The color show will be vivid this weekend in the higher elevations of North Carolina’s mountains, but anyone looking for peak conditions will have to wait a while, experts say.
Leaf-viewing experts say mountain locations above 3,500 or 4,000 feet were producing the best colors on the second weekend of October.
Soon after, South Carolina’s Upstate will burst with colors.
But be warned: If the federal government shutdown persists, related visitors centers and national forests will be shut down; that especially hits hard in North Carolina.
About 10 percent color is being reported in the area north of Gaffney and Spartanburg. Scott Stegenga, a ranger at Table Rock State Park, said the broad view was still green early this week. But on forest edges, the pale yellow of poplar and the red of dogwoods should provide splashes of color this weekend. The brighter colors of maples and hickories probably won’t peak until the following weekend, or later. Get a preview at the Table Rock web cam at http://www.southcarolina parks.com/trip-planning- tools/photos-videos/ webcams/table-rock-state- park/default.aspx
Asheville and Black Mountain
The website RomanticAsheville.com is steering people to areas 4,000 feet or higher, including Mount Mitchell State Park and the Rough Ridge area near Grandfather Mountain.
There are some colors around Cullowhee and Sylva, but peak conditions are seven to 14 days away.
LEAF’s 37th Festival in Black Mountain is this weekend. The twice-annual four-day cultural music and arts festival takes place through Sunday. Details: http://theleaf.org/
Foothills/Chimney Rock, N.C.
Matt Popowski, a spokesman for Chimney Rock State Park, reports some colors in the higher elevations, with the dogwoods (purple), sourwoods (red) and poplars (yellow) putting on a show.
Only scattered colors are being reported in the Morganton and Rutherfordton areas, with peak conditions seven to 14 days away.
Stone Mountain State Park in Alleghany and Wilkes counties is about 10 days away from good color conditions.
It’s still weeks away from peak conditions in the Charlotte region, and also at Morrow Mountain State Park and in the Uwharrie National Forest northeast of Charlotte.
At Pilot Mountain State Park north of Winston-Salem, park manager Josh Hemric reports conditions are mostly green but some colors are being seen, especially from the maples, hickory, sourwoods and dogwoods.
Valle Crucis and Banner Elk, N.C.
The excitement is mounting in Banner Elk for this year’s Woolly Worm Festival, Saturday and Sunday. During the festival, thousands of folks from surrounding communities and beyond converge to cheer on the adorable worms (actually Isabella tiger moth caterpillars) as they climb up 3-foot lengths of string. Winning worms move on to the next heat until finally one worm wins the grand prize: the honor of predicting the severity of the coming winter and $1,000.
It’s also the same weekend as the 25th annual Valle Country Fair in nearby Valle Crucis, a lush river valley situated along winding two-lane Highway 194. Described as an “overgrown church bazaar,” it attracts nearly 20,000 visitors annually. The fair is a microcosm of Appalachian folk culture with arts and crafts, entertainment from bluegrass to clogging and square dancing, traditional games and regional fare including Brunswick stew and barbecue, homemade pies and jams, and freshly made apple butters and baked goods.
“Fall is a great time to visit the valley. There’s always something going on,” says Sheri Moretz, community relations manager at Mast General Store. The historic store, operating since 1883, is a popular tourist stop in Valle Crucis for its extensive selection of goods, from jams and honey to snow shovels and spittoons. Weekends at the store boast folk and bluegrass music, and lots of valley residents come out for the Great Pumpkin Party, this year on Oct. 28.
Blowing Rock/Boone, N.C.
The next two weekends will be the best time to see fall color in the Boone and Blowing Rock area, a plant expert at Appalachian State University said.
“It’s in pretty high gear right at over 4,000 feet elevation,” said Howie Neufeld, professor of plant eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. “It will continue to increase.”
Trees in Boone, which is around 3,000 feet elevation, should peak next, followed by those in the 2,000 feet zone, then the foothills of Caldwell County.
“The sourwood trees are in full color, and the maples will be coming into their own afterward,” Neufeld adds. “Then, the birches and chestnuts will begin to turn. The last trees to turn colors are the oaks.”
The colors will peak in the far western mountains of the state, toward Cullowhee, a little later in the month than in the Boone area, said Robert Bardon, a forestry and environmental resources professor at North Carolina State University.
“The nice thing about our state is that we have a wider window for fall colors because of our topography,” Bardon said. “The earliest color displays will be at high elevation sites like Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain.”
But any travelers going to the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the leaves needs to plan ahead. The shutdown of the U.S. government means that the visitor facilities along the parkway – and their restrooms – are closed.
Virginia is reporting peak colors in the Peaks of Otter area near Buchanan. Also, conditions are good around Wytheville and Mount Rogers in southwest Virginia.
Contributing: Lenoir, N.C. News Topic; The Charlotte Observer; Joey Holleman, The State