Chlorophyll Climate Confusion

I’ve often read “If you want to learn about yourself, TRAVEL!”  But it seems the opposite is true for me.  I learn most about myself when I am immobilized.  Sitting stationary at my friend Deb’s beautiful lakeside cabin for a month spending mornings watching the waterfowl and evenings sitting on the dock listening for loons brought about a lot of introspection…a little glimpse of what my life would be like if I were to ever stop my perpetual motion.   I must be honest in saying “it’s not pretty.”  It didn’t take me long for deadly routines and addictive behaviors to being to show themselves in the form of bingewatching hours of TV.   Within a week, I had memorized the evening lineup, from Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room all the way to Late Night with Seth Meyers.

First signs of color along New Hampshire's Kancamagus Scenic Byway

First signs of color along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Scenic Byway

Lower Falls in White Mountain National Forest.

Lower Falls in White Mountain National Forest.

IMG_2374

In the one month I spent at the cabin, I watched two Cat 5 hurricanes ravage my beloved BVIs.  I watched wildfires wipe out entire sections of forests in the pristine PNW.  I watched bodies being pulled from the rubble of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in my beloved Mexico.  And then, I watched people scramble for their lives in the worst mass shooting slaughter in memory.  And I topped it off each night with 180 hours of real, palpable pain revisited from my childhood, glued to Ken Burn’s PBS Documentary on the Vietnam War.  With each nightly episode, my mood got a little darker as I slid down the rabbit hole.   Time to roll…IMG_2381 IMG_2384

IMG_2390

Here come the busloads of Leaf Peepers!

I hung out in Maine longer than I had anticipated, trying to wait out the fall foliage change.  It was reported to be a particularly vibrant year due to all the rain this past summer.  It was just getting started during my visit to the White Mountains.   On my hut to hut hike in the Presidential Range, autumn was starting to tease with vibrant twinges of red and gold like accessories from the latest fall collection.  So I decided to return to the cabin and wait another couple of weeks.   As much as I flipped for Newfoundland, I don’t expect I will be back in New England for awhile, so I figured I may as well stick around for the fall show.

I stopped along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway for the night at the Hancock Campground.

I stopped along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway for the night at the Hancock Campground.

A river runs alongside the campground. Unfortunately, so do RVs with generators.

A river runs alongside the campground. Unfortunately, so do RV generators.

There are signs throughout the park that say "Don't peel the Birch bark. Which of course makes me want to peel the Birch bark!

There are signs throughout the park that say “Don’t peel the Birch bark.” Which of course makes me want to peel the Birch bark!

Full moon rising over river that runs through Hancock Campground.

Full moon rising over river that runs through Hancock Campground.

But time is running out, as I need to start my southerly migration soon.  Meanwhile, news reports continue to say the foliage change is late this year….much later than usual.  We should be approaching peak season along the Maine / New Hampshire state line about now, but only a few trees are starting to reveal a hint of their typical vibrant colors.

Driving northbound on New Hampshire's Hwy 93 through Franconia Notch.

Driving northbound on New Hampshire’s Hwy 93 through Franconia Notch.

IMG_2454

In leaving my friend Deb’s cabin after enjoying my own version of “Walden” for a month, I decide to make my southerly migration via the circuitous route up through Vermont.   Surely, if there is going to be fall color, it will be Vermont!  After all, the first image that comes to mind at the mere mention of the state is the splendor of autumn….the radiant reds, brilliant oranges, and dazzling golds of the sugar maples surrounding tall spires of New England churches, lining Main Streets of quaint, Norman Rockwell towns, brisk breezes billowing fallen leaves behind as I drive along scenic lanes.

Lyndon is the "covered bridge capital" of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. This one is the Sanborn Bridge, built in 1869 and moved across town in 1960.

Lyndon is the “covered bridge capital” of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. This one is the Sanborn Bridge, built in 1869 and moved across town in 1960.

Sanborn Bridge, side view.

Sanborn Bridge, side view.

Chamberlin Bridge,

Chamberlin Mill Bridge, 1881.

So I head out via the “Kanc” as it is locally known, the Kancamagus Scenic Byway across the White Mountains National Forest.  This 36 mile stretch of winding highway through eastern New Hampshire is known for its leaf peeping potential.  From there, my plan is to head north through Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, then across to Montpelier and Stowe.

School House Bridge, built in 1879.

School House Bridge, built in 1879.

Back side of Schoolhouse Bridge.

