ROY MAYNARD, email@example.com
The colors were always there. The rich reds, golds and oranges of East Texas' hardwoods - just now starting to emerge - have merely been overpowered by greens of summer, says Daniel Duncum of the Texas A&M Forestry Service.
"The color change in our leaves is the result of a lack of chlorophyll," Duncum explains. "Once the green goes away, the other colors are no longer masked."
And then it gets glorious, he says.
The fall foliage season is just starting, area experts say. And now one travel website - TourTexas.com - notes that Tyler State Park and East Texas in general is a great place to see rich fall colors.
"A majestic forest of 100-foot-tall trees envelops a scenic 64-acre spring-fed lake, creating a beautiful East Texas retreat," the website says. "Welcome to Tyler State Park, a stunning recreational area located just north of the city of Tyler. Each fall, the park is a veritable showcase of all the colors of the season, as the sweetgums, maples, dogwoods, oaks, and more adopt a dizzying array of yellows, reds, and oranges."
The site also has recommendations for how best to see the colors in the park.
"Explore the Lakeshore Trail for awe-inspiring views of the lake and the colorful trees, then traverse the Whispering Pines Trail that takes you to a rock waterfall," the site says. "Another great way to see the foliage is by renting a canoe or kayak and paddling to the center of the lake, where the view can't be beat."
Boyd Sanders is a Tyler State Park "park interpreter" who is convinced he has the best job in the state.
"Right now, the trees are just starting to change," he says. "In a couple of weeks it will be more pronounced, and it will be peaking at about the end of November. Right now, some of the red maples and the sweet gums are turning, and we're seeing the Virginia creepers turning. It's just starting to erupt."
The park always has a brisk summer, but activity picks up again in the fall, he says.
"We have quite a few people come through just to view the foliage," he said. "The weather is perfect for it now, with nice, cool mornings and pleasant afternoons. It's just a great time to be outdoors."
Visit Tyler, the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce's tourism agency, says East Texas is filled with beautiful sights and family-oriented activities in the fall, and Tyler is the hub.
"We're excited that TourTexas.com featured Tyler, because a lot of people do come to Tyler for the fall foliage," said Holli Fourniquet, the agency's assistant vice president for marketing. "And the state park is where most folks go. It's a great time to go camping there, and they have cabins and hiking and biking trails."
But scenery isn't limited to the park grounds, she adds.
"There are great drives all over," she said. "I think that's one reason we have a lot of motorcycle groups come through in the fall. They love the foliage."
A common route is from Tyler to Palestine on Texas Highway 155 South. Another route goes through Jacksonville on U.S. 69, then over to Palestine on U.S. 79.
People can drive out of Tyler in just about any direction, she said, and see some beautiful foliage.
But it's not just foliage, she adds. East Texas has much more to offer in the autumn months.
The Tyler Rose Garden Center is at the height of its season, city officials say.
"If you have not been out to the Rose Garden lately, you are certainly missing one of the most beautiful spots in our city," said Stephanie Franklin, the city's managing director of culture, recreation, and tourism. "Several years ago the roses were severely damaged from a late frost and many died. The city has worked to replace a majority of the plants and this year the garden has come back in full force. Stop by and take in the beautiful color of the garden."
SCIENCE AND SCENERY
It's been a nearly perfect year for fall foliage, says the Forestry Service's Duncum.
"Certain conditions can mean we don't have fall colors," he explained. "Those are weather-related - things like droughts and soil moisture. That's when you might see a dull browning, and not the great fall colors - the only pigments left in the leaves are tannins, and they're brown."
But 2016 has had adequate rainfall. And the changing of the seasons has been gradual, not abrupt.
"With a cold snap early on, the foliage colors may come in really well, but would be shorter-lived," he said. "So we've had the moisture, and as long as we have this gradual changing of the temperatures, I would anticipate us having a very nice fall with great colors throughout East Texas."
By the way, it's not the temperatures that tell the trees to start shedding their leaves.
"What triggers it is actually the sunlight and darkness - how much light there is during a 24-hour period," Duncum said. "Plants are sensitive to that, so once they reach a certain level of darkness and light, they start changing. That makes it more predictable."
IF YOU GO:
Tyler State Park
789 Park Rd 16, Tyler (north of town on FM 14)
Adult: $6 Daily
Child 12 Years and Under: Free
Tyler Rose Garden
420 Rose Park Drive
Dawn until dark daily
Admission is free
WORTH THE DRIVE
Love's Lookout Park
43822 Hwy. 69 North (south of Tyler)