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TRAVEL SLEUTH - EYE-POPPING FALL TRIPS
 
(2019 - Fall Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Pack your sneakers, take a walk and breathe it all in.

Autumn colours are known to be so radiant in the hills and vales of the Great Lakes’ waterways. Linger long, enthusiasts say, because very soon and for just a few fleeting weeks, this northeast showcase of largely red and orange maple trees might be among the grandest displays on the planet.

Our highways and byways may take us there, but this year, don’t just view it from the car. Head right into the forests and help yourself to revitalizing health benefits, free of charge, compliments of nature.

Forests are uplifting, we’re told, because every organism—large or small, seen or hidden—thrives on a constant energy exchange, a cycle-of-life triggered by the sun. The only thing we have to do to receive the very same replenishment in this magical landscape is listen, observe and deeply breathe in the oxygen-rich air. Although it may appear serene, at the micro-level, foresters tell us, all of this peacefulness is pumped.

Even dying leaves, for instance, are still working hard to support the next life cycle. To begin with, the slow change in leaf chemistry seems to repel certain insects from damaging bark and branches. Throughout the fall as well, deciduous leaves send all of their energy-rich chlorophyll down to the roots so it can be sent back to budding leaves next spring. As the green disappears, red, orange and purple leaves create a dazzling last hurrah.

Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere will soon be making large swaths of Asia, Scandinavia, Iceland and Europe all trek-worthy. Meanwhile, right here in North America, we’ll be exposed to no fewer than 85 red-leaf species dominated by maples, red oak, cherry and dogwood trees.

Those who prefer to drive to view the best of this colourful spectacle might envision a far-reaching circle. Start on the north shore of Lake Superior heading eastward and then south along the waterways of Ontario and Québec as far as the Atlantic Ocean. Turn south again through Maine and Vermont (and maybe more of New England) before heading westward, perhaps through New York State, into the American heartland. Then just past Chicago, make a grand turn northbound back to Lake Superior. Or, for more in-depth discoveries, consider driving segments of that route every fall. 

In September, peak colour periods can be tracked on websites like TripSavvy.com and TheWeatherNetwork.com. For some, the most talked-about spots may be close enough for a day trip. For longer more invigorating getaways, consider these.

AGAWA CANYON WILDERNESS PARK

On the northeastern shore of Lake Superior, the Agawa River cuts through two towering vistas soon to be covered in full-blown colour, as captured in paintings by the Group of Seven. The easy walking nature trails also offer 372 steps to a lookout platform at the top of the gorge. The park is accessible only on foot or by tour train (agawatrain.com) from Sault Ste. Marie. Best colour is usually late-September and seasonal events are posted at algomacountry.com.

NIAGARA PARKWAY

The awe one experiences viewing Niagara Falls is apt to increase multifold along “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world,” according to Winston Churchill. This winding road follows the steep and deeply forested banks of the Niagara River, flanked by a mixed-use path for pedestrians and cyclists. Autumn-colour density is usually at its finest between Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Events like the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival are posted at niagaraonthelake.com.

LAURENTIAN MOUNTAINS

Just north of Montréal, countless roadways lead to mountainous peaks and trails where the resorts, recreation and public parks are most welcoming. The Laurentian foothills actually begin in Eastern Ontario, climb to the highest peaks near Québec City and soon descend gradually in a kaleidoscope of colour all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The mountain-bound roads are well-signed along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River as far as Labrador. Until mid-October, the F.U.N. Fest in Sommet Saint-Sauveur is one of many enticing events posted at laurentides.com.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

The people of PEI are renowned for their warmth, so it’s little wonder all of the waterways are also warmer than expected, resulting in the “longest fall foliage period” in North America. Better still, trekking on this island is bear-free, which adds a unique measure of safety, and the forests are hunter-free mainly because there are no deer or moose. From Nova Scotia connect by ferry or drive across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. Come any time in September for the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival posted at tourismpei.com.

CATSKILL PARK, NEW YORK

Bright reds, amber and golden-bronze make the Catskill Mountains a stand-out “must-see.” The full mountain range covers thousands of square kilometres so why not familiarize yourself first on the marked trails of Catskill Park, a network suitable for every level of walking, cycling and hiking? Cloaked in maples, red oaks, birch and beech trees, the park is a half-hour drive from Albany and Oktoberfest music, food and drink entertain leaf-peepers over four weekends according to visitthecatskills.com.

MISSISSIPPI PALISADES STATE PARK, ILLINOIS

On the southwest side of the Great Lakes sits another colour bonanza as well as the chance to lay your eyes on a legend. The Mississippi River cuts through this park, reminding us of frontier discoveries, including the perpetual “palisades” drama of riverside cliffs, caves, wooded ravines and rock formations. The Apple and Mississippi rivers converge on the parkland located near Savanna, Illinois. Fall events are listed at visitnorthwestillinois.com.

 
 
 
 
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