Fall, as I have previously mentioned, is my favorite season. Spring is bathed in beautiful pastels, summer is a fine time for swimming in a creek, and winter offers superb excuse for curling up inside with a few of those books one intended to read four months ago. But fall – that season of glorious arborous fireworks, celebrating successful end to another trip around the sun, is, as has been said, da bomb.
We took a ride Monday to see a grist mill, about 50 miles from home by the regular highway, in Burnt Cabins. For the scenic trip, take Route 30 west of Chambersburg, then turn north at Fort Loudon on Route 75. It will take you right there. Watch for the signs.
But mostly watch the trees. Their Kodachrome display is nearly done in our part of the Keystone State. It should last about another week, according to Forester John Schwartzer, at Michaux State Forest.
Trees lose their green chlorophyll pigment when days begin to shorten in the fall, but how colorful the display becomes depends largely on rainfall, with more rain offering a more colorful show. With no rain, leaves turn brown quicker; some, like the tulip poplar, seem to go from green to brown to bare in a very short period.
“We didn’t get as much color this year because of that dry period (during the late summer),” Schwartzer told me.
Water shortage has not been reflected at kitchen faucets near my home, but water flow measured near the confluence of Rock and Marsh Creeks, which join to form the Monocacy River at the Maryland state line, are about 15 percent of the median flow recorded during the past 72 years.
An official Drought Watch has been declared by the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection. Thirty-four eastern Pennsylvania counties – roughly those counties along the Maryland border, west to Bedford County and north to Clinton County – have received less than 25 percent of normal precipitation over the past three-to-12 months. (Visit the United States Geological Survey for specific Drought Watch criteria.)
But some rain has fallen in the mountains this fall, leaving us with some pretty amazing colors on some places; in others, not so much – hence the marbled effect of color applied “here and there” along our drive up Pa. 75. Although our course Monday took us past trees nearly stripped of their leafy raiment, there were many areas still in full bloom.
According to the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, color is at peak in, and east of, Adams and Franklin counties. After this week, color seekers will have to head for Maryland, or the Blue Ridge Parkway as cold temperatures and shorter days move south.
On the way back home, we stopped at Fort Loudon just off the south side of Route 30. It is a 127-foot square stockade of vertical logs about 10 feet high. Originally built in 1756, it was built to protect the early settlers from raids by Indians unhappy that immigrants were taking over their land. (Some things, it seems, do not change much.)
A little history and lots of pretty scenery, with fall colors still is marbled through the Tuscarora mountains west of Chambersburg like chocolate through a Bundt cake made for a relaxing drive. Put up the tablets and cell phones and enjoy the show.
The mill was closed until spring, and placed on our travel calendar for next year, but the colors are glowing now, and going, going …