A request for ‘Leaf Peepers’

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Image/visitnh.gov, which the author would like to change to donotvisitnh.gov

I have a simple request for the Leaf Peepers inundating New Hampshire and clogging every road and highway in the state like plaque in an artery.

Go home. Go back to Southern New England[1] and work on your watercolor paintings.

Last weekend, I drove into Boston[2] to pick up my daughter at Boston College so she could come home, wash her clothes and allow me to buy her lunch.

As I was cruising on I-93 South, the traffic heading into New Hampshire was bumper-to-bumper—a veritable parking lot on the interstate—extending from state border to the I-495 exits in Massachusetts.

For a second, I experienced a rare joy, knowing that as I was coasting a few clicks above the speed limit, the poor bastards going the opposite way would have time in the car to put the finishing touches on any novels they might be working on.

Then I remembered the sad and unavoidable truth of the matter: I would be driving home in the same direction in a couple of hours.

I started to get angry, but—as is often the case with me—my anger quickly subsided and was replaced by a ponderous pity for myself and my circumstance. In a few hours, it would be me wedged between cars bearing Massachusetts tags as the Mass-holes flooded the state en masse[3] for the same damn reason.

It was peak foliage time[4] in the mountains—the landscape transformed into an orgy of yellows and oranges and other autumnal colors—and these people were willing to clog the roads and wait for hours to take in the visuals.

And while I’m certainly no Thoreau, I believe I speak on behalf of a solid constituency of Granite Staters when I ask that the Leaf Peepers[5] turn around and go home.

Granted, this nomadic tribe of nature drivers are certainly good for the state’s economy, keeping tables turning over in our restaurants, rooms booked at B & Bs and copious liquor purchased off the interstate[6]. From an economic stance, it’s certainly a boon.

But I simply don’t understand the appeal of leaf peeping. The idea of driving the Kancamagus Highway—or crawling through it, stuck in traffic—to look at leaves seems mind-numbingly senseless to me.

And what, exactly, is the appropriate response after encountering particularly vivid foliage? Does one stop and take pictures to share on social media? Is there a list of canned phrases to use when looking at leaves, i.e. “Check out the yellow and orange money-shot to your left?” or “Give me two minutes alone with that tree!”

Do Leaf Peepers strip naked and roll in the felled leaves, giggling?

I thought about these questions while stuck on the glutted interstate on my way home to Manchester. But similar to concepts such as quantum physics or why it costs so much for my wife to get her hair done, I suppose there are some things that will always elude me.

However, there is solace in the fact that The Leaf Peepers will retreat in a couple of weeks before returning to ski.


[1] I am originally from Rhode Island, so it’s possible I’m projecting some self-loathe here. Paging Dr. Jung.

[2] I abhor driving in the Boston area. It’s a tremendous source of anxiety for me, and a recipe for a panic attack.

[3] I want to say “no pun intended,” but I also want credit for the pun.

[4] Maybe it wasn’t peak. For those quick to correct me, please realize this detail simply fits my narrative, and I don’t particularly care anyway.

[5] Leaf Peepers, for those unfamiliar with the term, are people who flock to the White Mountains every autumn, jamming the highways during the weekends and slowing the back roads to a crawl, in order to look at the leaves turning colors.

[6] We will then turn around and give Massachusetts their profits back buying weed in their dispensaries. I’m looking at you, Chris Sununu.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com