ADIRONDACKS & CATSKILLS — Welcome to the season of thinking up creative synonyms for red, yellow and orange when they're painted across a mountainside -- fall foliage season in upstate New York.
The state's I Love New York tourism promotion program on Wednesday released its first weekly foliage report of the year, reporting that color change is starting in parts of the Adirondacks and Catskills.
Fall visitation to New York is a $27.2 billion annual business, according to I Love New York. And even though that total includes New York City tourists, state officials believe foliage viewing gets people out of their houses and onto upstate roads.
"Fall is an incredibly popular travel time of year, and we know foliage is among the top reasons," said Eric Scheffel, a spokesman for Empire State Development's I Love New York foliage program. "There are farm stands, festivals, all sorts of things, but foliage is a good driver to get people out on the roads."
The state has been releasing a weekly fall foliage report for at least 30 years, with Scheffel overseeing the process for 23 of those. He's predicting a good season, with color already coming on.
"The Adirondacks are seeing early progress, and in the Catskills, Delaware and Sullivan counties have seen the most progress, Scheffel said.
Based on the observations of about 75 foliage spotters statewide, in the Adirondacks, the Old Forge area is at about 30 percent color change, with red, orange, yellow and burgundy leaves appearing. The area around Tupper Lake east through Saranac Lake is at about 20-25 percent change, while the change is as great as 40 percent around Lake Placid and through the High Peaks region.
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in Lake Placid has eight locations for which it provides information to I Love New York, said ROOST spokeswoman Kim Reilly. The foliage reports "represent an important part of our fall content development strategy for the Adirondacks," Reilly said.
ROOST also links the state report to the websites of local communities with visitor accommodations.
"This allows us to provide potential travelers with great, up-to-date foliage progress information via social media and on the sites they use for trip planning," Reilly said.
Because it is featured more prominently on the ROOST website this year, Reilly said the LakePlacid.com foliage report page has more than doubled in pageviews from Sept. 1 to Sept. 13, compared with last year’s traffic for the same time. Adirondack foliage reports are also aggregated at www.adirondacksusa.com.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation, however, is suggesting visitors consider places other than the High Peaks, where DEC officials say overuse of the backcountry and crowding around roadside trailheads have become problems.
"Expect to encounter many people on trails and waters every weekend through the Columbus Day Holiday Weekend," DEC officials cautioned in an advisory issued Thursday. "Boat launches, trailhead parking lots and interior campsites will fill early, especially if the weather is nice. There are many beautiful places to view the fall foliage in the Adirondacks; seek out backcountry recreation opportunities in some of the lesser-used areas."
Outside the High Peaks and heavily used Northway travel corridor, the state report said color has begun appearing in Hamilton County, where the economy is heavily dependent on people coming to visit. State Route 30 runs north-south through the country, as do several east-west highways.
Leaves are showing some signs of turning in the greater Capital Region, with about 20 percent change between Amsterdam and Northville -- also along Route 30.
Scheffel said that once leaf changes start, it takes about two weeks for trees to come to peak color -- the point when watchers reach for their thesauruses' for terms like magenta, citrus, and fiery ochre to describe leaf colors. The peak color then lasts only two to four days before leaves start to fall.
The state is always looking for more volunteer foliage spotters, and anyone interested in volunteering can contact [email protected].
"We have them in each region of the state," Scheffel said. "They range from personnel at tourism agencies to private citizens who go out and report for us because they love doing it."