During my recent hike in Shenandoah National Park along the Appalachian Trail, I came upon a tight crook in the trail that carried Ivy Creek downhill amid a flurry of gold, red, orange and yellow leaves of fall.
It was that stretch of trail that convinced me that there can be no more spectacular setting than that of the hardwood forests of the East come fall. Unless, of course, it's a landscape set ablaze by the pastel daubs of spring wildflowers in places such as Glacier, Saguaro or Canyonlands national parks.
Which is more colorful and delightful? That's a tough question.
In Shenandoah in mid-October you encounter the bright red leaves falling from Black Gum trees, gold-hued hickory leaves, orangish sugar maple leaves, and yellow tulip poplar leaves. And rising above this colorful forest duff are asters in full bloom, while hugging the trail are verdant mosses and ferns. Adding a rich mahogany to this landscape are millions of acorns striving to set a root before it's too late.
But spring into summer has its own rainbow signature: the red-flowered ocatillos in Saguaro, vibrant colors of the aptly named claret-cup cactus in Canyonlands, the pastels of lupines drifting on the breezes at Acadia National Park, blue columbines in Rocky Mountain National Park, and meadows of glacier lilies, paintbrush, pom-pom-like bear grass, and wandering daisies atop Logan Pass in Glacier.
Which do you prefer? The colors of fall in the national parks, or those of spring?