Monday, October 1, 2012

The Big Tooth Maple

Are you starting to dream about the feel of a cool autumn breeze? To hear the crackle of leaves beneath your feet? To smell the smoke of an evening campfire?

Imagine those autumnal pleasures and destinations like Vermont and New Hampshire come to mind...but Texas? The Lone Star State greets the changing of the seasons, though, with its own color and festivals that give a Texas-size welcome to fall. Small towns throughout the state put he finishing touches on harvest festival plans, and bed and breakfasts get ready for a peak tourism season, and hotlines are making preparations to field questions for just where to spot the best fall foliage.

And just where do you find the best fall colors? Unlike its northern neighbors, however, Texas doesn't have vast displays of color but rather pockets of autumnal glory throughout the region. "There are a lot of jewels here and there," points out Howard Rosser, executive director of the East Texas Tourism Association, an agency that promotes the area that boasts the lion's share of Texas' fall foliage.

West of Austin, the Hill Country puts on a show of color thanks to the big tooth maples, sumacs, sycamores, china berries, and cottonwoods. These trees begin to blush with fall's first flush as the days start to grow shorter and the nights a little cooler. Farther west, the Guadalupe Mountains are home to the magnificent McKittrick Canyon, where walnut, ash, oak, and the Texas madrone color the landscape.

One of the longest running hotlines is operated by the East Texas Tourism Association. "We've been doing this for 30 years," says Rosser, who got the idea on a trip to New England. "We invite people in the region to call in and report on the leaves. You have to have an update to find the best color, you just can't go out driving."

But don't pick up the phone just yet. "People start wishing for cooler weather," says Rosser. "But start calling about the end of October. Usually the color peaks from around the 11th to the 18th of November."
And don't always look to the weather to guess whether the upcoming months will mean a colorful fall or not. As Rosser says, "You just can't outguess Mother Nature."