Monday, October 17

The Turning of the Tamaracks

Visitors make a mad rush to Algonquin Park and the surrounding area every autumn in order to admire the scarlet hues of the hardwood forest. 

There are a number of Fall Foliage Reports tracking the progress of the maple trees—the amount of colour change and the amount of leaf fall—culminating in the status of Peak Colour. And once the peak has past, the park and its neighbouring towns quickly empty out with the collective understanding that it's all over for another year.

What visitors don't realize is there's a second act. One that I call The Golden Encore. I've written about it before and I'm compelled to write about it again because, year after year, it delights me still.

During this encore performance it's the tamarack trees who move into the spotlight instead of playing backup. By now the maples have lost their leaves, especially in the high canopy of the forest and the crests of hills. This allows the sun to reach the leaves in the understory, turning the maple seedlings yellow and peach. The birch trees are sporting bright yellow leaves and their clusters stand out among the bare deciduous branches around them. And dotting the hills, skirting lakes and bogs, the tamaracks are a brilliant gold.

An oddity in the tree world, tamaracks are the only coniferous tree (native to this part of the world, anyway) to turn colour and lose their needles in the fall. They can reach magnificent heights and are impossible to miss at this time of year. I love that they wait until the flashy reds of the maples are finished before they begin their show, so that we can best appreciate the vivacity of their colour against a more muted backdrop.

So while others are bemoaning the end of "leaf season" I am loving my walks in the woods, admiring the colourful carpet of fallen leaves underfoot and the swish of my feet shuffling through them. I'm driving the back country roads to town, where the trees press right up to the shoulder and I can see into the yellow interior of the understory. I'm walking up to the little lake and admiring anew the tamaracks that stake their hold along marshy shores. It's the denouement of leaf season, the turning of the tamaracks, the golden encore. And I love it.

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