^pBy Papa Joe Baraty
Enter the Wild
We are rolling into the first full week of November, and we will soon see something falling in yards across Franklin County. Leaves you say … no, not quite yet. I was referring to the local election signs. It’s just about time for them to finally come down.
Don’t get excited now, this article won’t be about local politics even though friends have tempted me to do so. That would truly be a “wild” undertaking. An editor told me once that if you write about politics half of your readership will adore you, and the other half will never read you again. That’s too wild for my taste.
But since you mentioned leaves, let’s chat about fall foliage.
Everyone has their favorite season. Some folks adore the new buds and blooms of the spring, others the extremes that summer and winter bring. But I’ve always been mesmerized by the cool air and brilliant colors of fall. I don’t think there is anything more stunning then a red maple in full autumn display.
After last week’s discussion you should by now understand my ineptitude and reluctance to explain anything in scientific terminology. So let’s get that out of the way upfront. If you want to know why leaves change color each autumn, the answer is; photosynthesis, chlorophyll, abscission layer, carotenoids and anthocyanins. Just Google it.
Personally, I prefer explanations to natural phenomenon to be in simple, practical terms. Like the one I came across in the American Forests website that explains fall foliage this way:
“Imagine a tree as a factory, and the leaves are seasonal workers. They do their job when resources are coming into the factory (sunlight, water, carbon dioxide), but when resources stop coming in, there’s not much for the workers to do, so the tree sends them a pink slip. Leaves require energy from the tree, so like any good factory, the tree engages in a cost-benefit analysis. When the days become shorter, the tree no longer wants to waste energy on leaves. This starts the internal chemical process that creates fall foliage.”
Pretty simple, huh? If only my science teacher in college would have spoken in such clear language.
I came across a cool, interactive fall foliage prediction map for 2019 on thrillist.com, and according to it, our peak colors this year arrive during the first full week of November. So don’t put those cameras away quite yet. The next two weeks should be the best color for Franklin County.
You want to see the most spectacular fall foliage colors? Go to New England. They say Vermont is the best. Well I have some news for you — at least it was news to me — New England has an overwhelming population of birches, beeches and maples, which do provide some stunning displays of color. But the truth of the matter is simply, the greater the variety of tree species, the greater the variety of color.
If this is true, the greatest variety of tree species in one location can actually be found a lot closer to us than New England. The Smoky Mountains host more than 120 species of trees, which is the greatest variety in all the United States. That’s right, folks. Our southern Appalachia is the best spot in the country to experience the brilliance of fall, and it’s not too late.
This excites me tremendously since that is exactly where I will be this weekend. My daughter and her husband are treating my wife, Pat, and I to a weekend cabin in the mountains overlooking Pigeon Forge. The shutter count on my Nikon is in for a severe beating. I hope I can share some beauties with you all next week.
One quick reminder before I sign off. I am still taking readers’ Wild Adventure stories. Send me your favorite personal adventure story and yours may be selected to be printed in the Nov. 22 edition of Enter the Wild.
Entries need to be sent to me before Nov. 15, so you still have plenty of time. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.