I suppose it is fitting that the first bona fide question submitted to Ask A Hoosier.com is about the Fall colors in Indiana – when do they come?
The short answer is: Generally, October. But that’s generally.
If I were to recommend a single source for authoritative information on Indiana’s fall colors, I would say checkout Outdoor Indiana’s September 2005 article, “Rainbow on the Bough” (www.in.gov/dnr/fall/Fall-Color-Article.pdf). This particular recommendation is because I am loyal and these guys are smart.
Now, before I go too far, let me say – I am not a professional. I am a passionate and longing ex-patriot Hoosier, displaced to another state, where, although absolutely beautiful at any time of the year – Colorado – the people boast of the beautiful – single – color of the aspens – yellow. It is an annual ritual in Colorado for residents and visitors alike to make the traditional weekend trek to the mountains to view the aspens. And they are in fact beautiful. They grow in thick groves on the steep mountain sides, in the rolling meadows of the high alpine elevations throughout the state. The small, delicate leaves become an almost luminescent glowing bright and golden yellow, and with their fluttering back and forth gently in the breeze they seem to have a living celebratory, purposeful motion about them. As if they know they’re on display; and they are. It is a sight worth seeing.
But when all is said and done, it’s one color.
My response to native Coloradans, meant to be engaging and ever-so-gentle probably comes out somewhat thankless and bitter anyway. “If you think the aspens are beautiful, you ought to see the trees in Indiana in the Fall!” If they don’t say it, they’re probably thinking it: “…And you can go back and live there, too…” Well, maybe I can’t explain myself properly. The best thing to do – really – is just to shut up and [enjoy the] color[s]. And, as I said, they are beautiful.
Indiana colors begin changing as early as September in certain parts of the state; primarily the northern-most region, and work their way down. The leaves are in their full vibrancy across the state by mid-to-late October. But it also depends on the tree species themselves. By late October-early November in Indiana, in my recollection, the leaves are mostly down, and so (in my opinion) provide for good-to-better squirrel huntin’ (This is due to my poor marksmanship. I can’t hit a thing with a .22 unless I brace it against a small tree, and I can’t see well enough to fight my visual way through all the leaves. So I wait. My waiting, by the way, is also due in part to the decline in mosquito activity. By this time the air is cool enough they’ve gone on home, and I’m not bothered by this mean and ungodly distraction.)
The maples are my personal favorite. Fiery bright reds, oranges, yellows, and the smeared spectrum of colors in between. The oaks produce these flaming bright colors, too, but also give us deep purples as a powerful bonus to their majestic display. And as I am from west-central Indiana, I have to say my home area is just incredible with its Fall colors in full splendor. But the full and final, hands-down nod goes to southern Indiana, and specifically, I have to award it to Brown County. It’s a glorious explosion. But it also demands an awe-inspired silence. For specific proof of this, make the drive on State Road 46 out of Bloomington toward Nashville anytime in October. As you travel along toward Brown County State Park (a must-visit), you’ll begin to see long-distance vistas to the south and east that will virtually command silence – a peace – just in the seeing of it.
I suppose when it comes right down to it, every county in the state – certainly the southern half – is vibrant almost beyond description. And nearly every state east of the Mississippi for that matter (recall I wrote in my earliest introduction to Ask A Hooiser.com, that whereever you are, whomever you are, it may not be, we may not be so different after all).
The visual experience is nearly spiritual, and for many, it is exactly that. The connection between us and God is surely pondered during this time of year in Indiana more than any other time: The miracle that we, in our natural state, are made to enjoy this so much, to respond with such an overwhelming sense of awe and appreciation. Did He do this for us? He must have. Were we made specifically with the capacity to feel this event as an actual experience that somehow makes a difference in our lives? It seems so.
If the debate as to the reality of God is assured to continue for eternity, so too will the presumed evidence proclaim its glory.
(For those of you who may be so inclined, check out the New Testament, the Letter to the Romans, chapter 1, verse 20. I was first presented with this very concept, that of evidence, while riding a ski lift in Colorado, when my friend, Jeff Lough turned around in the bench seat we were sharing, looked back across the valley surrounding Copper Mountain in Colorado, and confidently and with real amazement and appreciation said, “No one can tell me God doesn’t exist.”)
Go see for yourself. This one bit of evidence is not debatable.
If it is hard to describe the Fall colors of Indiana with grand and majestic words, it’s easy enough to say, “You just gotta see it.”
By Michael E Conner
Read more of Michael Conner's blog: Ask A Hoosier!