Smart Travelers Get a Head Start on Fall Weekends in the Mountains

Gardens are bearing the last of their summer gifts. Children awaken early for hours filled with learning. The length of sunlight shortens with each passing day. Some mornings there’s a familiar crisp scent in the air reminding us that fall is fast approaching. Knowing this beloved season is quickly come and gone, it’s never too early to plan your autumn excursion to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

Where to go: The wise fall “leafer” knows to start their mountain getaway in late September and early October where the leaves change earlier in the higher elevations. Some of the most scenic drives in North Carolina begin at the Original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis (near Boone). Our 19th century emporium offers all the goodies you’ll need for a perfect fall weekend. If you’ve forgotten any outdoor necessities for the trip you can grab a jacket, water bottle, hiking boots, and walking sticks too. While you’re there, pick up a handy pocket sized guide: Fall Color Finder, A Pocket Guide to the More Colorful Trees of Eastern North America. Inside the guide, you’ll find a colorful leaf shape index that’s fun for kids to use when guessing the species of brilliant fall trees.

"The main thing with Fall photography is to travel to a variety of places at the right time, motivate yourself to get up early and stay out late."

What to take: Don’t forget your camera on your fall excursion. The heavy summer fog lifts making way for clear vista views of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows as far as the eye can see. One of our Mast photographers suggests, “The main thing with Fall photography is to travel to a variety of places at the right time, motivate yourself to get up early and stay out late, bring a tripod and don't forget the headlamp for the return trip to the car. And remember, there are a lot fewer bugs in autumn, so plan a camping trip and let the whole family experiment with photography. You'll do it again the next year too and when winter sets in, you can look back and enjoy a fine collection of prints from the ultimate photography season!”

2.jpgFor the kids: The breathtaking beauty of nature is everywhere and fallen leaves are yours for the taking. Children love to jump and frolic in leaves, but don’t forget to bring some home with you. Select a few of your favorite ones – flat and thin leaves work best - and sandwich them between waxed paper or newspaper. Place the paper between the pages of a heavy book for one or two weeks, allowing the leaves to thoroughly dry. The Fall Color Finder comes in handy again when your kids revisit their happy memories of the types of leaves they chose during their autumn mountain adventure. You can label the leaves and place them in a scrapbook, laminate them on slices of paper for a festive bookmark or simply tape them to the wall to bring a joyful reminder of your family excursion indoors.

A helpful way to stay abreast of the changing leaves is the Fall Foliage Primer. The Primer offers weekly reports from the High Country as well as several more mountain and foothill communities beginning the third week in September. This newsy online guide offers full color updates and easy directions for the most scenic drives in the area. The Fall Foliage Primer can be found here. Happy leafing!

spinning loader