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News Releases

Fall first in Pocahontas County mountains

- October 1, 2009

Take a drive around this 900 square mile paradisiacal expanse and you’ll see how quickly fall has come to the Allegheny Mountains and in particular, Pocahontas County, home to Snowshoe Mountain and Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.

Colors of fall come first to the west side of the Alleghenies because several August mornings temps dipped down to mid and high forties.  While around the region people kicked off covers during the hot and humid nights, people here were sleeping under blankets and taking the chill off with fires in their fireplaces.  Here they know winter can sneak up on them.

Indian Legend has it that celestial hunters slew the Great Bear autumn and the spilled blood turned the leaves red.   Other legends persist as well but we know today that the changes are the result of chemical processes taking place in the tree as the growing season ends. 

In addition to green chlorophyll, leaves also contain yellow or orange carotenoids.  For most of the year, the little bit of yellow/orange carotenoid color is hidden by the huge amounts of green chlorophyll.  But, in the fall, the food factories shut down for the winter.  The chlorophyll breaks down and the green fades away, letting the yellow and orange carotenoids blaze forth, giving autumn its eruption of brilliant color. 
At the same time, other chemical changes occur, giving rise to more pigments which vary from yellow to red to blue.  It is to these changes we owe the reds and purples of sumac, the brilliant orange or fiery red and yellow of sugar maples, and the golden bronze of beech. 

Some excellent driving vantage points to take in the breath-taking color in Pocahontas County   include:  the Highland Scenic Highway, Route 39 from the Virginia line west to Richwood, Route 219 south to Hillsboro out Rt 29 (Lobelia Rd) which crosses Caesars’ Mountain and ending up on Droop Mountain.   Forest Service Road 14 off State Route 28 going east from Bartow offers drivers a kaleidoscope of color. 
Bicycling or walking points are best along the Greenbrier River Trail – access in Marlinton and go either north towards Cass or south towards Caldwell.  Trails along the Scenic Highway also offer riders and hikers a visual color palette. 

According to the WV Department of Forestry, a late spring or severe summer drought can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm, wet spring, favorable summer weather and warm, sunny fall days with cool nights produce the most brilliant autumn colors.
According to Abbey Withrow, President and CEO of the Pocahontas County Tourism office, people begin planning their trip to see the leaves in early to mid August.  “We get dozens of calls from people wanting to know what the best time is to come here and view the beautiful color, “said Withrow.  “We suggest anytime from September 20 to October 10 would be good but also warn that the rain and cold weather could affect those dates.”

For more information about color changes in the high mountains of the Alleghenies – contact the Pocahontas County CVB at 800.336.7009.

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