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Published: Sunday, 10/18/2009

Fall's big show: Michigan and Ohio - including our metroparks - are ablaze with color now

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fall colors at their peak in the Jordan River Valley near Mancelona, Mich.
Fall colors at their peak in the Jordan River Valley near Mancelona, Mich.
ANDY MORRISON Enlarge

Attention, procrastinators: It's not too late to get out and see fall color.

You're probably right on time — maybe even early for a change.

Professional leaf watchers in Ohio and Michigan say the annual color show is running one to two weeks behind the usual schedule. They cite slight drought in some areas, and warmer-than-average September temperatures in others.

Early October conditions were perfect for producing brilliant foliage, said Casey Munchel, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources — “bright, sunny days and cool but not freezing nights. ... We want that to continue as long as possible, because that's going to provide the most vibrancy. We don't want a hard frost because that will cause the leaves to die and fall off.”

Gusty winds and heavy rain also can strip leaves prematurely from trees.

In our area, leaf colors are changing to near peak. Through the first week of November, ODNR will post weekly color updates on its Web site, ohiodnr.com. The department has introduced an online “Hit the Road” feature this year that maps out 32 drives that offer good autumn views. Nearby state parks, forests, wildlife areas, and nature preserves are identified for those who want closer looks.

Another source of information for leaf lovers is the Ohio Tourism Division's Web site, discoverohio.com. Click on the “Autumn Adventures” icon.

In Michigan, “We are having a little bit of a strange autumn.

The Upper Peninsula stayed warm a little longer than normal while the northern Lower Peninsula was colder,” said Kirsten Borgstrom of Travel Michigan.

That means the UP could have peak color now, while some parts of the state that normally are in full color are already fading. The agency provides fall color updates and other information at michigan.org.

Dave Lorenz, another spokesman for Travel Michigan, predicted that leaf watchers who take to the road today in southern Michigan will see trees at 70 to 80 percent color.

Ditch the itinerary and follow the leaves, he suggested.

“Find some of those back-country roads and little towns.

... This is the time to do that kind of travel,” he said.

But you don't have to travel far.

At the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, a fall color tram tour will roll through Secor Metropark at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Oct. 25. The fee is $5 per person, and reservations are required: 419-407-9700 or metroparkstoledo.com.

At Side Cut Metropark, the 12-passenger, wheelchairaccessible tram that's been running since May will wrap up the season this month. Riders can view fall color at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and Oct. 27. The fee is $2; reservations are required.

At 5 p.m. today and Oct. 25, a Metroparks naturalist will guide walkers through Wildwood Preserve Metropark. It's free, and no reservations are needed.

For those who want to set their own time and place,

Metroparks naturalist Bob Jacksy has several suggestions:

• At Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, the 1.7-mile Red Trail, which starts at the Beuhner Center at Mallard Lake.

Or drive down Wilkins Road toward the Oak Openings lodge and admire foliage in the trees and on the ground, where wild blueberry bushes grow.

Bicyclists can take the Wabash Cannonball Trail that goes through the park east to west, or hop on a 5.3-mile loop gravel trail at the lodge or Mallard Lake.

• At Side Cut Metropark, see maples and burning bush from the riverview parking lot.

• Head for the Packer-Hammersmith Center in the middle of Pearson Metropark to see the bright yellow leaves of black maples.

• Wildwood Preserve Metropark offers a blast of color behind the Visitors Center and the Manor House. The bridge over the ravine behind the house is a nice place to pause.

• Swan Creek Preserve Metropark's 1.3-mile Orange Trail loop, accessible from either the Airport Highway or Glendale Avenue park entrances, passes through a meadow that's rimmed with trees. “It's one of the most colorful places in the parks,” Mr. Jacksy said.

Contact Ann Weber at:

aweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6126.



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