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Painted by nature: Autmn will bring another lovely palette of fall color

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Trees in brilliant colors hug the shore in Michigan s Leelanau County.

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Every year, Nature teases us flirting outrageously in flashy reds, oranges, golds, and purples, then giving us the cold, snowy shoulder.

Every year we fall for it. And still we love her.

Here we go again.

Colors in the woods and fields of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are traditionally at their peak by mid-October, says Heather Norris, head of environmental education and interpretive services for the Toledo Area Metroparks.

Although early season unknowns such as the timing of the first frost can throw off the usual color show, and high winds can strip away our beloved foliage prematurely, she predicts a good season for leaf peepers.

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Virginia Creeper, a colorful fall vine, brightened a recent Autumn Adventure walk in Pearson Metropark.

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'We should have great fall color,' Mrs. Norris says, citing favorable weather conditions through spring, summer, and early fall.

Autumn brings the crimson staghorn sumac, lime green cord grass, purple blooms of New England aster, reds and oranges of maples, rusty browns on the oaks, and bright yellows fluttering in the cottonwoods and tulip poplars, she says. The last bloomer of the year, witch hazel, produces yellow, spider-like flowers through early November.

A good way to see it all is through the park district's 15-year-old fall walking program, Autumn Adventure. (Details at metroparkstoledo.com). Another view comes courtesy of the Explorer tram at Oak Openings Preserve at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons in October. The fee is $2; make reservations online or call 419-407-9700.

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A colorful journey along U.S. 23 near Oscoda.

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If you want to travel beyond the immediate area, good color awaits in Ohio and Michigan, officials in both states say.

'I think the colors will be somewhat better than in recent years,' says Casey Munchel of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry, citing September's bright, sunny days and cool nights. Spotty color started in northern Ohio in late September, building and marching downstate on the way to a conclusion that generally occurs in the first week of November.

'We're encouraging people to get out and enjoy the outdoors close to home,' Ms. Munchel says. Color updates and listings of seasonal events can be found online at consumer.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures and ohiodnr.com.

In Michigan, the outlook is similarly rosy and bronze and russet.

'I think it's going to be a really good year,' says Dave Lorenz, a spokesman for Travel Michigan, the state's tourism promotion agency. Fall color updates and suggested driving tours can be found online at michigan.org.

Mr. Lorenz advises you don't wait too long to get out and enjoy the view.

The change of color in Michigan is a little behind schedule, he says, but once it starts in a region 'it will be a rapid change, and the leaves will not stay on long.'

And when you're out gawking skyward, don't forget to enjoy what's happening at ground level.

'People are so used to looking up that they forget to look at coloration in the fields and along the sides of the road,' Mr. Lorenz points out. 'You will see some really vibrant-colored bushes and plants, so don't just look up.'

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.

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