Nature's Technicolor Show Viewing Fall Foliage from a Lofty Perch in Maine

By Block, Victor | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Nature's Technicolor Show Viewing Fall Foliage from a Lofty Perch in Maine


Block, Victor, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


A group of travelers from halfway around the world pauses on a Maine mountaintop to take in the view of the fall foliage. Turning to her husband, one of the Japanese visitors calls the scenery "ichiban" - best of its kind.

A list of outstanding U.S. vacation destinations by Rand McNally included the tiny town of Rangeley, Maine, and surrounding countryside. The region ranked among the top 20 in the "scenic beauty" category.

Leaf peepers who leave the crowds behind and wander through the mountains and lake district of western Maine soon encounter the ultimate in fall-foliage thrills. Rangeley (population 1,200), set among rolling hills and surrounded by 111 lakes and ponds (count 'em!), provides the perfect home base for viewing Mother Nature's Technicolor show.

With four-fifths of its land area covered by forests, Maine boasts more acreage in hardwood trees - whose leaves turn the most vivid fall hues - than any other state. Rangeley, with its high elevation and favorable weather conditions, is perfectly situated to explode with the most vibrant of foliage colors.

Perched 2,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest settlement in Maine, Rangeley rests at the perfect altitude for maximum foliage coloration. Five surrounding mountains rise to more than 4,000 feet, and the peaks of 32 others in the area reach more than 3,000 feet. This lofty perch, combined with early local frosts, provides a head start over other foliage destinations.

That gives true aficionados an opportunity to "ooh" and "aah" over the display around Rangeley, then to enjoy the later show at another location.

The preponderance of sugar maple trees in the forests that blanket the mountains and valleys and rim the lakes adds to the spectacle. As evenings cool and days grow crisp, the backdrop of pines and other evergreens is dotted by occasional splashes of radiant reds and buttery yellows. Then, it seems almost overnight, the full palette of brilliant color bursts across the landscape.

Searing scarlets vie for attention with flaming orange. More muted mahoganies, russets and browns add autumnal hues. Fluorescent pinks, and the iridescent gold of leaves clinging to the branches of white birch trees, add shades that would make even the largest box of Crayolas turn green with envy.

Due to its unique combination of favorable factors, the Rangeley region boasts an unusually long foliage-viewing season. The first hints of colors often begin to sparkle by the end of August. The visual symphony builds through mid-September, generally peaking during the last week of that month. Then a gradual mellowing of the vibrant hues attracts seasoned color admirers up to and through the Columbus Day weekend.

No matter when they come, leaf watchers avoid the crowds along interstate highways and close to major population centers. …

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