Tune in to autumn sonata

colour palette

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
...With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
- ‘A Vagabond Song’ , by Bliss Carman.

Autumn, or Fall as the Americans call it, is indeed something that stirs the blood with a rich palette of colours in the northern region. It’s a view not witnessed in tropical countries like ours. So, as we drove down from New York on way to New Hampshire on a September morning, hopes were high. And I was not disappointed.

The destination was to the New England territory bordering Canada. Its fabled autumn landscape attracts thousands of visitors every year, to feast on nature’s wonder as the countryside bursts into myriad colours.

The drive gave us an idea of how the leaves were turning from green to shades of warm autumn. But it was only while on the Kancamagus Highway — locals call it ‘the Kank’ — on Route 112 from Boston to New Hampshire that we could really absorb the beauty of the fabled landscape of the American Fall. Route 112 is named after Chief Kancamagus, ‘The Fearless One’. He was the last leader of the Penacook Confederacy, a union of more than 17 New England Indian tribes, first forged by Kancamagus’s grandfather, Passaconaway, in 1627, looking for a peaceful co-existence as Europeans descended on their land. That it did not work out the way it was envisaged is another story.

According to botanists, how brilliant the Fall colours would turn out to be depends on many chemical processes. Take, for example, the red maple leaves. Their hue depends on how much sugar is produced in the leaves and entrapped during the chilly nights. Presence of more sugar means a brighter red hue. The vividness also depends on other factors, like, how much exposure to the sunlight the leaves get, and even moisture from rain.

But Mother Nature has her own secrets too, they admit. The natural phenomenon is not necessarily the same every season. The Fall can actually be a subject of speculation among the locals — are they bright enough, or are they a bit pale this season, etc etc Usually, the peak — when the leaves are at their brightest — is reached around the first two weeks of October.

Fortunately, during our visit, Mother Nature was kind to us, opening up an astonishing palette of colours — on the undulating hills in the distance, on the leaves of trees skirting the highway. And so we joined the groups of ‘leaf-peepers’, as those on trail to discover the beauty of New Hampshire autumn are often called. Quite an appropriate term indeed. For, you peep all the time and discover something new every time. A little stream behind the yellow curtain of trees, or a bridge glimpsed from behind a cluster of flaming trees.

From Boston it takes about two-and-a-half hours to this area. But keep aside a little more time to make stopovers at scenic spots to admire the countryside spread out like a canvas in many hues.

Another high point on this route was a visit to Mt. Washington peak at 6,668 ft. But the steep climb through a privately owned Auto Road (without guard rails!) is not for the faint-hearted. At the toll gate, guards gave an instruction manual on how to drive up on this precarious road.

By the time we arrived at the parking lot at the summit, I was already wondering how to drive back safely. But the view from the top, with hills spread all around, is equally heart-stopping. Here they have an observatory for weather monitoring and a sort of gallery and museum, State Park Sherman Adams Visitor Center, on the flora and fauna of the land.
By the way, when you arrive back at the toll gate, they give you a certificate that you have done it! Another way to travel up there is taking the Mount Washington Cog Railway, which has been operating since 1869. As I looked up, one was coming up the steep path, looking like a crawling caterpillar.

On the way back to Boston, we took another route, equally scenic, through rich agricultural fields dotted with stud farms where horses were grazing or chasing each other, and interspersed with little lakes where the water reflected the rich foliage. Simply put, it was heavenly.

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