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New England is famous for its vivid yellows and oranges and reds in the fall, with leaves that change color once they sense winter is coming—usually peaking around mid-October. To maximize the season and its natural beauty, I hopped on Amtrak and headed east to view as many of America’s shifting hues as possible.
This year the region boasts another unique characteristic: some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the country. Depending on where you’re traveling from, each state in New England requires visitors to fill out a form either providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within a certain period of time prior to arrival, or a signed agreement to quarantine for 14 days once in state.
Because my trip was about maximizing fall foliage viewing while staying as safe as possible, I booked a private roomette on the Lake Shore Limited, a direct 21-hour line from Chicago to Boston. Illinois is considered a high-risk state by officials in Massachusetts. So before leaving I got an expedited nasal swab within the required 72-hour window and had negative test results to show upon arrival.
With that out of the way, I was ready to settle in and stare out the window for hours on end. The train in Chicago departs after dark, so when I awoke near Erie, Pennsylvania, it was to a palette of unbelievable autumn colors: bursts of orange and red peeking between declining green leaves. As the train pulled in to Buffalo, New York, and onward through Rochester and Schenectady and eventually Boston itself, russet leaves reflected in languid creeks and duckweed-dappled lakes grew only more striking. I was in awe of the autumn ivy that stretched itself over abandoned stone structures, which came into view as the train straddled New York and Massachusetts.