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Countdown to Fall

Times Observer file photo Peak fall foliage at the Kinzua bridge circa 2009.

The fall foliage season is on schedule here in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

“Small amounts of color will start to show by the end of this month, but it will still be patchy coloration,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Cornplanter District Forester Cecile Stelter said. “Peak should occur in this region around Oct. 19, more or less.”

Cool temperatures at night and warm days are keys to bright leaves.

“Ideal conditions would be nights in the low 40s and sunny, warm — but not hot — days with average moisture every few days,” Stelter said. “We are already experiencing the cooler nights and the warm, sunny days. Providing that trend holds, it should set us up for a good fall foliage season.”

“Foliage is a big deal to many visitors and many locals,” Warren County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dave Sherman said. “Even the harshest of local critics would struggle to say we don’t do nature well here.”

“I believe what we sometimes take for granted is not only the variety of colors, but the volume of trees and colorful leaves that exist here,” Sherman said. “Many travelers remark that they may have the change of seasons where they live, but they don’t have colors as far as the eye can see as we do on some of our roads and throughout our valleys.”

“Sunday drives may sound stale or quaint from past generations, but it’s still very much a real ‘thing’ for many who make Warren County a destination every Autumn,” he said. “They aren’t in a hurry, they soak it all in, and they appreciate what they see here. The best part is, it’s a fairly inexpensive form of entertainment. Our research shows Oct. 11 through Oct. 24 should be the best two weeks for the ‘peepers’ this year.”

One doesn’t have to drive to enjoy fall colors. Getting out on foot in Penn’s Woods — the third annual Walk in Penn’s Woods will be held Oct. 6, with one Warren County event from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area — is another good way to experience the fall foliage phenomenon first-hand, Stelter said.

In 2018, the foliage season was quite short, according to Sherman.

“I think it’s worth noting how much disappointment we encountered in 2018 due to the leaves staying so green, so long into the Autumn season,” he said. “The WCVB was at an outdoor show in Bath, NY, on October 14 last year, and we couldn’t believe how green the leaves were on our ride home on I-86 and down into Pennsylvania.”

“We heard about it too, including an older couple that drove from the state of Indiana specifically for the colors,” Sherman said. “We kind of chuckled as I’m pretty sure they were looking to blame somebody… specifically us. It seemed as if the leaves stayed green through mid-October, and a couple days later they were on the ground.”

Stelter doesn’t expect that this year, but it is possible.

“We will probably continue to have some nice color throughout the region through the end of October,” Stelter said. “The first colors that we should see will be in the dogwoods, some maples, ash, serviceberry, sumac and aspen… the last species to change color are the oaks and some of the hickories.”

“Some trees and shrubs are already showing some color but they are individuals and may be dealing with other stressors that are causing them to either change color early or drop their leaves prematurely,” she said. “Periods of heavy rain could bring down leaves quicker and prolonged dry spells might cause leaves to take on a more muted coloration. Hard frosts during the next month, would cause the leaves to quickly wither and drop to the ground more rapidly.”

“We enjoy interacting with visitors who don’t experience Autumn as we do,” Sherman said. “We hope our locals share their enthusiasm.”

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