FALL became an obsession last September when the desert glare had taken its toll on me since early April, so two weeks into September I headed to Missouri to wrap up some family business and hoped to miss some heat. Missouri was enjoying an Indian Summer, the Amish reported sleeping on their front porches in July and August when the humidity turns deadly, fall started with one leaf and then another. The first weekend in October the leaves started changing but most of the locals complained the lack of rain had muted the color and it was a sleeper at best. I kept hoping so I decided to take a road trip to the Missouri River thinking that might give me more of a overall picture of the beginnings of fall in the Midwest. I found more and brighter colors in a region where more rain had fallen over the summer.
The beauty of the Mid West is its forests, lots of different trees, walnuts, oaks, maples, birches, spruce and a rainbow of color. As a photographer moves west the altitudes and species of trees, change vary and flat out disappear. The pioneers used to cut extra axles for the trip west mid-Kansas, cause they knew trees where going to thin out. When I hit Flagstaff, Arizona mid-October, it was still warm but within a couple days the weather changed.
The Aspen around the peaks had started probably the week before but the next layer up the mountain was picture perfect. There is some Oak in the Flagstaff area but Oak Creek Canyon would be best if it wasn’t choked with Phoenicians looking for color. Instead try the old army supply road from Williams to Jerome via Perkinsville, before you drop down to the river, many roads lead off to richer views. Fall comes first to the desert the last weekend in November, places like Maple Camp near Portal, New Mexico in the Chirichuas is a great place to find Maple reds. Tucson won’t see fall until year end, the historic row of Cottonwoods at Old Fort Lowell on Tucson’s eastside, has colored every year just before New Years…FALL finally arrived three and a half months later.
This Fall Color Hot Line can give you and idea of how soon color is beginning to show, where and what altitudes and give yourself a sense of where it is heading and when it will be starting in specific areas. There was a photographer who carried self-addressed post cards, pre-stamped so when he got an idea. He would write it down on the postcard and then ask the farmer to stick it in the mail when he ready to harvest his field, so the photographer would have a good chance of a fall treeline with a farmer working in his field in the background. He had cards arriving all the time and an idea attached to each one.
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