We have it on authority from the Department of Natural Resources that 2011 will see the best “fall color” for the last ten years. The architects of this welcome season are the wet spring, sunny summer, and cool fall nights to come.
While there are strong opinions on the merits or otherwise of summer and winter, fall is universally popular. What’s not to love about clement temperatures, bountiful harvests, fun festivals, the holiday season approaching and above all the fantastic, unbelievable hues that paint nature at every turn?
There are as many methods of luxuriating in autumnal pleasures as there are colors. Fall foliage can be viewed by road, rail, sea, and even air. The travel industry thrums with the competitive spirit to present ever-unique, exclusive packages and programs to woo jaded palates that are spoilt for choice.
However, nothing can beat the traditional, age-old, high-touch experience of traveling on terra firma. Meandering down highways and byways at one’s own pace, absorbing the golds and reds, the balmy, scintillating air, and the hint of a nip in the air.
Seasonal coloration occurs in deciduous trees; peak foliage is found in eastern United States, from mid-September up tomid- November. Information on the state of the foliage in different areas is constantly updated by the media and government websites. http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp
Connecticut’s highways and byways are spectacular in every season, but especially in the fall, as they whisk you away from it all to somewhere special. One of the most rewarding scenic routes for an unforgettable “leaf peeping” experience is along State Route 169, a delightful drive in eastern Connecticut’s Mystic Country. www.visitct.org.
Running parallel to the state border, this 32 mile journey along a designated National Scenic Byway takes just 1 hour; IF one resists the temptation to linger and explore the colonial homesteads, churches, meeting halls, museums, craft, antique and herb shops, and centuries old structures. All framed by rural surroundings brushed in a palette of colorful leaves, stands of maple and pine, and glacially deposited rocks and boulders.
Traversing one of the last unspoiled areas in the northeastern United States, SR-169, edged by dry-stone walls (attesting to agrarian origins), connects historic New England towns, quiet villages, scenic woodlands, ancient farmsteads, calm rivers and rolling hills. It traces through Lisbon, Canterbury, Brooklyn, Pomfret and Woodstock, paralleling the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers and the Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Glimpses of a great blue heron, white-tailed deer, otter, or moose are possible. The valley is inhabited by a diverse abundance of species, sustained by the rich vegetation and abundant water sources. www.bywaysonline.org
Historical opportunities abound along the route:
-Prudence Crandall Museum; the first academy for black women in New England.
– Cleaveland Cemetery
-The Friendship Valley B&B; formerly a stop on the Underground Railroad.
-Pulpit Rock Road Marker, a memorial to the original settlers –the “Thirteen Goers.”
-The Inn at Woodstock Hill,
-The Palmer Memorial Hall .
-The Audobon Baffin Sanctuary- a classroom without walls for the natural world.
Fall is comparable to Sunday. Beloved and much looked forward to, filled with all that is dear to one’s heart, but with the constant subconscious reminder that Monday (winter) is around the corner.
Sweeping landscapes washed with crimson, gold, amber, and bronze; fragrant, fruitful orchards; wildlife gamboling in balmy sunshine; the exhilarating, chilly, bite in the atmosphere; this is Southern New England along SR-169, a passage through the “Last Green Valley.”
Who wouldn’t tolerate Mondays if promised a month of Sundays such as this?