Going out in a blaze of glory

By Posted on Oct 12 2018 | By

Chasing fall foliage in the Old Dominion

Virginia’s beauty is renown. From its beaches, to the Piedmont, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, planning a day or weekend getaway is a challenge handily met.

The question is where to go?

If the urge to hit the road strikes during the fall color season, the answer is almost a universal, “to the mountains.” With the Appalachians running the entire western spine of the Commonwealth, stunning views coupled with rural drives make heading westward an obvious choice.

This is particularly true for citizens of Fauquier County who live less than an hour from the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park. The Elysian Fields.

But the question in many minds this year might be, “Will the monsoon-like spring and summer deaden the fall colors?” The short answer is, not likley.

In fact, October’s glory is already beginning to emerge on the high peaks of the Blue Ridge. Soon enough it will be showcasing reds, golds and yellows as they tumble down the slopes and into our backyards and local parks.

Temperatures are the driving force for a colorful display of autumn colors. The cooler the better. Evening temperatures in the 50s and 60s will accelerate the magical chemistry behind foliage.

Why the color?
At its height, fall’s forest fireworks seemingly creates abundant colors out of thin air. Where does this artist’s palette spring from? It’s been there all the time but the leaves’ work ethic simply hid it from view.

During the summer months each leaf is a wee food factory. The process occurs deep within each cell of the chlorophyll filled leaf. Sunlight strikes the chlorophyll triggering a transformation of carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates containing sugars and starch. Tree food.

During the vigorous growing season, the vibrant colors of fall are simply masked by the all-important chlorophyll. But when temperatures take a dip, so does the green machine’s activity level. Presto. Autumnal glory emerges.

The completion of this intricate process occurs when a special layer of cells develops at the base of each leaf stem. Slowly it weakens the bond between leaf and branch and the next thing you know we’re all raking piles of detritus off our lawns.

The circle is then completed. Like all living things, life springs from the earth and ultimately returns to its resting place.

Yet to contemplate too heavily on the science behind the beauty of an autumn landscape, is to lose sight of the joy of an afternoon drive through the countryside.

Where to go
The obvious answer is the mountains. But there’s one caveat to a day serenely driving the nearby Skyline Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway further south. Everybody else has the same idea. Yes, the views are impressive but a bumper-to-bumper caravan might not induce the relaxed frame of mind you’re seeking.

Consider an alternative. Head west on Route 211, north up Route 17 or south on Route 29. When you’ve pulled away from the population centers, select any secondary road off the main highway and let the endless backcountry roads take you wherever. The goal is to stay off the four lane highways as long as possible. Create your own custom designed backcountry road excursion.

One of the modern marvels of today’s technology is the GPS systems embedded in our vehicles, stand-alone auto units or cell phones. The fear of getting lost in rural areas is now a thing of the past. You can invest in a spirit of adventure without the stress of constantly asking, “Where are we?”.

The beauty of these day trips is experiencing rural Virginia at its finest. Since minimal traffic will be encountered, you’ll find few vehicles to deal with so you can amble along at 25 to 35 miles per hour; even slower when you hit gravel country lanes. Simply pull over when a local comes up behind you.

The payoff comes as you pass bucolic farms and pastures with peaceful grazing livestock, rolling hills with views up to the Blue Ridge and endless ponds and lakes. And of course, the amazing fall foliage.

With the density of wineries in our nearby counties you’ll likely stumble upon an occasional “grape shop” where you can take a break and responsibly enjoy its vineyard products and pastoral views.

Priming the pump
Here are just few suggestions for launching your private travel agency:

*Take Route 211 west past Amissville and take a right onto Poes Road South. Travel about four miles and take a right onto Crest Hill Road and then an immediate left onto Poes Road North. You’ll emerge on Rt 522 north outside of Flint Hill. Rappahannock Cellars is three miles north on Route 522.

*Take Route 211 west to Little Washington. In the village take a right onto Main Street and then a left onto Harris Hollow Road and travel Harris Hollow till it becomes Gid Brown Hollow Road and ends at Route 211. Quievremont Winery is on your left just before Route 211.

*Take Route 17 north to a right on to Route 245 to The Plains. Take a right on Route 55 and then an immediate left onto Halfway Road. Be adventurous here and take any upcoming left of your choosing to wander through beautiful horse country.

*Take Route 29 south and take a right onto to Freeman’s Road near Remington. The goal here is to simply “get lost” in the alternately open and forested landscape with several country road options to make it happen. Remember: your GPS is you bail out buddy.

These are just a few of the dozens of “carriage rides” awaiting spirited leaf peekers. Chances are you’ll develop some favorites you’ll return to time and again.

Now grab those car keys and start adventuring.


Published in the October 10, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.        


Categories : HAGARTY TALES