117 to 27 on the Final Journey
So I’m in the midst of the final leg of my traveling journey. As mentioned in a previous post, my plan was to head east for the fall foliage season in New England. There have been countless wonders I’ve experienced living the past few years on the west coast, and rightfully so – there is an immense amount of diversity in the landscapes of the west. Many places are world-renown for the captivating beauty
However, if there’s one thing I miss it has to be New England in the fall. I spent several seasons on Columbus Day weekend trips up there and enjoyed every one. Yes, we have fall foliage in California’s Eastern Sierras. And while they are beautiful in their own right, with the rugged peaks (snow-covered if you’re lucky) and the occasional orange & red aspen, the color does not compare to the hardwood forests of New England. I joined some friends on a Vermont skiing trip one recent winter, but have not been back for the fall since moving out west.
My plan was to swing through the southwest, visiting a few new places en-route, spend a bit of time in Colorado checking out early color, then beelining it to New England for the beginning of the season there. But before I left, there was one final camping trip to Tahoe over Labor Day weekend. We had an unbearable heatwave those few days, with San Francisco (and a few other places) hitting all-time highs, 100+ degrees in the city is unheard of. Locals and frequent visitors know the city is typically 55 and foggy most of the summer, with some warmer temps in the 70s during September/October. My car reported 117 driving through Livermore on way to Tahoe that Friday evening, and areas around the lake were around 90 that weekend.
After that, I expected my experiences with summer heat to be done for the year. Little did I know…
A few days later I departed on my final journey. It was a blast. My first stop, the Grand Canyon was quite impressive. And cold! The North Rim got down to 27 by the morning! Some crazy thunderstorms and hail on the way too. Next up was Monument Valley, which was nice but definitely harsh and unflattering light during the middle of the day. One of my cousins recently moved to western CO, so she met up with me that night in Canyonlands NP. Pretty awesome place.
There were many other areas in the desert I wanted to hit up, but by that point I was reading about “early foliage” starting a bit sooner then expected in New England. I had missed the perfect conditions for wildflower blooms on Mount Rainier by a few days earlier that month, so I wasn’t planning to spend too much time. My cousin and I spent another day driving through the San Juan’s, seeing some awesome early color there and then up through Grand Mesa NF. After crashing the night at her place, I headed up to Steamboat area for a night, then a night camping in Rocky Mountain NP. There was some great color west of RMNP, between there and Steamboat. The following day, I hit the highway and headed east.
It seems that I made another rash decision in hindsight. I arrived to western NY to another several-day heat wave, 90’s and the oh-so-lovely humidity I so desperately missed from the east coast. While there was early color, it was significantly muted and dull, not to mention extremely hazy. On top of that, there was early snow in Colorado and I missed an opportunity to capture colorful aspens across snow-covered mountains! Sigh… It’s finally cooled down and while the early color is basically done, I’m hoping that the large amount of remaining greenery will kick into gear and bring us some beautiful, vibrant color. Looks as if the concern over missing part of the season was for naught! And while some of the color was impacted, there’s a possibility that if the heat wave didn’t happen the conditions could have been worse – the upper level ridge causing the heat also did a great job of blocking Hurricane Maria from getting quite close to the area!
We will see…