Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fall colors are here!

Onset of October gives a signal to mother nature to change her dress from the usual "Green" to more colorful ones. It will not be a single color like green hitherto, but a riot of multi-colors all at once. The change appears to have come overnight; the scene during a morning walk can be different than what one saw the evening before. The change is all the more striking in some parts of the world, where the winter temperatures fall quickly. In many parts of USA and Canada, viewing fall colors by driving up north is a big tourist attraction, especially for those who see this for the first time. This sight is available for about a month, after which nature opts for the white dress once it starts snowing. 

The normally green colors of the leaves of trees turns into a colorful display comprising various other colors. Red, yellow, purple, magenta, orange, pink, brown, and often a combination of more than one can be seen on the trees surrounding us. Botanists have a scientific way explaining this phenomenon, but humble poets and people driven by emotions see it as a fantastic display by mother nature. Leaves have a green pigment called "Chlorophyll" in them. This green color dominates all other colors that are present in the leaves and hence gives the lush green color all around when it is bright and sunny. During the sunny months when the temperature is high, chlorophyll gets used up in the process of preparation of starch. This production of food is vital for the lives of many animals including human beings. Chlorophyll so used up during photosynthesis gets replenished and the cycle continues. In winter, daylight hours shorten and nights get longer. When the temperature falls, the veins in leaves carrying the fluids close down and gradually dry up. As water and mineral intake reduces, chlorophyll not being dominant now, other colored pigments manifest themselves leading to the display of the multi-color display. 

Onset of fall colors reminds of our visit to Poconos and Leigh Gorge Scenic Railway during one of our earlier visits to USA. Among the many tourist centers visitors throng to view fall colors during the season, Pocono mountain range in the state of Pennsylvania, well known as Poconos, is  a very popular destination. It is less than two hours drive from both Philadelphia and New York. This is a 2400 square mile  area mountainous forests overlooking Delaware river. In the native Indian language, the word "Pocono" means the area between two hills. Poconos is an all-year tourist destination as the resort hotels around provide various activities like fishing, hunting, skiing, camping and golf. The journey through the winding roads provides a wonderful view of the fall colors and the beauty is seen to be believed. 

Visitors coming to Poconos also go to the Jim Thorpe Railway Station to have a ride on the "Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway" trip to view fall colors. This one hour 16-mile round trip takes the viewers from Jim Thorp railway station into the Lehigh Gorge State Park to Old Penn Haven. The visitors do not get off the train anywhere and view the scenic beauty while sitting in the train. The trains are usually hauled by diesel engines. One train also uses an old steam engine and has coaches built and used around 1917, which is now nearly a hundred years ago! The journey on the bridges through Glen Onoko is indeed a real pleasure for nature lovers. 

Naming of the Railway station after "Jim Thorpe" also has a history behind it. Jim Thorpe is considered as one of the all-time great athletes. He belonged to Sac and Fox native American group in Oklahoma. He excelled himself in athletics and many sports.  He had the distinction of winning both Pentathlon and Decathlon events in 1912 Stockholm olympics. He could run 100 meters in 10 seconds (in those days!), won other distance running events, long jump, high jump, discus throw, javelin throw, pole vault and hurdles. He also played American football, and professional baseball and basket ball!  His olympic gold medals were taken away on the complaint that he was deemed a professional, though it was disputed. The controversy ran for decades. It was in 1983, 30 years after his death that the Olympic committee deemed it fit to restore his two medals. But Jim Thorpe always remained a champion for the general public and the excellence he showed in so many fields of sports events is still unmatched. He never lived in Pennsylvania, but was honored by naming the railway station in the Lehigh Valley after him.

If you are anywhere around Philadelphia, New York or nearby areas in October, Poconos and Jim Thorpe is the area to go to enjoy fall colors!


  1. Your attempt to explain pigmentation other than green is a good attempt. I think it is the same chlorophyll taking different hues before the leave is shed in autum. The green pigment of chlorophyll is on account of iron in the molecule. In human blood also the red color is on account of iron in heamoglobin. Iron can take all colors of vibgyor depending upon the sugar level. When we test urine for sugar the chemical used is some salt of iron (ferrous/ferric). Violet/indigo/blue indicates no/negligible sugar. Green, yellow, orange & red indicate progressively higher level .

  2. Thanks for taking us thru Pennsylvania (Poconos) and Lehigh Valley (Jim Thorpe).

    Kanakapura Chidananda

  3. Beautifully narrated. Very interesting.

  4. Indeed a colorful journey through the Ponocos and Lehigh Gorge scenic railway. Look forward for an exciting journey each week . Keep it up Sir, thank you.

  5. All the photos are so beautiful.

  6. Nice article Sir. Will surely keep the names of these two places in mind!

  7. Beautiful Pics, nice narration. You ignited my memories, twice I have been to US during October and have witnessed these lovely scenes.