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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 9 - 15, 2002


Flashy fall colors 
‘fall’ in on time

‘Wonderful phenomenon’ nears peak

"Fall is so beautiful. Days like this—Oh, my goodness."

—JoANN ROBBINS, Jerome horticulturist

Express Staff Writer

One of the greatest shows in the natural world is preparing for an encore this week as Idaho’s valleys join her already flashy mountains in showing off golden autumn plumes.

Photo by Willy Cook

Despite speculation of drought-inflicted aspens changing colors early or without intensity this year, experts generally agree that this fall’s colors in central Idaho have emerged in typical, if not late, fashion. One even added that this year’s colors are more dazzling than usual.

"It’s been a warm summer and a long fall," said JoAnn Robbins, a Jerome horticulturist. "This year, we’re late. We’ve had some 20-degree days, but only a couple of times. That’s good for the color. Warm sunny days and the cold nights promote development of fall color."

According to The Weather Channel, which tracks fall color trends on-line, most of Idaho is "near peak" this week.

Leaves are peaking across the West, and are past their peak only in isolated portions of Colorado, Utah and California’s Sierras.

Robbins said drought conditions tend not to affect fall foliage, and pointed out that the length of days is the most important trigger affecting autumn leaves. Temperature variations can then enhance or detract from color intensity.

"Obviously, if everything goes dry and the leaves crisp up, you won’t have good color, but your fall conditions are much more important than summer for color," she said.

The famous autumn phenomenon, which occurs most notably in the Northeast U.S., is often characterized as the changing of the leaves. However, it is not a transformation, but a process whereby leaves drain of chlorophyll, revealing the colorful pigments that were hidden beneath.

As autumn approaches, the amount of available sunlight decreases and signals trees that winter is approaching and that it is time to begin the process of shedding leaves. The production of chlorophyll ceases and breaks down, and leaves’ green colors disappear, allowing the hidden pigments to show.

The phenomenon has become a cornerstone in the Northeast’s tourism industry, but fall colors attract Sunday drivers in Idaho, too.

Last weekend, "quite a few" people were milling about the Sawtooth Valley in search of fall colors, said Smiley Creek Lodge Assistant Manger Tim Holder.

"The colors are really pretty right now," Holder said. "But it won’t last much longer. Right now is one of the prettiest times."

Holder said he expects the combination of hunting season and beautiful fall colors to spur business in the upper Sawtooth Valley again this weekend.

And Robbins said fall is her favorite time of year, competing closely with winter.

"Fall is so beautiful," she said. "Days like this—Oh, my goodness."



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