Back side of Schoolhouse Bridge.

Martin Bridge, built 1890 for access to nearby farm.

Martin Bridge, built 1890 for access to nearby farm.

Most covered bridges were built for use on public highways. This is the last original "farm bridge," built for agricultural access remaining in Vermont.

Most covered bridges were built for use on public highways. This is the last original “farm bridge” remaining in Vermont, built solely for agricultural access.

The early September drop in temperatures across Maine and Vermont got the color change off to a good start, bringing promise of a banner year.  Foliage forecasters were hopeful that the cool, wet summer would produce spectacular October foliage.

But then the unimaginable happened….three straight record-breaking days of temperatures over 90 degrees!   Instead of sipping hot apple cider and pulling out the sweaters, I find myself sweating more than the glass holding my ice water.   Yep, in the northernmost corner of the US, just minutes from the Canadian border, we’re having an “unpresidented” heat wave.  Complete Chlorophyl Climate Confusion!   The bizarre weather patterns that had brought me blue skies and shorts weather atop Mt Washington, a summit otherwise known for the “worst weather in the world,” had also robbed autumn of its colorful cloak.

Waterbury, VT, home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

Waterbury, VT, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Ben & Jerry's got their start in 1978 with a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State, and a $12K investment to open their first scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT.

Ben & Jerry’s got their start in 1978 with a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State, and a $12K investment to open their first scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT.

B&J's sold out to Unilever in 2000, and is now the fourth best selling ice cream in the world.

B&J’s sold out to Unilever in 2000, and is now the fourth best selling ice cream in the world.

Six thousand gallon tanks hold milk, cream, sugar.

Six thousand gallon tanks hold milk, cream, sugar.

Fall foliage needs a special combination to put on a spectacular show; longer nights and classic fall weather…warm (not hot) sunny days and crisp, cool nights above freezing.  When foliage begins to change, trees cease operations in their “food factories.”  It’s that loss of chlorophyll that reveals the orange and gold pigments in the leaves.  But while most of those pigments are present throughout the year, it takes the cooler weather to activate the further chemical changes, the production of red anthocyanin pigments. This traps sugars (i.e. in sugar maples) to give the brilliant orange, red, and purples of a quintessential autumn in New England.

Factory tours are $4, but include samples at the end.

Factory tours are $4, but include samples at the end.

This is the "Flavor Lab" where new flavors are tested. The current flavor is "Maple Walnut," made with local Vermont maple syrup. It is the only maple ice cream I've ever tasted where the maple flavor didn't taste fake.

This is the “Flavor Lab” where new flavors are tested. The current flavor is “Maple Walnut,” made with local Vermont maple syrup. It is the only maple ice cream I’ve ever tasted where the maple flavor didn’t taste fake.

If the samples are not enough, there is an onside Scoop Shop, selling the "Vermonster," a 12,000 bucket of 20 scoops, 4 bananas, 3 cookies, 1 brownie, fudge and caramel, nuts and candy toppings. (groan!)

If the samples are not enough, there is an onside Scoop Shop, selling the “Vermonster,” a 12,000 bucket of 20 scoops, 4 bananas, 3 cookies, 1 brownie, fudge and caramel, nuts and candy toppings. (groan!)

The "Cowmobile" which gives out free cones one day a year.

The “Cowmobile” which gives out free cones one day a year.

Due to the heat wave, my fall foliage had been foiled! Or at least temporarily.  Foliage forecasters used words like “fried” and “crispy” to describe the early turning leaves, now brown and fallen to the ground.  What color change left on the trees was now muted tones….hills of green, dotted with a few dull browns and dusty oranges.

Ben & Jerry's has quite an impressive solar array.

Ben & Jerry’s has quite an impressive solar array.

Behind the factory is their "Flavor Graveyard," honoring the Dearly De-pinted flavors.

Behind the factory is their “Flavor Graveyard,” honoring the Dearly De-pinted flavors.

Sad I never got to try this one, "Schweddy Balls," based on the SNL live skit staring Alec Baldwin as baker, Pete Schweddy. It was retired due to pressure from Walmart and the "Million Moms" group.

Sad I never got to try this one, “Schweddy Balls,” based on the SNL live skit staring Alec Baldwin as baker, Pete Schweddy. It was retired due to pressure from Walmart and the “Million Moms” group as being too risque for mainstream marketing.

