Leaf Season in Asheville North Carolina during the Fall Season
It’s that time of the year again, Fall 2016 Leaf Season in Asheville North Carolina. This is the time of the year when the local can sit back, take a deep breath, and reflect on the year while surrounded by colorful beauty. Then many visitors from out of town arrive to gaze upon and digest the majesty of the Western North Carolina mountains. Now there are several places across the USA where you can experience Leaf Season, but the Asheville area is a favorite for many due to all of the plentiful amenities that come along with it. Here is a little guide post to get you around town:
Blue Ridge Mountains – These mountains provide for a calm and amazing atmosphere. On a clear day, it is obvious where the name originates from. The Blue Ridge Mountains features many summits with plenty of trails to choose from.
Catawba Falls – Located only 20 minutes from Asheville, this waterfall is an attraction that is visited by many hikers. The trail is easy to medium. Because of the close distance, Catawba Falls has become one of the more popular areas in the last couple years. Be prepared to get your shoes wet as you walk over rocks to get across the river during the 3 mile round-trip hike.
Craggy Gardens – This location provides a 360 degree view. Located off the parkway, and less than a mile hike each way, it is a great location to admire the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail has a bit of an incline before reaching the top, but it is worth the breathtaking view you are given once reaching the top.
High Falls – Located in DuPont State Forest, High Falls can be admired from the overlook on the trail, or continue to follow the trail as you cautiously walk over the rocks to get a closer look. It is a popular spot in the summer, but be careful as the rocks get slick when they are wet.
Looking Glass Falls – This waterfall get crowded in the summer because of the easy walk. You can park you car next to the road and walk down some steps to view the gorgeous waterfall. It is great location to take a swim on those warm summer days.
Mt. Mitchel – The highest point this side of the Mississippi, Mt. Mitchell provides a stunning 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because of the elevation, the temperature is always much cooler than the lower elevations. Mt. Mitchell is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Each year Earth passes through the debris cloud of Asteroid 3200 Phaethon around this time and that produces an annual spectacle known as the Geminid Meteor Shower. Traditionally the Geminid’s are some the most vibrant meteors and can sometimes reach rates of 120 meteors per hour. The peak of this shower is set to occur late Sunday night into Monday morning, but viewing around WNC could be limited by cloud cover and scattered showers. That being said, tonight should provide the best chance at clear skies over the next 3 days, so anyone wanting to see a meteor should venture out tonight.
If you are wondering where to drive for best viewing in WNC, just venture up to the Blue Ridge Parkway after dark for a drive and look east. Tonight the show won’t be as vibrant, but the chance of cloud cover is less, so seeing a meteor is much more likely. Last year I ventured up to Beacon Heights near Grandfather Mountain for the spectacle and grabbed a few shots. This area is great to see the event, since you can easily look to the east and the light pollution is minimal. Other places around WNC like Wayah Bald in Franklin, NC (1.5 hr drive from AVL) and Max Patch (Haywood Co.) provide incredible views to see meteors. Be careful about heading up towards Craggy Garden or Mt. Pisgah because the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed around those two spots, but it is still open around the Asheville area in between. If you live in Hendersonville or on the NC/SC line, a great viewing spot can be found if you head down Highway 276 to the Ceasar’s Head Escarpment. Here you will find a phenomenal view. For people living in the Sylva, Cashiers, or Highlands area, Panthertown Valley will most certainly provide an incredible spot for viewing.
Meteors from the Geminid burn various colors as they enter Earth’s atmosphere and the chart below provides a bit of insight into which elements burn what color. The Gemini’s are known for their vibrant display of color and this year should be no different, provided that you can see them. The moon will also not interfere with viewing efforts this year since just last night we had a new moon. If we didn’t have an approaching front, this year would be almost perfect for viewing and photographing meteors.
The key to photographing a Geminid meteor is to have the right equipment.
What do you need?
– DSLR Camera
– Intervalometer (recommended)
– Sturdy Tripod
– Dark Skies
First and foremost, one who wishes to catch a meteor streaking across the lens needs the right equipment. Any DSLR camera in which you can adjust the iso will work. You will also need a study tripod and I would recommend you pick up an intervalometer if your camera doesn’t have one built in. Set your camera up looking east towards the constellation Gemini and set the iso to 1600 or 3200. next you want to put your f/stop as low as possible. This will vary with different lens, but a lower f/stop will pick up more stars and faint meteors. After that is set, place your shutter speed on 30 seconds so that you can take 30 second exposures. Now you can either stand next the camera and click shots one after another waiting for a meteor to encounter the atmosphere, or you can set the intervalometer to 35 seconds so that the camera clicks the shutter itself every 35 seconds. This would allow you to go back and sit in the car where it is much warmer. After 2-3 hours of taking shots, go back and flip through the images to see what you captured. If you leave the camera in place, you can also use a program like Panolapse to produce a time-lapse of the event, but I will save those instructions for another article. Good luck to anyone venturing out to enjoy natures holiday special, have a blast and show us what you catch!