October 15, 2002

Outbreak of LeafPeepers

image copyright Fred First

After twiddling its twiggy thumbs for all of September and half of October, the Fall Tree Leaf-color Chameleon Event finally happened between yesterday and today...the fastest costume change I think I have ever seen. I drove down Bent Mountain to Roanoke this morning. When I hair-pinned up the corrugated slopes a couple of hours later ascending back up to Floyd County, I swear the color was more dazzling and striking than it had been, even earlier in the day.

Soon, with the same kind of presto-chango rapidity, the leaves will fade, fall, shrivel and die like the Wicked Witch of the West. That's okay by me. Although I can't fully tell you all about my reasons... it's been too long since last Winter... I do know that in the midst of the leafless season, I say that I like the woods better that way; and I really mean it.

Lord knows, between now and leafless, these old hills and hollars will be swarmed by the flatlanders, loving the trees to death with their eyes, in an agonizingly slow advance, in bumper to bumper procession like vehicled hordes of locust. Up from Winston and Charlotte, Roanoke and Martinsville, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be teeming soon with the annual outbreak of LeafPeepers. I understand why they come. Pity. They have to go back to the cities, where leafless doesn't look nearly as good.

The trauma of prior experience with the Fall Leaf Lookers remains in memory like a scar, a reminder of the times we could not avoid the infestation of fall tourists, just in getting to and from the grocery store and back home. That was when we lived in the middle of a seasonal hive of Fall Leaf Gypsies, in Sylva, North Carolina.

About an hour west of Asheville, Sylva, in Jackson County seemed just the perfect place for me to take my first PT job: a therapist by days during the weeks, and a naturalist/tree hugger evenings and weekends. At the very gates of the Smoky Mountains to the north, the botanist that still lived in my PT clothes had died and gone to heaven. Even looking out the windows of the hospital where I took my first job as a therapist, I could see the rime ice on the tops of mountains of more than 5000 feet, less than a mile away. To the south towards Brevard, many marvelous waterfalls. To the west, the Nantahala/Ocoee rivers. East of us, Shining Rock Wilderness. Great place to live if you are into the outdoors. Crummy place to live if you want to be able to drive across town to pick up a gallon of milk. Especially this time of year when the Leafers come to town.

I should mention for you movie buffs out there: the hospital scene from "The Fugitive" was filmed in Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva. And, although I don't remember it from the movie, a scene of a seedy hick town street in "Deliverance" was filmed on Mill Street, which has since been spiffed up nicely.

So, being able to sit out here on the front porch today, surrounded by spectacular Fall color with a traffic flow rate of, oh, one car every 3 hours, is something I don't take for granted. I'll do my peeping solo, and feel blessed.

Posted by fred1st at October 15, 2002 05:44 AM

God willing, I'll be able to LeafPeep from my own front porch next year. Until then, keep posting the pcitures!

Posted by: Huw at October 15, 2002 01:18 PM

Amazing. I had the opportunity to be camping in north Georgia this week. Unfortunately, those plans changed due to an emergent need for some surgery. How I would have loved to be that much closer to what you describe!

Posted by: Da Goddess at October 16, 2002 12:30 AM

Thought I would be watching the leaves change from Middle Earth (as you and Tim both like to call it) but, apparently, it is not our time yet. Fortunately, we do live on the outskirts of Roanoke where the malls have not yet replaced the trees and rolling fields. It's not Floyd, but it is a nice holding area. We're right at the bottom of Windy Gap and I'll say I've made so many treks up Bent Mountain this year, planning, fantasizing, yearning for that little piece of Earth on the other side that perhaps I'll be content to enjoy my side of the mountain for another season and see what Spring might offer next year. Waiting truly is the hardest part. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us. Fragments From Floyd....sort of letters from home...albeit a future home. How strange to miss folks we've yet to meet.

Posted by: Lisa at October 16, 2002 09:47 AM

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