Our Fall Foliage Reporting Method
by Gary Cooley
For 16 consecutive years - 1997
through 2012 - 2Cooleys produced fall foliage reports. This is how we did it, and
how we learned about our reporting area's foliage.
I'm a full-blown leaf-peeping fall foliage
junkie. I grew up in Vermont. I have seen the best foliage color in the world for years.
And I have also lived in the Rocky Mountains, in the Appalachian Mountains, and the Ozark
Mountains. My wife, who grew up in south Texas, had not seen fall foliage. So between us
we had the Old Pro and the Newbie. It was amazing to see what she liked that I took for
I know that fall foliage is a multi-billion
dollar tourism attraction for America. A great deal of hype and spin comes out every year
as states compete for these dollars. Every region has a different foliage turn at
different times. So how does one sort it all out? This is how we did it.
Many foliage report writers rely on a number of "spotters". The person writing
the report calls these spotters to ask what state of color the foliage display is in where
the spotter lives. Authors then compile their foliage report based on what spotters tell
them. The only weakness to a spotter approach is that no one person sees the foliage in
all locations. The result is that no accurate comparison of foliage conditions from
location to location in the reporting area can be made.
We drove the highways and back roads. We floated the waterways in various watercraft. We
hiked the trails and followed small creeks through deep valleys. Then, as the peak
approached, we flew over our entire reporting area at 2,000 feet. We covered hundreds of
miles on land and in the air. Our reports were based 100% on what we saw with our own
eyes. We drove an average of 1,000 to 1,200 each fall, usually going out every other day,
and daily during peaks.
Needless to say, this foliage running takes
a lot of time. That is why other reporting efforts rely upon spotters they can call and
ask what the foliage looks like in their area. Our experience has been that spotters all
seem to have a different standard of what stage color is in. The result can be a spotty
report ( sorry, could not resist the pun).
Not Just Foliage Coverage
We knew that people enjoy fall for reasons in addition to foliage. Photographers, nature
watchers, birders, hikers, fishermen, and hunters all love getting outside in cool, clear
fall weather. For all these folks we included what we saw that would of interest to them
such as wildflowers, insects, animals, migrating birds, what fall foods animals ate (nuts,
berries, fruits, insects), and anything else that seems to matter for outdoor recreation.
Why did we do all of this? We are a for-profit corporation. Our foliage reporting efforts
continue to pay off in many ways. Yet we'd be liars if we said we do what we do only for
profit. We love what we do. Our reporting for business purposes is a very handy excuse for
getting out of the office!
We do not in any way benefit from biased reporting for any
particular spot, and therefore are not in any way obligated to promote any specific spot
or cause. Our only motive is accurate, unbiased information for our readers.
Our Reporting Area
Our office is on Norfork Lake near the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas. We travel north
about 45 miles as a crow flies to Ava, Missouri, and about 35 miles south to the town
of Mountain View, Arkansas. We travel about 30 miles east and west. This slice of
the Ozarks can be used as a guide to foliage all across the southern Ozark Mountains in
both Missouri and Arkansas.
Who Are The 2Cooleys?
Gary Cooley and Mary Cooley, husband and wife, are the two Cooleys. Gary and Mary are both
50-something. They live on Norfork Lake near Mountain Home Arkansas. Gary and Mary have
been promoting Outdoor Recreation in the Ozarks since 1995.