Carl White’s Life in the Carolinas

Autumn Color in the Carolinas
Suzelle Sinclair 

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bright sunny yellow flows into flaming orange, with a tinge of green and specks of crimson. All of this majestic color in one tiny leaf. It fluttered to the ground as I sat on my front steps, following our morning walk. It landed at my feet and I studied its colors while Gracie sniffed the steps for traces of the neighborhood cat. Our early morning walk was delightful. The air was as crisp and refreshing as a freshly picked apple.

These are the days that beckon you outdoors. As I sat admiring all the delight packed into one tiny leaf, I pondered how I should spend this glorious day. Just then, a breeze blew through the branches of my maple tree, playfully blowing off a few more leaves. Gracie delighted in chasing them as they floated to the ground.

Chasing colorful leaves, yes, that is what we would do. Autumn color flows across the Carolinas like a wave. Beginning in the cooler mountain elevations, the color makes its way across the Piedmont and onward to the coast. If we wanted to experience the most color, we would need to travel west to the mountains. I looked at Gracie and asked, “Hey Girl, do you want to go for a road trip?” Her ears perked and tag wagged in agreement.

Leaf color forecasts are done based on elevation. Due to the color temperatures in the higher elevations, foliage color changes occur there first. Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain, at elevations around 6,000 feet, are the first locations to show color. Appalachian State University’s Department of Biology provides a weekly fall color report and predicts peak color dates. While foliage is not yet at peak, it is reported to be beautiful.

I grew up in the North Carolina mountains. Traveling there always brings back fond memories. As I drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the green faded from the leaves, reminding me of faded photos from days gone by. Growing up, autumn was always a magical time of year. While for many people spring symbolizes new beginnings, for me it has always been fall. The season brought with it a new wardrobe in preparation for the new school year. Fresh new notebooks, crayons and other school supplies were another treat in autumn. I remember pressing leaves between sheets of wax paper, creating bookmarks for my new school books. My Mother would save brown paper bags from the grocery store so I could make covers for my new text books. I remember placing leaves under the paper and using a crayon to make rubbings of the leaves. Those were all wonderful memories of new school years. Nature announced these new beginnings with a pageantry of color.

Admiring the oranges, yellows and reds, I find it amazing that while in summer all the trees are a common green, in the autumn they can be so very different. In the autumn, the trees reveal their authentic selves, and in doing so reveal their truest beauty. I believe there is a lesson for us in their example.

After a refreshing hike, Gracie and I hopped into the car to return home. I looked at Gracie and asked, “Should I take the backroads home Girl?” Her ears perked and called wagged in agreement to the idea of exploring the road less traveled on this beautiful autumn day.


2021 Autumn Leaf Prediction Map, Appalachian State University

Grandfather Mountain Fall Rambles Guided Walks, October 2-9