, I staggered after a sleepless night of ninety-something heat and humidity into the bathroom for a cold shower to relieve the heat and wake myself up a bit. I turned on the cold water, stepped in the shower, and... nothing. The water wasn't cold. It wasn't even *wet*! I toweled off afterward purely out of habit - I couldn't say I felt any different before, during, or after. Sure messed up my head, though.

Alas, I have no such story about the fall colors.

Snow, fall colors, thunderstorms, old architecture - that's pretty much all I miss from out east. The mountains and forests (and deserts!) out here trump them all.

Now I'd better get my overly-caffeinated self back to work.

Craig said...


You forgot one other thing that the East trumps the West on-good Italian food!!!! But, I agree the natural environmemt is tops here -but I sure do miss those quaint NH towns surrounded by fall color!

Crzydazy said...

Ha Ha This was funny. You will have to please forgive us WA transplants. Anything that is not green is a "fall" color. :)

Partner said...


Karen and I just got back from a ramble to Umtanum Falls and the colors were bright. Now, that said, there aren't a lot of them out there but for the poor people here in the Northwest who have never seen fall colors like New England can produce they are happy with something other than evergreen and cloudy with rain.