New England’s autumn jewel reminds us life involves trade-offs

Although I grew up chiefly in the northeastern United States, I wasn’t much familiar with New Hampshire until I unexpectedly moved here over three decades ago; whereupon I promptly discovered that, like the rest of the region, there’s much to commend the Granite State. Since then, I’ve concluded this part of the continental USA is, on balance, among its loveliest.

Even so, any objective resident has to admit some of this area’s features stack up poorly when measured against their counterparts across the fruited plain. Adequate but second rate, you might say? Or b-level?

Take New England beaches, such as they are. They’re splendid – if cramped stretches of gritty sand and limb-numbing waters are your thing. If, by contrast, you prefer sweeping, sugary shores and soothing tides? You might want to head for Florida or thereabouts. The Northeast’s mountain choices? Striking – as long as you’re not from Washington State or Colorado; in which instance, the Catskills, or even New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, elicit snickers

To be sure, the nation’s upper-right corner does boast one undeniable showpiece, revealing itself annually sometime during the October/November interlude. It’s the Creator’s riotous, polychromatic masterpiece popularly tagged “the foliage season.” Usually peaking two or three weeks each autumn, stunning reds, golds, oranges and yellows – or blazing combinations of same – overtake formerly lush greenery. This natural extravaganza usually rolls out in a couple of stages, both of them pretty much wrapped for this year: First, the climax of the most fiery, eye-blurring hues; followed briefly by a display of more restrained but still attention-catching shades: August purples, russets and coppers.

I’ve been told comparable leaf-peeping pageantry can be found nowhere else on the planet, excepting, perhaps, the Wisconsin region or certain corners of China. My nearly 80-year-old father, who’s done his share of international travel over the course of his career, has mentioned the foliage-palooza served up to New York Thruway commuters every fall rivals any beauty he’s seen anywhere.

Yes, most terrestrial venues can claim their genuine highlights. Then again, there’s hardly a chunk of territory that doesn’t present its own unique and unfortunate brand of drawbacks, as well.

I think of Oykymokon and Verkhoyansk, for example – a pair of Siberian villages vying for the title of world’s coldest permanently inhabited locality. Both have registered temperatures nearly -90 °F. In either benighted spot, the mercury rarely rises above freezing between October and March. I suppose one could boast about that tidbit if it’s all you’ve got. Tell me, what does the winner of their who’s-more-murderously-frigid contest do? Take a break from shivering, jump into the frosty air and yelp the Russian equivalent of “Ya-hoo!?”

Part of me is tempted to opine some of the globe’s far-reaches are flatly not intended for human settlement. Just sayin’. …

Still, believe it or not, either of these North Asian outposts draws tourists. Hop over to YouTube; you’ll see their videos.

As cataclysms down in Mexico, the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Islands have lately reminded us, every region has its downsides: Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, wildfires, etc. Neither are we excluded here in New England, where our bitter pill goes by a six-letter word: “Winter.”

There’s good and bad pretty much everywhere. It’s a trade-off. All one can do is focus on the bragging-rights’ side of the ledger – in these latitudes that would be our harvest-time magnificence – and then wait and see if it outweighs the unpleasant stuff. That is, does the former make up for the latter?

Meanwhile, get back to me here in the northeastern sector of the country about mid-January; I’ll let you know what I’ve decided.


Steve Pawels, a Londonderry, residents is an occasional columnist for The Telegraph.