WILD GEORGIA: Fall leaf color brings appreciation of seasonal change

Fall leaf color as seen from Hogpen Gap along the Richard Russell Scenic Highway in North Georgia. (Charles Seabrook for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Fall leaf color as seen from Hogpen Gap along the Richard Russell Scenic Highway in North Georgia. (Charles Seabrook for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Charles Seabrook

Credit: Charles Seabrook

I could not conceive living in a place such as a tropical isle where I can’t see, feel or even smell the changing seasons. For me, each season has its own charm and beauty; I love them all.

But perhaps no other time of year is seasonal beauty more pronounced than now, when deciduous hardwoods sport their breathtaking fall colors of every hue from bright red-violet to yellow-green. The colors make North Georgia’s mountains a feast for the senses. Nearly every peak, valley and slope shimmer now with vibrant reds, yellows, golds and oranges — made even more brilliant when drenched by the sun’s rays.

To savor this annual natural spectacle, I made my yearly leaf-watching trek last weekend to several prime fall foliage spots in mountainous northeast Georgia’s White and Union counties, known for their magnificent fall colors.

My first stop was at Smithgall Woods State Park, where I strolled along picturesque Dukes Creek with its banks sporting a kaleidoscope of magnificent tints. Along the way, I found a bonus — a patch of blooming bottled gentians, some of my most favorite late-autumn wildflowers. The rich blueness of their blooms glowed like neon lights on the forest floor.

After that, I drove the 18-mile-long Richard Russell Scenic Highway that offered spectacular views of mountain slopes and vistas sparkling with color. Nothing could be more beautiful, I thought.

But I found just as much splendor at my final stop, Vogel State Park, where my breath was snatched away by the radiant fall colors reflected in the mirrorlike water of Lake Trahlyta. The mesmerizing scene lured me too long, and I had to drive home in the dark on twisting mountain roads.

I’m going out on a limb, but I predict there’ll still be good fall color this weekend in the mountains at lower elevations. At high elevations (above 3,000 feet), the colors may be slightly past their prime, but still worth a look.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The Leonid meteor shower, visible next week, will peak at a maximum of 20 meteors per hour on Wednesday night in the northeast. The moon will be full on Friday, Nov. 19. A partial lunar eclipse will be visible beginning at 2:18 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19. Venus is high in the west around dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are in the west at dark.

Charles Seabrook can be reached at charles.seabrook@yahoo.com.