In late September, I went to New England, piggy-backing, on my daughter Katrin's College Tour. I was present and active in all the campus tours and meetings with nordic ski coaches. I also found time every day to visit the college arboretums and local nurseries, to talk to botany professors, hike in research forests and take in the amazing spectacle of fall color in the Atlantic Northeast. Katrin and MB were patient and good sports. While buildings on some of the campus' were built in the 1700's, many of the trees we saw near them are much older than that.
I have not been to the hardwood forests of the east since I was too young to tell the difference between a Shagbark Hickory and a Sassafras and I was awed by every aspect of what I experienced.
The first day we found out that, unlike travel in the west, there are many ways to go from point A to point B. If someone here wants to go to Reno they take I-80 or the very long way around over Mt. Rose. In New England there might be 5 ways that all differ in travel time by 3-5 minutes. We took the routes that looked most scenic (along a river or around a lake).
We toured UNH (where my grandfather was the football coach from 1941-1946) and we visited Annika T. (a superior local nordic skiier). We also toured Colby, Bowdoin, Middlebury, UVM, and St. Michael's. We drove through Dartmouth, Williams, Smith, UMASS, and Amhurst and had a personal tour of Vassar (thanks Jodi & Rick).
We ate fresh lobster on the coast of Maine, had a beer on the veranda of the Mount Washington Lodge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire surrounded by glorious fall colors, drove through 6 covered bridges in one afternoon and watched a full moon rise over pastures and the Green Mountains of northern Vermont, we ate maple candy, hiked Smuggler's Notch and Crawford Notch, visited the Trapp Family Lodge, toured a well-known ice cream factory, saw lots of corn and cows, lots more fall colors, waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems borne of humidity and rain. We had lunch at the CIA in Poughkeepsie, drove on the turnpike from Stockbridge toward Boston and "the Birkshires looked dreamlike" on account of the colors.
One nursery I visited in the Green Mountains told me they had "been having frost 2-3 days a week for several weeks" yet there were Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) and Impatiens in their landscape. The protection humidity offers is incredible and the lack of humidity is perhaps our biggest challenge on the east side of the Sierras.
In a town the size of Truckee there would be 5-6 cemeteries, another location of amazing trees (as well as grave markers from the 1600's). The wild New England Asters were amazing in their diversity and display as were he 8 foot tall Jerusalem Artichokes. I saw wild High-Bush Blueberries almost 10' tall and wide, wild Wintergreen and Low-Bush Blueberries. We hiked under Paper Birch nearly 100' tall and over 2' dbh. The largest Sycamore I've ever seen was in the center of Vassar. There was lots of Virgina Creeper and Boston Ivy as well as ubiquitous and showy Poison Ivy. The Ostrich Fern was golden through the forests where it spreads in solid stands. Sumac often dominated the openings along the highways. Driving over the White and Green mountains we would almost become frustrated by the density of the forests and the lack of vistas. In most places the forests are so thick, you would need a machete and chain saw to walk through them.
I said to one Vermonter that everywhere I looked it was a postcard view. She said she had been to Truckee and Tahoe and that "everywhere she looked it was a postcard view". We ARE very fortunate to live in such a beautiful environment.
Many of their most spectacular fall color plants thrive here in spite of our dry climate. Serviceberry, Viburnum, Sumac, Blueberry, many of the Maples, Asters and Rudbeckias. Flying home over the Wasatch Range in Utah, from 42,000ft, I could see mountainsides of SOLID crimson that I first thought were colored rock. It was acres Rocky Mountain Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandinentatum). That was also amazing. The unfortunate lady in the window seat next to me was very patient.