Pauline Frommer: I need to start this interview by saying that the website of your magazine is, in my humble opinion, the best source on the web for information on New England’s foliage season.
Mel Allen: Thank you and I agree! We are the one stop foliage shop! You go to NewEngland.com and right on the home page we have a whole section just devoted to foliage. We have a live foliage map where people can see in real time how the colors are progressing, we have foliage drives, we have a photo gallery, we have foliage reports, we have all that stuff. Basically, foliage is our Mardi Gras in New England.
Frommer: Well. we always know the date for Mardi Gras. But with the weird weather we’ve been having this year, I’m wondering if we can know with certainty when the leaves will be at their peak? And will foliage season be okay? Are the leaves going to turn colors this year?
Allen: [Laughs] I promise they won’t stay green. We have a foliage expert who is a meteorologist, a science teacher, and a photographer, his name is Jim Salge, and here’s his “elevator pitch” for the coming season: Basically, he says that this season is going to be a tad later than usual—I’m talking a couple of days—but it’s going to last longer. [He also says] that we’re going to see more softer oranges, and more yellows, than the bright, bright crimson reds. There’s also a thinner forest canopy because of weather back in the spring. What he’s saying is this could be a really, really strong foliage year.
Frommer: Um, really? Because the way you just described it, it sounded like it would be a weaker year than usual.
Allen: Well, the red maples and the sugar maples—those might be a little less exuberant. But then you have the beeches, and the birches, and you have all those oranges and yellows, so our expert thinks it will be really good. And who am I to dispute a meteorologist whose life is foliage?
Frommer: I know the season always starts earlier the farther north you go, so looking at Maine, if you’re planning a Maine vacation, when should you get there to see the colors?
Allen: Even far north, you have to talk altitude, too. Let’s say the only time you can go is mid-to-late September. You’ll still see color but you’ll need to go to elevations [in Maine, but also in Vermont and New Hampshire]. If I were going to Maine and had to do so in late September, I’d go to the Moosehead Lake region, to Greenville, or to Baxter State Park, because of the elevation. You’ll need to wait a week or two after that for the valley areas. We get a lot of questions on this and the key thing to remember is there’s not just one perfect time for New England in fall. You have to remember, though, that “peak” [season] is a continuum. All the different places will have peak at different times. You might go to southern Rhode Island and their peak might not be until early November. Use our online site….we get reports all the time and we will have the most current info on where the colors are.