Autumn and New York’s Adirondacks

November 06, 2017

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Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

As autumn days shorten, nights lengthen and temperatures turn brisk, the state of New York’s vast 6 million acre (9,375 sq mi/24,280 sq km) Adirondack Park transforms into a seemingly endless blanket of color. In the telephoto image above, taken under broken clouds on October 8, 2017, the view is toward rocky-topped McKenzie Mountain (3,861 ft/1,177 m) and Whiteface Mountain (4,867 ft/1,483 m) from the elevated, bird’s-eye level Wild Walk at Tupper Lake’s Wild Center outdoor and indoor museum experience (the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks). By early October, the summer-green leaves of deciduous trees like maples, oaks, birches and beeches are turning varying shades of red, yellow, gold and brown, mixed with steady evergreens.

The color change is triggered as the summer growing season winds down. The leaves’ production of chlorophyll, which gives them their green tint, slows and eventually stops, and the chlorophyll vanishes. The veins that transport fluids to and fro are cut off at the base of each leaf, trapping colorful sugars. The yellows and reds of carotenoids and anthocyanins, already present in the leaves, are revealed, as illustrated in a second photo looking upward into a canopy of red maples, taken on October 7, 2017, near Keeseville, New York

Adirondack Park, a mix of wilderness with settled farms and villages, was established by the New York Legislature in 1892 to conserve the state’s mountainous heart and protect the watershed. Although not managed quite like a national park — more than half of it, 3.5 million acres, is privately owned — it's, in essence, the largest park in the contiguous United States — larger than Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Olympic and Glacier national parks combined, notes the Adirondack Experience: The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake.

Underlying and poking through today’s forest, which has rebounded from clearcutting timber operations in the 19th century, is the uplifted and eroded Adirondack Dome. The dome’s base, which formed far beneath Earth’s crust, began to rise about 20 million years ago, probably because of a hot spot, according to interpretive geology displays at the Adirondack Experience. The Adirondacks we see today were sculpted by vast Ice Age glaciers, as recently as 20,000 years ago, which retreated north and eventually melted.

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED; Focal Length: 116mm (35mm equivalent: 174mm); Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320); ISO equiv: 400. Bottom - same except: Focal Length: 165mm (35mm equivalent: 247mm); Aperture: ƒ/5.0; Exposure Time: 0.0063 s (1/160).