Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Foliage versus Old Man Winter - who will win?

I have very little experience with seeking out Fall Foliage. But I know that here in the Northeast U.S., it is a big activity every Autumn. They even have a term (which I didn't know) for those who search for fall foliage - they call it "leaf-peeping" and those who do it "leaf-peepers." It seems like a stupid term to me, but hey, what do I know? I only work here.

So Therese expressed interest in doing a little leaf-peeping, so I started looking into what might be fun and also fit into our budget. The NYTimes actually had a few articles in their Travel section one Sunday with some ideas, so I started from there.

Very quickly, I saw that there were logistical challenges to doing some leaf-peeping. We would have to match up our own availability over the coming weeks, and the availability of whatever tour or whatever we wanted to book, with the progression of the leaves changing their colors. Luckily, there is a website that shows you this progression, http://www.foliagenetwork.com/. On the Foliage Network, they get reports every few days of where the leaves are changing, etc., and they post this information.

Unfortunately, while they show you where things are today - let's say, there is peak color in such and such counties, while other counties are past their peak, and then some more southerly counties have not yet reached the peak - they don't give you any prediction on how quickly this change might progress in the weeks to come. So I had to guess based on seeing how quickly things had changed, how much they might continue to change.

Putting it all together, and looking through all the possible things we might do, I came up with the idea to take a Fall Foliage Brunch Cruise from SailNYC which leaves form Chelsea Piers on the westside of Manhattan, travels up the Hudson River to the Palisades and back. And I thought if we waited and did this on October 29th, by then hopefully things would have gotten chilly enough for some leaves to turn a little bit north of New York City, and we'd get some nice colorful leaf-peeping in!

So we ordered our tickets, and waited for the day of our foliage brunch cruise, keeping an eye on the Foliage Network to see if there might be some good viewing coming our way. Unfortunately, the weather around New York City remained fairly warm, but we heard there was a storm coming our way... in fact, as a friend informed me the day before our cruise, there was a snowstorm in the forecast, even for New York City! In October!

So we bundled up on the morning of the 29th and got to Chelsea Piers early as we were encouraged to do, with a steady rain already falling, wondering how much we were going to be able to see! Standing under an awning, we watched children in gymnastics classes being led through all their paces in tumbling and such. And at 10:25, we and the crowd that had gathered to surround us were asked to board our yacht.

The yacht, built to resemble a 1920s yacht, was quite beautiful, all new looking with lots of clean varnished wood. They led us to our table, and the first mate introduced us to the rest of the crew and gave us some idea of how the trip would happen, and gave us some pointers on how to walk on the boat when it was moving - basically, drink in one hand, other hand free to grab a pole or table.

So to eliminate any suspense, I will tell you that we didn't see much. One woman opened a window near the back, I guess so she could see better, but there was fog outside as well as condensation on the inside of the windows. Right around the time we passed the George Washington Bridge, it cleared for a few moments, and people took pictures but the leaves were still pretty much all green. And not long after that, maybe an hour into our cruise (or one-third of the way through), it started snowing!

As we gave up on the idea of seeing orange and yellow and brown leaves, we were able to focus on the other pleasures of the excursion, which were many. First of all, just being out on a day when we would normally be huddling in our warm apartment, but still protected from the elements and having fun, was a major element of the adventure. Second, the food was pretty good, especially the fruit plate that went along with the desserts - strawberries, pineapple, canteloupe and honeydew the like of which I've rarely tasted during any season in any place. The crew was very nice, and we were together, relaxed, and having fun.

Not long before the cruise ended, I talked with a man who was part of a large group at a table not far from us. He told me that all his family members, who are dispersed all over the country in places like South Carolina and Boston, had come to New York City for a family gathering. The cruise was the last activity of their vacation together, before they would all head off to airports and train stations and so forth. And they were having a great time - the cruise was apparently a perfect ending to a very enjoyable family trip in New York City.

As for Therese and I, we climbed down the snowy gangway, luckily got a cab after just a few minutes, and were back in our apartment taking off our wet clothes lickity split, with half the day still in front of us to snuggle in our warmed up livingroom, gazing at the snowflakes still falling outside our window, and saying to each other now and then, "gee, wasn't it great that we went on that cruise?"

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