Lots of places in North America are well-famed for their autumn foliage. On my Long Trip, which took place in the fall of 1999, I started seeing the birches turning bright yellow in Minnesota in late September, and it was late October after I finally left the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina before I was back to green leaves again. A whole solid month of following the peak of the foliage across the Great Lakes to New England and down the eastern seaboard, and I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it for the world. Another terrific place to see fall foliage is in the mountains of Colorado, where the aspens turn a glorious gold every year. And I am particularly partial to the golden larches of the Cascades and northern Rockies, conifers which turn bright yellow in the fall.
Here in western Washington state, the foliage is a bit more subtle. Or maybe that’s not quite the right word, when the predominant shade this time of year is school bus yellow. That’s the shade the bigleaf maples turn. They are, along with the red alders, which really don’t turn at all, alas, the predominant species of deciduous tree in this part of the world. We have one other species of maple, the vine maple, which is basically the North American version of a Japanese maple, but it’s an understory tree that grows up in the mountains. The bigleaf maples, so called because their leaves are about the size of your average dinner plate, are everywhere, from along the Sound up into the foothills of the mountains.
A couple of weeks ago, when the trees were just starting to turn, I took a drive up into the foothills of the Cascades towards Mt. Rainier, out to Ohop Lake and the small town of Eatonville, and back by way of the little country lane called Webster Road. And here are some examples of fall foliage, Northwest style. Complete with the gray skies typical of this time of year, and the rain, of course.