Was it only my friend Mila and I who noticed the leaves changing color this fall? Where was everyone looking? Were they glued to their television sets and election news feeds? This is a spectacular year for colored leaf displays in every corner of Marin County.
With several mini-climates, Marin features an assortment of wonderful colors brought on by the shorter, cooler days. In the avenues of trees along the sidewalks and in the hills where people love to hike, you’ll find aspens, cypress, and especially the maple trees take on spectacular colors, changing day by day
One September many years ago, my sister Stella and I — neither of us being resident in the United States — arranged to meet in Boston and travel to New Hampshire and Vermont and go ‘leaf peeking’ where entire forests are transformed from vibrant greens to a color wheel of reds, rust pink, orange and yellow during the fall.
Travelers from all over the world arrive to witness this phenomenon joining with a crowd of Americans who take leave from work to follow the colors.
Another year, my lifelong friends Buddy and Ruth, invited me to meet in Seattle and accompany them on a memorable drive through Washington State and British Columbia to enjoy the fall colors in the forests on our journey north. The journey was an easy one for them from Edmonton, Canada and me from San Francisco.
Both these journeys allowed me dedicated time spent with people I love, enjoying the spectacle of nature. Presently I am living in Marin county, North of San Franciso, an area not especially known for its autumn colors — and in a year not particularly celebrated for its traveling possibilities!
But travel isn’t required this year to see gorgeous fall colors. What happened this year? Apparently, we had the right combination of temperature and rainfall during the summer months that produced a spectacular fall season… it was so beautiful, I was easily reminded of my earlier trips to experience leaf peeking.
This is the miracle of nature, where chemical processes set in motion by the cooling weather and lower temperatures trigger the brilliant colors. With less sunlight, the chlorophyll responsible for making the leaves green is depleted, causing the sugars trapped in the leaves to take over and release the colors. It is as if a master artist is changing the landscape with daubs of red, orange, yellow, and purple pigments.
Marin County in particular enjoys a mild climate and the leaves hang on longer than in other parts of the country, giving those sugars extra time to bloom. When the trees do lose their leaves it happens overnight, all at the same time — as if someone issued a decree, confirming the show is over until the spring when there will be new shoots of green full of fresh chlorophyll, to start the cycle of nature over again.