We waited and waited. By October, we expected to see our green landscapes transform into bright yellows, oranges and reds — telltale signs that the season of pumpkin spice everything is officially here. But warmer, summerlike temperatures lingered, keeping the much-anticipated bright fall foliage at bay.

We continued to wait. Halloween came and went, with trick-or-treaters surrounded by mellow colors as dreary as the holiday. Storms began knocking off tree leaves before they had a chance to change.

So we waited some more.

The story was the same from many places around the region: slow progression, subdued colors and leaves dropping before Instagrammers could snap pictures.

Then, as the daylight dwindled, it happened. Colder air helped trigger chemical changes in the leaves, and soon bold hues were all around.

In and near Washington, we might remember this as a fall that was delayed but not denied. Some surprises, like brilliant colors in plentiful oaks, helped bolster the late show.

As of Monday, the Foliage Report, a site tracking color change across the Lower 48, indicated the area was either at peak or post peak. Peak conditions were still present mainly near the city and to the south or southeast at that time.

With colors finally popping, albeit a week or two beyond the usual peak, local photographers have captured brilliant photos. It would be hard to look at them and think this fall wasn’t a good one for color.

“Is it just me or are the fall colors especially great this year?” asked James Frank on Twitter.

I found the above a telling comment, partly because there was plenty of evidence that color wasn’t quite at its best across the region this year. And maybe that’s true.

But once near peak conditions arrived, those concerns seemed to vanish. Beauty all around.

It reminded me of watching a snowstorm. As the first flakes flutter, they slowly coat the ground — slowly is usually key around here. Some begin calling it a “bust” within two hours. Fifteen hours and eight inches of snow later, not quite a bust. What is it they say about a watched pot?

As winds occasionally whip and we wander off to winter’s “stick season” (after the leaves have fallen but before snow has settled), there’s still some time to admire what this fall delivered.

Peak color highlights

This is our last fall foliage update for Washington for the season — thank you for tuning in and sharing your pictures. Until next year!

Fall 2021 updates