The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost – 1874-1963
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Fall is a magical time. Red, yellow, and orange leaves with blue skies and high clouds. A hint of crispness in the air. And all of this set around a black winding road that leads to even more beautiful scenery and romantic adventure.
Most think that Robert Frost was not writing about the perfect fall road trip – but one can easily imagine placing themselves behind the wheel of their favorite vehicle and heading down the road less travelled during this most colorful time of year when the leaves are changing and the flowers still blooming.
We don’t always love Wikipedia, but when they are spot on, they are spot on. Here is how the crowdsourcing encyclopedia of everything defines road trips. “A road trip, sometimes spelled roadtrip, is a long distance journey on the road. Typically, road trips are long distances traveled by automobile.”
Did you know that they also report the world’s first road trip, “took place in Germany in August 1888 when Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz, the inventor of the first patented motor car (the Benz Patent-Motorwagen), travelled from Mannheim to Pforzheim (a distance of 106 km (66 mi)) in the third experimental Benz motor car (which had a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h)) and back, with her two teenage sons Richard and Eugen, but without the consent and knowledge of her husband. Her official reason was that she wanted to visit her mother but unofficially she intended to generate publicity for her husband’s invention (which had only been used on short test drives before), which succeeded as the automobile took off.”
That family went on to be the head of the incredibly successful, to this day, Mercedes Benz. Since then there have been many road trips captured by our imaginations – some Hollywoodized and tragic, like Thelma and Louise or Natural Born Killers, and some more reflected of true events like The Motorcycle Diaries. Today road trips capture our imaginations and our hearts. We jump at the opportunity to set out and explore. And in the fall we also look for the best possible leaf peeping opportunities.
There is a lot of air-wave and internet space taken up by the predictions of where and when the fall leaves will be the most beautiful, or at their peak. As VOX puts it, “literally billions of leaves will change color this fall.” They go on to explain:
When the days begin to grow shorter, deciduous (green leafy) trees start signaling their leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the leaves’ color and photosynthesis. Because the color change is more dependent on light than temperature, it takes place at basically the same time year after year, according to the US National Arboretum. Temperature and weather conditions, though, can impact the intensity of fall colors and how long they linger. They can also subtly affect the timing of when the leaves start to change. And drought can change the rate at which the leaves turn.
More specifically, Smart Traveler breaks down the where and when to help you hone in on that fall trip. They warn that in much of the country, unseasonably warm temperatures are delaying the jump into fall that we would usually see peeking out by Labor Day:
AccuWeather says warm late-summer temperatures seem likely to delay foliage displays in the Northeast, one of the most popular destinations for leaf-peepers. Noting that “warm weather is predicted to stick around across much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic this September,” AccuWeather foresees a “delayed foliage season in the Northeast–though, generally, a vibrant display is predicted, thanks in part to dryness anticipated before the turn of the leaves.” The official foliage forecast from NewEngland.com echoes this prediction, saying that conditions this year are signaling “colors will come in a bit later than the historical average, but they will be longer-lasting ones, given the generally healthy leaves…” Late September to mid-October seem to encapsulate peak time, depending on the area you’re looking to visit.
New England certainly isn’t the only place to leaf peep, but AccuWeather also predicts a “spotty” season in the Pacific Northwest.
So there is definitely some time to pull yourself and your loved ones together and take a visually stimulating road trip.
There is no doubt that heading out of our home region (Pittsburgh), the best bet for foliage tours are to head north and east. Sure, there are plenty of trees down south, both east and west, that will peak with brilliant color. However, there is nothing that compares to New England – and given that New York is only two hours north of us, by all means, if you are planning more than a day trip you should head there.
Some of the best sources of specific trip plans, complete with route, lodging, and food recommendations can be found through NewEngland.com and The Travel Channel, which publishes a list of the best fall foliage road trips (hint, the NorthEast tops the charts) for every region of the country.