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"My Sorrow, when she’s here with me, Thinks these dark days of autumn rain Are beautiful as days can be; She loves the bare, the withered tree; She walks the sodden pasture lane. …"
Make no mistake, in Shenandoah National Park – and all along the Eastern Seaboard – today we are unequivocally submerged in some “dark days of autumn rain.” But they need not be sorrowful, as Frost word-paints them. If you approach them with the right attitude, rainy autumn days can be causes for great delight. In other words, if you look for color and light, you will find it – even when it’s pouring down rain. The color is coming on in the Park, burning through the rain in fits and starts, like the opening sequence in the TV show Bonanza. In the north district – between the Park entrance in Front Royal, Virginia, to Thornton Gap at route 211 – the leaves are still mostly green. But as you head south toward Thornton Gap you’re going higher elevation wise, and so the color increases, too. (Remember: unlike spring, fall creeps down the mountain.) Larger patches of golden yellows, tangerine oranges, and scarlets greet you as you drive south. In the central portion of the Park – the highest elevations – those M&M colors are even more abundant and dramatic, especially around Skyland and Hawksbill – the Park’s highest peaks. These are hickories and maples, sumac and Virginia creeper. When asked about how Big Meadows’ colors are looking, especially as regards the copious rainfall and ensuing heavy fog, one ranger at Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 on Skyline Drive, in the Park’s center) responded, “The last time I saw the meadow – which has been a few days ago now – it was very colorful – reddish orange from the blueberry bushes, mostly.” The northern end and toward the meadow’s middle is turning red-orange – like a simmering pot of chili, taking on the hues of the spices that make it come alive with flavor. As you head further south along Skyline Drive, into the southern half of the Park, trees are still green, but they’re tinged ever so slightly with the colors of the season – faint bronzes, russets, and greenish-golds.
Still, there’s no denying that if you were to visit Shenandoah National Park at this very moment (Friday afternoon, October 2), much of what you’d see, chromatically speaking, are the silvers, chromes, glimmering pearls, and slick sands and ecrus that days-on-end rain brings to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s raining right now, and it has been raining for most of a week. And it’s not supposed to stop raining for a few more days. If you choose to visit Shenandoah National Park in these “days of autumn rain,” be cautious. Plan wisely. Heed the advice from Park Management posted on our Facebook page earlier this morning: “If you are planning to visit the Park this weekend, be advised that between the rainfall we've already had and what is predicted, we could have hazardous conditions. Power outages and downed trees and debris are common in the predicted situations. You may be required to shelter in place if the Park and/or Skyline Drive have to be closed. This may mean that once here you would not be able to leave. Please keep this and other safety cautions in mind when planning your weekend.” Some parking areas have been closed due to flooding, and some ranger programs have been cancelled because they are not accessible in the rain and mud.
Be careful. Be safe. And take your color where you can find it.
The fall color report for Shenandoah National Park will be updated next Friday, October 9, 2015.
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