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"And myriad leaves, on which the Summer wroteHer blushing farewell, at my feet were strown."
But take heart: not all of the autumn leaves in Shenandoah National Park will be at your feet this weekend. Some of them are still on the trees, especially in the lower elevations of the southern half of the Park. The fall color is past its pinnacle, but there are still some heart-stopping displays from the overlooks and summits, as you gaze out onto the lower hills and hollows. Not to cause a panic, of course, but: hurry. It’s called fall for a reason – it could have been called “rush” – and though there’s still quite a bit of color to be seen in this Blue Ridge national park, you need to pounce on it before it’s all gone.
Some highlights to look for this weekend:
•Bacon Hollow Overlook, at mile 68.9 on Skyline Drive, offers what has to be THE BEST VIEW on the East Coast today. There certainly couldn’t be a prettier one. The greens are gone throughout the Park, except for pines and the few firs and spruce found here. The loud neons have mostly grown quiet, contemplative, except for some outrageous sumacs south of mile 65. From Bacon Hollow Overlook, you’ll look out onto an expanse of classic late-fall hues – russets, maizes, chili powder reds, and ochres. But when those colors are kissed by the sun – glorious! And there are a lot of them, as Bacon Hollow Overlook offers a wide, two-hilled outlook that will make you feel like an explorer topping a mountain and seeing the big scene below for the very first time.
• The Point Overlook, mile 55.3, shows off some of the prettiest yellow-topped hickories and tulip trees, just barely holding onto the still vivid color at their very crowns. The view from there looks like an assortment of upturned artist's brushes just barely dipped in marigold-hued paint.
• Near mile 78, on the east side of Skyline Drive, are two small trees – a red sugar maple and a sassafras – that, standing together side by side, look like bottles of ketchup and mustard on a diner table.
• Near mile 72 there are vines growing up several trees on the Skyline Drive’s west side – greenbrier? wild grapevines? – the most artificial color of green you could fathom showing up in nature. It looks as if those trees decided to dress themselves as green Martians for Halloween.
• Here is an epiphany (at least it was for this observer today): the highway engineers who designed Skyline Drive 80-plus years ago seemed to have perfected their skills of folding the scenic highway most attractively into the mountains by the time they built the Drive down south; driving the Drive is a grand experience in the central and north sections, too, but below Swift Run Gap at route 33, it approaches the surreal. Motoring along Skyline Drive’s southern third, especially if you’re heading north, is going to give you the most dramatic, glamorous, “Oh, my!” views. You round the turn just before Swift Run Gap Overlook, and the mountainside almost hits you in the face with its ruddy and golden good looks. It can be overwhelming, distracting – Would you look at that! – so drive carefully. When it gets to be too much and you start to lose focus, pull off at an overlook and feast your eyes on the magnificent views while your car is parked.
This is the end of the season, and the color is winding down. But it’s not over yet. Come to Shenandoah National Park this weekend and get up close and personal with its august autumn beauty while you still can.
We hope you have enjoyed these fall color reports and that they have helped you in planning your visits to this beautiful national park. This will be the last fall color report of this year.
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