Cabin Creekwood Welcomes the Colors of Fall to the Blue Ridge Mountains

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The best fall foliage colors can be seen by spending several days in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park, and driving around each of those days. Choosing to stay in a cabin rental in Virginia provides a great base from which to explore.

Fall Foliage at Sherando Lake

Fall Foliage at Sherando Lake

Spending time in the car covering lots of different terrain will provide the greatest reward

“When should I come to see the peak colors?” This question causes the phones at Cabin Creekwood to ring off the hook as the days get shorter and the temperatures cooler. Of course, what they are talking about is the beautiful fall foliage that is so popular in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. These callers are told that peak doesn’t happen on a certain day, and even varies significantly within a geographical region. The best way to see brilliant fall foliage is to stay in the mountains for several days during the “typical” season, and spend that time driving throughout the region, exploring differing terrain.

It would be nice if the date could be pinned down exactly, but unfortunately, many factors affect when peak actually happens. To understand the brilliant colors of fall, it is helpful first to gain an understanding of what causes these brilliant colors.

Trees and other vegetation perform a chemical process called photosynthesis. This process, very simply, is taking water and carbon dioxide, and turning them into oxygen and sugar. Chlorophyll is the substance that causes this process to take place. During the spring and summer, when the days are long and warm, chlorophyll, which is green in color, is very abundant in the leaves. But when the days get shorter, the trees begin shutting down for the winter. Photosynthesis stops, chlorophyll disappears, and the trees enter into a season of rest. As the chlorophyll disappears, the yellows and oranges, which have been present in the leaves all along, become visible. The reds and the purples that can be seen in some trees is formed in the fall from the glucose that is trapped in the leaves, as sunlight and cooler nights turn this into a bright red color.

The differing species produce a kaleidoscope of colors. Of course, everyone recognizes the brilliant maples, which can be any color from scarlet to orange-red to yellow, depending on the exact species. The Sourwoods and Black Tupelos develop a deep crimson. Beech trees produce a light tan, while Aspens and Poplars show off a brilliant yellow. Hickories will become a golden bronze, and the oaks can be red, brown or russet.

Many factors affect the timing of the peak colors. It has already been mentioned how differing species produce different colors, but timing varies with species as well. Elevation also plays a significant role in timing. The higher up, the earlier the change. Also affecting the timing of peak are the direction of the slope, the amount of rain leading up to the fall, and the temperature. The most spectacular colors develop when there is a series of warm sunny days followed by cool and crisp, but not freezing, nights.

So with all this uncertainty of when peak really is, how does one go about partaking of the bountiful display of fall foliage colors? The best way is to visit the area of interest for several days during what is typically the peak season, perhaps by choosing a Virginia mountain cabin. During those several days, spending time in the car covering lots of terrain will provide the greatest reward, as it provides opportunity to see many different species, at many different elevation levels, and on many different-facing slopes.

Stan & Deb Horst have been welcoming vacationers to their cabin rentals in Virginia since 1995. Providing valuable information about things to see and do, including tips on finding the best fall foliage, has helped them to consistently receive high ratings from their guests.


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Stan Horst
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