Autumn, at least in 2017, has been quite strange here across Ontario. The day that Summer changes over to Fall in September, I'm thinking about areas to visit for the leaves color changes, while pairing those changes with the local waterfalls for some nice pictures. This year has been a bit more complicated. Warm snaps, or an extended summer, are hardly rare in this area. The duration of above average temperatures, paired with little rain, doesn't usually last more than a couple of weeks before standard climate conditions return to normal at the end of September/beginning of October.
In 2017, this has not been the case. Southern Ontario has had quite the warm snap starting in the middle of September, and as of the time of writing this blog post (October 12th), the unseasonably warm temperatures have been ongoing. This has meant that many of the leaves in the region have either not changed color at all, the colors are muted, or they're falling off the trees right after beginning their color change. Directly connected to this warm spell, very little rain has been hitting the region, which has led to very dry conditions and a dramatic decrease in the flow of water. Most waterfalls have been reduced to a trace, or have stopped flowing entirely.
Week Of September 30th
A friend and I had visited Algonquin Park during the last week of September (pictures enclosed below), which would normally be the peak time to see the leaves, especially Maple trees, changing color. We took the Centennial Ridges Overlook trail, which is over 10kms in length and strenuous at times, but most definitely worth the trip for the incredible views (even with the leaves not co-operating). We found that a good percentage of the leaves were either:
1) Still green, and the schedule of leaves changing colors were pushed back several weeks,
2) Had muted colors (colors were not vibrant; reds were more brown, etc),
3) Had already fallen off the trees due to the dry conditions.
A second season of leaf changes is sure to happen in the next few weeks. However, the extent of how muted these colors may be, the length of time they stay on the trees, and the return of stronger low pressure systems bringing strong winds will make for chasing those great colorful locations difficult in terms of both timing and picking a location.
With the information listed above, this has made the timing of visits to areas that would normally have both good water flow, and the beautiful changing of the leaves, a complicated experience. Forecasting wise, what caught my eye were the remnants of Hurricane Nate, which was projected to roll through Southern Ontario around October 8th and bring water to the falls of the region (the storm complex ended up dropping 40mm+ of rain across the region, which was good enough to jump start some of the falls for a few days), so I figured I'd make due with at least good water flow and see what areas had some leaves changing colors while observing the waterfalls.
Week Of October 5th
On my list were Felker's Falls (and the creek upstream of the falls), Billy Green Falls, Tews Falls. I have enclosed many of those pictures below. I aim to visit Niagara Falls, the Elora Gorge, and a few more hiking trails across the Golden Horse Shoe area, but many areas (especially those with waterfalls) will have to be put on hold until we get more rain, which should become prominent as we go further into October. The remnants of Nate did not alleviate the low water amounts entirely, which was to be expected with how dry the area has been for over a month.
Week Of October 25th
After looking at the short to medium range weather forecasts for the week of October 15th, and what looked to be an active week of low pressure systems. These incoming low pressure systems bring rain and strong winds. They're also quite strong this time of year because of the return of Baroclinicity to the area, so the winds that form will blow the leaves directly off the trees. It's the beginning of the end of the fall color changes once you reach this time of year, so you have to take advantage of it. I decided to make some visits to areas with significant leaves changing. This included the Niagara Falls region (Niagara Falls itself, even during weekdays this time of year, is usually quite insane in terms of being busy), which has some incredible leaf changing landscapes and waterfalls, and the Dundas area. Located just outside Hamilton, it has the usual waterfall culprits that you will see plenty of on my website (if you haven't already), but it also features excellent hiking trails and areas to explore. I visited Dundas Peak and got some great pictures. I will enclose them below.
If you're from the Southern Ontario region and you're reading, this time of year is busy season; the leaves changing tends to bring in massive crowds on weekends (we're all trying to observe the same yearly phenomenon), so be prepared to deal with crowds, limited parking and lots and lots of traffic near more popular areas.
As a result:
-Bring money. Some parks charge per vehicle + per person in the car, so be ready to pay more than you think. If you try to find areas around to avoid paying, make sure it is marked as a designated parking area. A ticket will be much more costly than splitting a parking cost.
-Some trails will be VERY muddy; especially after a day of rainfall. You'd think that the drought like conditions would prevent a ton of mud build up, but you'd be wrong. Boots help, but can get heavy on longer trails. Look into an area before heading on the hike. Most sites tell you the hiking terrain to avoid unexpected surprises.
-Weekday visits work best; especially during work hours. If you have the day off, or begin later in the day, use the morning to take advantage of the lower-than-average visitor time. Less crowds = better pictures. If you don't have time off, visits after work are still less busy than any weekend time.
This blog will be ongoing. I will be adding more pictures to this blog, and updating conditions/encounters as I visit more areas, so keep coming back to this blog for more.