Fall Foliage is a Must-Add to Your Bucket List

Let your aging family member ride shotgun so they can enjoy the views.

By Leah Felderman BA MA  

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Elderly Woman Walking in Fall Leaves

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Nothing ushers in the upcoming holiday season quite like brightly adorned deciduous trees. Golden yellows, scarlet reds, and oranges of unbelievable hues let us know the heat and humidity of summer are exiting and fall has arrived!

If your family is from a place where palm trees prevail then it is likely they have not seen the full potential of the glorious magic show nature puts on in autumn. In some places like Florida and Hawaii seasonal change is an anomaly. However, even if your aging loved one resides in the midst of seasonal change, taking time out to explore and enjoy fall foliage is an essential bucket list trip!

The Why

Why do the leaves change colors? Why don’t all leaves change colors? Since it has been a few decades for most of us since science class, let’s refresh our memories as to the science behind nature’s beauty. Think of the leaf as a painting. The green is the top and dominant layer of color, at the forefront during the spring and summer as the tree and its leaves soak up the sunlight. Chlorophyll is the dominant chemical in the spring and summer as it helps the tree turn sunlight into food. Green prevails until the seasons change and the days get shorter. The tree can no longer keep up with food production, the green begins to fade. The chlorophyll breaks down and the nutrients feed the tree, leaving the leaves to reveal the rainbow of colors underneath. Underneath the green of chlorophyll lies orange and yellow. The orange is carotene; the same chemical responsible for making your carrots colorful is also responsible for the lovely orange hues of certain leaves, most notably sugar maples. As the green of the long, sunny summer days fade yellow is also revealed. Yellow is derived from the chemical xanthophyll, same as what makes squash and corn yellow, and can be seen in a wide variety of trees including gingko and aspen. While the yellows and oranges already exist in the leaf and is unveiled as the chlorophyll retreats with the summer, the reds and purple hues of leaves are a lovely byproduct as the chlorophyll breaks down and produces anthocyanin. Anthocyanin produces the red and purple hues seen in such tress as red maple and dogwood.

The When and Where

Fall is undeniably one of the best seasons. Fresh air abounds as heaters and air conditioners get a brief hiatus while you travel through some amazing landscapes to check out nature’s colors. Make certain to peep those fall foliage views while you can as the peak season is short and sweet. Location and weather dependent, peak season estimations are a big business and an invaluable resource for the tourism industry. See our favorite interactive, predictive fall foliage map covering the entire US here:

Fall Foliage US Map
Fall Foliage Map USA

The How

Our favorite part about a fall foliage trip is that it can be tailored for anybody and any preference. Even those with medical and/or mobility issues can be accommodated and it is relatively inexpensive depending on your preference of travel and duration.

Travel by car is highly recommended. Let your aging family member ride shotgun as you drive and concentrate on the road so they can enjoy the views. Stop as much as you’d like from a short walk through the woods to the various sugar shacks and eateries along the route. A fall foliage road trip is a great opportunity to explore locations both near and further from home.

Peak Fall Foliage Dates

If you live far from the changing of the seasons hop a flight directly into the vibrant hues to a variety of locations. Take some short drives and even quiet strolls around your vacation spot. Undoubtably New England is a favorite destination, yet don’t discount the Mid-West and even some charming costal locations further south than you might expect! Fall foliage viewing is such a popular pastime the changing of the colors is closely monitored, with reference points for each state so you can make the most of your trip. Yes, some states even have fall foliage hotlines!

Fall Foliage Hotlines

Or perhaps a train trip is more your aging loved one’s speed. There are a variety of local and regional train offerings to catch the autumn colors. Our favorite is the Adirondack route in the glass domed train car!

Top Fall Foliage Rail Vacations

Leah Felderman BA MA

About the Author

Leah Felderman is a proud alumnus of University of Central Florida (BA) and San Diego State University (MA). She has worn many occupational hats including teaching, hospitality management, government contractor and non-profit organizer. She is an intrepid international traveler having visited over 60 countries before happily settling down into her new life chapter of domesticity as a mom and Coast Guard wife.

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