I thought about calling this one The Greatest Peepshow on Earth, but that is probably a bit too sassy for a family blog. The term struck me funny as I was researching the tradition of leaf-peeping. Leaf peeping is a seasonal activity in which people travel to observe and photograph the colorful change of the autumn foliage.
First, let’s talk about what makes this phenomenon possible. Ever wonder why the leaves change at all? The leaves contain chlorophyll, which is green and helps the tree perform photosynthesis. In autumn, as the tree prepares to go dormant for the winter, the chlorophyll dies. This allows the colors of the carotenoids and anthocyanins to show through. Carotenoids give some leaves yellow or orange color and the anthocyanins are responsible for red. Okay, science lesson over.
As much as I enjoy science, I enjoy the spectacular show of fall foliage every year even more. We missed this time of year immensely when we lived in the south. Every region has its own beauty, but we love the northeast the most. Perhaps that is because it is home. I admit that is part of it, the other part is that it is truly lovely here.
Leaf-peeper is an informal term used in the US and Canada for people who travel to view and photograph the autumn foliage. Leaf peepers are both a boon and a bane for many small towns. They bring in tourism dollars but also increase the traffic.
The prime time to leaf peep depends on geographical location or elevation. Usually, the farther north locations change first. Here in northeast Pennsylvania our leaves typically reach their peak in mid-October. The higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains change before the lower elevations regardless of how far north or south they are.
There are two ways to go leaf peeping. You can take a little drive or you can walk on a trail. There are pros and cons to each one. The pros for walking the trails are ease of taking pictures and being closer to the trees. The only con, which is not really a con, is the need to anticipate the weather. Where I live, mid-October weather can range anywhere from 50 degrees and breezy to 70 degrees and sunny. The best strategy is to layer your clothes and bring a hat and gloves just in case.
The Pros for driving are that you can cover more mileage in a short time, dress for comfort in the car rather than weather, and it’s easier on the kids. We took a drive starting at home and going about twenty minutes north and then back. We brought our new puppy Frankie with us too. The kids enjoyed oohing and aahing at the leaves along with us. We took a few pictures from the car but mostly just enjoyed the experience as we went.
All things considered, leaf peeping is a wonderful autumnal activity for everyone. The traffic on the roads and the trails may be a little busier for a couple weeks, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Small towns like mine love having visitors. Families can start a new tradition by seeing the leaves together. Come see our leaf show, we don’t mind the company!
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