After reports of traffic jams in and out of Stowe and hour long waits before 11:00am at the microbrewery I planned to visit, Alchemist, I decide to forgo the obstacle course of Stowe, and instead turn south at Montpelier.  However, all is not lost, as I pay a visit to nearby Waterbury’s most famous residents….Ben and Jerry.  After all, nothing says “autumn” like an ice cream cone on a 90 degree day….in October…in Vermont.

Though now owned by a corporation, the company has maintained its focus on social issues, most recently participating in the Climate Change March on Washington with the slogan, "If it's melted, it's ruined."

Though now owned by a corporation, the company has maintained its focus on social issues, most recently participating in the Climate Change March on Washington with the slogan, “If it’s melted, it’s ruined.”

Hut to Hut with the Presidents

During my years living in New York, I always felt like my life as a Manhattanite was a little different than others.  But then that’s what makes Manhattan so great! EVERYONE is “a little different.” 😉 Unlike most of my friends, my closet contained more camping and hiking gear than it did designer shoes. That should have been a clue.

I was also a proud card-carrying member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Continue reading

At Home with the Loons

First and foremost, thanks to everyone for their very kind comments regarding my “Canadian Summer Series.”  There is nothing so gratifying to one who loves writing and photography than for someone to say “You took me there.” Every last one of your comments were a welcome companion as I charted my solo course through unfamiliar territory.

On a recent visit to the local Chinese Food take out joint, I received an amusing question in my fortune cookie Continue reading

Border to Border

So here I sit at another border altogether, trying to figure out how to catch the blog up to “real time.” Yes, it’s behind, but I was determined to finish all the posts I had started while meandering through Mexico. To those readers who stuck with me through two months of making Mexican memories, I thank you.

And now, I’m knocking on the door of our northern neighbor, Canada, knowing that as soon as I cross the border into the “Land of Marginal Internet,” the blog is going to be behind again. Continue reading

Turnaround Trifecta

One would think a month living in the Winnie parked down on the farm in Texas would be enough time to get the blog caught up.  But there were farm chores to do, families to visit, projects to complete, and adventures to experience.

I hauled off and burned enough tree trunks and limbs to warrant notifying the fire department beforehand.  I reconciled a few storage sheds and helped my brother Don install some 8’ X 12’ sliding doors on the equipment shed.   I got both my passport and my tetanus shot renewed for another ten years.  And got my Mom’s dog Annie  Continue reading

Waltz Across Texas

The Winnie traveled across ten different states in 2016, the last being the least desirable. No offense to my family, athough Texas is my birthplace, anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan for many reasons. If my Mom and niece would only relocate, I’d be like Thelma and Louise, driving across the four contiguous states just to avoid driving through it.

It’s 500 miles from the state line to the family farm, every one of them Continue reading

Soaks, Snow, and a Sea of Sand

The US Dept of Interior recently posted on Facebook, “Moonlight brightens snowy dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Experience the park after dark by stargazing, listening for owls along the foothills or going for a full moon walk on the dunes. Cold temperatures are the norm in winter, so bundle up with warm clothing and sturdy footwear for an unforgettable nighttime adventure.”

I find this an odd promotion, considering the park is miles from nowhere, and they have closed the one and only campground within the park.  Continue reading

The Roads to Chaco

I’ll admit I’d never even heard of Chaco Culture National Historic Park until I visited Mesa Verde National Park in 2015 when a Ranger on one of the guided tours said “If you think this is something, you should visit Chaco Canyon!”    So to learn that it was once considered the center of all ancestral Puebloan culture came as quite a surprise.   How could this ancient hub of civilization, just one state over from my childhood home, be a complete unknown to me?  After all the road trips of my youth across the great southwest, Continue reading

If A Tree Falls in the Forest…

NOTE:  Thanks for all your wonderful comments and support on my “Dear Mr. President” post.   I’ll get back to life in Mexico soon, but first, I have a few posts to catch up on, lest I forget the last days of my southerly winter migration…

If a tree falls in the forest and I can’t remember seeing it, does it still count?  If I visited a national park but can’t remember a thing about it, does it still count?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a national park junkie.   I have lofty aspirations to visit all 59 with the official “Park” status. Continue reading

One Last Look Over the Rim

Just how long can one stretch out a story about the Grand Canyon, one might ask?  Well, longer than the average visitor spends on the edge of the rim…

I decide to stay one more day on the snowy South Rim, after all, no one seems to notice that the Winnie is taking up space in the empty Backcountry Office parking lot.  Continue reading