by Elizabeth McBride
Special Projects Manager
Now that fall is here, both natives to Western North Carolina and tourists are beginning to take advantage of the activities surrounding the new season.
Every year, millions of tourists visit WNC to see the spectacle that Ashevillians naturally take advantage of– the changing of the leaves. Having the Blue Ridge Parkway connect to major roads such as Hendersonville Rd. and Brevard Rd., the Parkway is celebrated by local residents as an opportunity to experience acclaimed travel-worthy views and attractions that are both family and budget-friendly.
On blueridgeparkway.org, a “Fall Color” tab is available for users to look for anticipated dates that the leaves are supposed to show the most color. This tab also gives information about why fall colors vary from year to year and provides previous fall color reports.
Information on the earlier reports spans from certain dates and mile markers where visibility was high to the species of trees that displayed the greatest color transformation
According to virtualblueridge.com, in 2012, the date that was chosen as the best day of fall for the transition of the leaves across the 500 miles of the BRP was on Oct 18. (more below)
- The broad, flat part of a leaf is called the blade.
- The reason leaves fall off in the autumn is due to the water they contain.
- There are different chemicals in leaves that make them turn different colors. Different trees produce different color leaves.
- Leaves alone account for 75% of our solid waste in the fall.
- The oils in some leaves are said to have healing properties. Used in aromatherapy to alleviate headaches and repel insects.
- A henna leaf can be used as a temporary tattoo.
- Leaves are green in summer because they absorb chlorophyll from wavelengths from the sun.
October is the busiest month for traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway, averaging about two million visitors. This is the month that we get the most tourists because it is when the leaves start to change and really show dramatic coloration,” Communications Coordinator of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association Ali Mangkang said.
In 2012, the Blue Ridge Parkway was the most-visited part of the National Park System, ahead of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and even the Lincoln Memorial.
We see some of the best fall color in the region due to the high elevation. This is a wonderful place to enjoy the scenery, hiking, and many other activities on the parkway,” Mangkang said.
Additionally, Asheville offers other outdoor activities to experience the fall such as drives, and hikes, ziplining, and even aerial options like skydiving and hot air balloon rides.
Erin Hebe, reservations agent at Navitat Canopy Adventures says that they also get the most business during October and the fall.
Ziplining is a very unique way to see the leaves because one minute you are literally in the tress and then the next you are zipping over valleys where you can see all of the mountains and the landscape around you,” Hebe said.
As of right now, Navitat only has one course, which is about three hours long and contains 10 ziplines, two rappelling experiences, two sky bridges, and three short hikes. They are in the process of building a new course, which will be ready by 2014, and will feature one of the longest and highest zip lines in the world.
Along with many other people in the community, the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams take advantage of the variety of trails in the area.
We feel blessed that we have the mountains not only as obstacles but also as a backdrop for all of our runs. It only gets even more beautiful when the leaves change because of all of the added color that fall brings” senior and captain of the boys’ cross country team Jesse Kovacs said.
Junior runner Anastasia Soule enjoys the outdoors with her family.
The mountains with the fall colors are my favorite things in all of Asheville,” Soule said. “I can definitely see why many people travel to see it; there is something simple about this natural beauty.”