Sunday, October 28, 2012

The technicolor tunnel

Saturday, October 20, 2012:

The leaves continue to put on a super display of color along the trail.  I finally got the 'yellow tunnel' shot that I was looking for, of the hickory trees all changing color.  (I've shown some good red maple trail scenes in previous posts.) Hickory trees put on a spectacular show for just a few days, all leaves on a tree change color simultaneously and quickly, then they turn brown and drop just as quickly.  The red maples are now at peak or almost past - beginning to drop leaves.  Same for the sassafras, with their yellow to salmon-pink palette.  Black Gums can turn a spectacular deep red color, but in the woods they tend to do so early, one leaf at a time.  Their show is almost finished.  White ash and many Chestnut Oaks have dropped most of their leaves already.  The other Oaks, for the most part, are still green.  Many varieties are just turning brown this year without much color, and then dropping their leaves.  Tulip poplars are still green, but will turn yellow one leaf at a time, not as consistently as the hickory trees.  Because of the green oaks and tulip trees, both of which are very common in the mid-Atlantic woods, the impression of some mountain slopes from a distance can be of a still mostly-green landscape.

I hiked the 9.2 miles of trail between Buzzard Rocks just south of the David Lesser Shelter, north to Harper's Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office.  Other than the endless color variety in the woods, the good views I had today were from these two end points.  Buzzard Rocks view is limited.  Here's the view of the Shenandoah River, looking north toward the confluence with the Potomac, taken from the US 340 bridge:

I got to spend about 45 minutes in the ATC office, chatting with Laurie Potteiger (ATC information services), thru-hiker 'Hersch' who's doing a charity hike, and Denny-'Katahdin Kid', an office regular.  Tomorrow I'll hike back there from the north (I'll be entering Maryland!), and will spend more time there.  Today I had to cut the visit short in order to get back to my parking spot at Keys Gap before dark.

As the photos show, it was a bright, clear fall day.  Temperatures were perfect for hiking - in the low 60's - the kind of weather you'd like to bottle and have ready to uncork on those hazy, sweaty mid-summer days of malaise, or on a dreary frigid winter day.


Here's the map of today's hiking route, and a link to more photos:

AT Day 262 - Keys Gap, Harpers Ferry at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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