Monongahela Forest Ranger Cynthia Sandeno’s September Report

“Over the last few weeks, the weather has begun to change in the mountains. We are lucky enough to live in one of those places where Nature has one last fling before she settles down into her winter sleep. As the days grow shorter and the temperatures become crisp, the quiet green pallet of summer foliage is beginning to transform into a vivid pallet of reds, oranges, golds and browns, signaling the change of seasons to fall. And this whole process starts with a very small molecule called chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is what gives the leaf its green color. Each leaf has small amounts of other colors in it year round. During the spring and summer, chlorophyll overpowers all the other colors that are in the leaf, and all we see are shades of green. Yet as the fall days begin to get shorter, the production of chlorophyll slows down and eventually comes to a halt. And these other colors begin to take center stage, and we are treated to a tapestry of colors.”

“There are three factors that influence the autumn leaf color: the leaf pigments; the length of light; and the weather. Weather can certainly effect how vibrant the colors appear.  So if the weather is too hot or too cold, the leaves might not be as bright as they could be.  If you end up not getting enough water to the trees, the leaves will die quickly and fall to the ground. If there is too much rain, the tree won’t receive enough sunlight and the leaves will not be as brightly colored. The best weather for brilliant color in the fall are sunny warm days with cool nights.  And what an array of colors we get when we get those conditions.  Oaks turn red, brown or russet; Hickories become golden brown; Aspin and Yellow Poplar turn golden yellow; our Dogwoods turn red and Beech becomes a light tan; and Sourwood and Black Tupelo become crimson. Now our Maples really differ in their color based upon their species. We get a brilliant scarlett from Sugar Maple; we get an orangish red color from Black Maple, and sometimes even yellows. Stripped Maple becomes almost colorless, the leaves the leaves from some of our elm species actually just shrivel up and fall.”

“Now here in beautiful Pocahontas County, we can expect the peak of our fall season to arrive in late September or early October. And nestled in the North-central Highlands of West Virginia, the Monongahela National Forest showcases the spectacular colors of fall. Camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking, taking peaceful drives along our country roads, and visiting the local festivals, are all wonderful ways to enjoy the Monongahela in the fall. Whether you are an avid hiker, camper or you just want a gorgeous drive, here are a couple of options you may want to think about. At the top of the list is always a nice drive along the Highland Scenic Highway. This road extends for forty-three miles from Richwood to U.S. route 219. It has developed scenic overlooks, comfortable rest stops, bathrooms and a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The elevation actually ranges from a little over two thousand feet it Richwood to over forty-five hundred feet along State Route 150, so this means you can enjoy the change in the colors for weeks along this highway. And why not plan your trip to coincide with the Cranberry Mountain Natures Center’s Shindig. It is going to be held on Sunday, September 24th and this traditional Appalachian festival features live folk dancing, music and artisans, and you could follow-up this Shindig with a nice drive along the Williams River.  If you can’t make the Shindig, then you might want to plan your trip along the Highland Scenic Highway for September 30th so you can enjoy the fall colors and also enjoy the Autumn Harvest Festival , also known as the Road kill Cook-off, in Marlinton, West Virginia. This annual fall festival transforms Marlinton into a bustling carousel of music, fun and frivolity. You can follow-up this festival with a drive across 219 up to Droop Mountain, enjoying the scenery the entire trip. If you do stop at the festival, please stop in and say hello. The Marlinton –White Sulphur Ranger District will be hosting a booth at this event with fun, free activities for children of all ages. We’ll be talking about all of the interesting critters that people will be cooking up at the Festival.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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