Fall Foliage Smackdown: East v. West

By Beacon Staff

I wanted to write about this a couple weeks ago, but the freak arctic weather snap in the Flathead made me reconsider. It seemed mean; why write about the beauty of fall when winter has already moved in? But, as always, the weather in Montana continues to confound and it looks as though we’ll get a bit of fall after all. Cheers to golden Tamaracks and apple cider!

In a recent article by the Associated Press, writer Beth J. Harpaz pits the east coast against the western United States in an autumnal beauty contest.

Harpaz gives the east coast the victory from the opening sentence, but tries to make a case for the lovely western regions, citing Montana’s lovely Tamaracks and the Swan Valley as reason enough to travel through during the fall.

Montana: Cottonwoods, aspens and tamaracks provide the golds and yellows here. One way to experience the scenery is to travel east along Highway 200 from Missoula, along the Blackfoot River. You might see a moose wading in the water or elk moving toward their winter home, the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Turn left at Clearwater Junction and head north on Highway 83 to the Seeley-Swan Valley, where you’ll find the Seeley Lake Giant, the largest known tamarack tree in the country. The tamarack’s needles change from green to gold, and the Seeley Lake Tamarack Festival is held to celebrate the transition.

Harpaz didn’t include Bigfork’s annual Tamarack Time! celebration, but that party (which happened this past weekend) also recognizes the seasonal changes up here in northwest Montana. The article also outlines the scenery in other western heavyweights, such as Colorado, California, Idaho and Utah.

I’m just glad we might actually see a week of fall weather. That cold snap last week was a real shock to the system and to the trees. I took a nice hike in Missoula last weekend in the sun – even got a tan line from my watch. Fall is notoriously short in western Montana – get out an appreciate it while you can!

UPDATE: Beacon reader Vernon Garner from Missoula correctly pointed out the difference between Tamarack trees and Larch trees, and Montana has the Larch. As Katrin Frye <a href="http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/larch_or_tamarack/1406/" title="points out in a previous Beacon article, naming differences often come down to a family’s roots. “>points out in a previous Beacon article, naming differences often come down to a family’s roots.