Peak Fall Colors In Southern New England

Sergei Poljak | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
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Litchfield County, CT Oct. 19th.

While the highest peaks may have seen snow in the past few weeks, my favorite season is peaking in southern New England this weekend through about Halloween. I get it, we’re all excited about the ski season, nobody more so than myself. However, instead of counting down the seconds before A-Basin opens one trail, I’m taking an off-season venture to visit family, friends and autumn back in New England.

These pictures are all from the northwestern corner of Connecticut near Salisbury, where fall colors have been peaking for the last week. We hiked Bear Mountain, also known as Mt. Riga, the tallest peak in CT at 2,323′. An incoming storm today through the weekend may bring enough wind to put an end to the peak season up here. Down around the coast of Connecticut, colors should peak about Halloween weekend or just before.

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The Science Behind Fall Colors:

While many folks enjoy autumn scenery, few actually realize what processes are at work within trees to cause this change. Colorful leaves are the result of the breakdown of the dominant pigmentation element in leaving, a photosynthetic agent known as chlorophyll. As winter approaches it is time to shed leaves and the tree no longer replenishes chlorophyll and other nutrients to the leaves. Chlorophyll is quickly broken down by the sun, exposing other, less dominant pigments like xanthophyll (yellows) and carotenoids (think carrots). After a while, the dead leaves fall from the tree and these secondary pigments are broken down as well, leaving only brown tannins. Environmental factors such as temperature, sunlight and soil moisture also influence the intensity of the foliage.

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Fall colors are one of the most beautiful scenes the U.S. of A. has got to offer. I’ve been up, down and all around, and now live in Colorado, but New England in the fall is still one of my favorite adventures.  It may not be as thrilling as skiing and mountain sports, but there is a restorative and peaceful beauty that comes only from here. 

All photos: Sergei Poljak


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