That’s what leaf peepers have to look forward to this season when the leaves of change make their entrance into the Upstate
OCTOBER 7, 2011 11:22 a.m. (0)
There’s always color.
But the intensity differs from year to year.
“That’s always the million dollar question,” said Cathy Taylor, interpretive ranger at Paris Mountain State Park.
This year, fall color prognosticators are predicting a good to excellent year in Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina.
“It’s such a fragile formula,” said Vic Shelburne, Clemson University forestry and natural resources professor.
Typically, fall foliage season in the Carolinas runs from the end of September to early November, when chlorophyll in leaves breaks down because of shorter days and colder nights and reveals the colors that were overpowered by summer’s greens.
“There’s always really good color somewhere,” Shelburne said. “The trouble is it can be so spotty.”
Slightly below normal rainfall in March, average rainfall in April and May and slightly below normal rainfall in June and July should mean good color this fall, said Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University associate professor of biology who specializes in plant systems. The drier the climate, the more brilliant the fall leaves tend to be, she said.
And Shelburne said the heavy rain of several weeks ago helped stem a drought-related early leaf drop.
The warm sunny days and cool nights of late will also help, Shelburne said.
In addition, mid-August brought a respite from the hot temperatures of June and July, another good sign, Mathews said.
Lee said predicting the intensity of leaf color each fall can be tricky.
“All conditions can look favorable and then the weather changes and what you thought would happen doesn’t,” he said.
Cloud cover and rain in the weeks ahead could mute the color show, Mathews said.
“Anyone remembering the last two years may have noticed a shortage of brilliant red leaves in the area, which could be blamed on cloudy weather and rain during the fall,” she said. “If we see cool and sunny weather, we can expect nice red color to develop this year.”
“It depends on how cool it stays,” he said. “Cool nights and warm sunny days stimulate the red color.”
Mathews said usually the color change peaks anywhere from four to seven days after the first frost.
Dr. Howard Neufeld, a fall peeper from Appalachian State University, said he expects a slightly earlier peak in the Boone and Grandfather Mountain area of North Carolina, perhaps the weekend of Oct. 7. He predicts the next weekend further south around Asheville.
Shelburne predicts fall color will peak in the Upstate the last week in October or first week in November.
South Carolina park officials say several locations in the Upstate are ideal for viewing fall foliage.
The overlook at Caesar’s Head State Park has earned the reputation for being one of the best locations for viewing fall color in all of South Carolina. The view atop the outcropping gives a view of the Blue Ridge escarpment and the Piedmont. From the overlook, visitors can see Table Rock, the Table Rock Reservoir, Matthews Creek Valley and the city of Greenville with the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia as the backdrop.
Another view from Caesar’s Head State Park is just as spectacular but requires a moderately difficult hike to an observation platform at Raven Cliff Falls. Hikers who cross a suspension bridge can view the 400-foot cascade from above. It is a two-mile hike to the observation tour and a four-mile hike to the suspension bridge.
Jones Gap State Park gives a different view of the fall color. The park is located in a valley and offers a wall of color from its many hiking trails. The Middle Saluda River runs through the park.
And yet another view of fall color can be had at Paris Mountain State Park. Instead of the regular mountain vista views, fall colors can be seen in reflections in the park’s Mountain Lake or Lake Placid, Taylor said.
Bright sunlight brings out the reds, she said.
Some of the park’s best fall color displays can be seen from Brissey Ridge, Taylor said.
Other fall color hot spots in the Upstate include Pretty Place at Camp Greenville and the Red Horse Inn in Landrum, named one of the top 10 destinations for viewing fall foliage by AAA. It is off the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway.
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