AUGUSTA, Maine — Like most families today, the Hannings of Caribou have annual traditions. On Independence Day they hold a huge family barbecue. On Thanksgiving, they put up the Christmas tree right after they eat dinner.
And every October, they take a weekend leaf-peeping trip to a different part of Maine.
“I started doing that when my kids were just babies,” Emily Hanning said Tuesday, pausing during a shopping trip to the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle. “My children are teenagers now, and they still look forward to it. We watch the fall foliage reports and use them to find a little town to travel to and stay the weekend so we can hike around and see all of the colors. We love it.”
Leaf peepers bring big tourism dollars to the state each year, and the Maine Department of Conservation makes it easy to keep up to date on the status of Maine’s fall foliage with regular foliage reports.
The weekly reports became available Wednesday and will continue through Oct. 13, said Gale Ross, Maine foliage spokeswoman with the DOC. The weekly reports will be updated each Wednesday.
This is the 52nd year the reports are being offered.
They will be available online at www.mainefoliage.com and through a Facebook fan page for Maine fall foliage.
“Every year, the Maine Forest Service forest rangers collect the data and report back to me,” Ross said. “That’s how the fall foliage map is put together.”
According to the first foliage report issued Wednesday, Mainers can expect to see trees throughout the state this fall sporting their usual yellow, orange and red leaves despite record summer heat.“The great majority of trees are in good condition for a normal fall color schedule,” said Bill Ostrofsky, a forest pathologist at the Maine Forest Service. “I expect the height of the foliage season to occur sometime during the last week in September and the first and second weeks in October.”
Forest rangers in Aroostook County and the northern portions of Piscataquis and Somerset counties, Zones 6 and 7, are observing low leaf color, or less than 30 percent toward peak, along with low leaf drop. Rangers also are reporting low color in the tracking region that stretches from Bangor to Millinocket and east to Grand Lake, Upper Zone 4, on the New Brunswick border.
Color in the remainder of the state is low, or less than 10 percent toward peak, with low leaf drop, according to the report.
Overnight temperatures in the low 40s and the continued decrease in daylight will spark the gradual change in leaf color from north to south through late October, according to DOC officials.
The onset of fall foliage also brings with it events geared toward highlighting the beauty of the changing leaves. In the next few weeks, nine fall foliage events, including eight hikes and a river paddle, will take place. The events are presented by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Maine Forest Service.
This year’s foliage events offer more hikes and programs at more state parks and public lands as part of the 75th anniversary of the Maine state park system, according to Gary Best, assistant regional manager with the Bureau of Parks and Lands.
The collaborative outdoor events, now in their second year, have proved to be successful, Best said. Each event will be hosted by both a park manager and the local district forester to offer a unique perspective on the foliage and trees in each area, he said.
The hikes will showcase Maine’s state parks and public lands, provide information and an education about Maine’s 17 million acres of forestland and offer a boost for nature-based tourism.
New this year is the inclusion of hikes at two public reserve land units, which should give participants an experience of these multiuse wilderness areas managed by BPL. This year’s series of hikes will range from easy to moderate difficulty, Best said.
The paddle will take place at the BPL’s newest park, the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park, north of the Lewiston-Auburn area.
Hikers should wear sturdy, appropriate, closed-toe footwear and comfortable clothing, preferably in layers. Paddlers will need to bring their own boats, life vests and gear. Participants should bring cameras, binoculars, snacks and water.
The events will take place:
• 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, Aroostook State Park, Presque Isle.
• 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, Deboullie Public Reserve Land, Aroostook County.
• 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, Mount Blue State Park, Weld.
• 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, Sebago Lake State Park, Casco.
• 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, Bald Mountain Public Reserve Land, Franklin County.
• 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, Bradbury Mountain State Park, Freeport.
• 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, Androscoggin Riverlands State Park, Turner.
• 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, Shackford Head State Park, Eastport.
• 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, Camden Hills State Park, Camden.
For information on the hikes, go to www.parksandlands.com.
For information about events and activities happening in Maine this fall, go to www.visitmaine.com.