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Published: Sunday, 10/1/2006

Toledo Magazine: Hoping for a long fall

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In a last power surge before pulling the plug for winter, nature is lighting up the landscape with shades of yellow, gold, orange, red, and purple.

Leaves have started to turn throughout the Midwest; like a wave of timed twinkle lights, they flash and fade depending on species and location.

"Traditionally you start to see the change of leaves in the north in the last week of September," said Jane Beathard, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Color moves south through the state, winding down around the first week of November.

She predicted that fall color will be on schedule this year - a change from last year, when a hot, dry summer delayed its onset. ODNR also expects an especially good show of foliage this year because higher-than-normal rainfall produced thick leaf cover on trees and bushes - a glorious payback for our flooded streets and basements.

You won't need to guess where to see peak color through the season. A weekly fall color forecast is available by calling the Ohio travel and tourism hotline at 1-800-BUCKEYE (1-800-282-5393). Information also is available on the Web, at www.ohiodnr.com, including suggestions for driving tours. In northwest Ohio, for example, take State Routes 65, 110, and 424 from Perrysburg southwest to Defiance, or State Routes 105, 163, and 53 from Bowling Green northeast to Catawba Island.

(For leaf-peepers who are willing to travel longer distances for their fall color fix, Web sites such as www.foliagenetwork.com report on conditions throughout the northeastern and southeastern United States as well as the Upper Midwest.)

Not to be outdone, Michigan also is predicting a "spectacular" year for fall color, said Kirsten Borgstrom of Travel Michigan, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. "We have a terrific number of leaves still on the trees. If it stays that way, it's going to be a vibrant show," she said.

This weekend, "the Upper Peninsula will be ablaze in color," Mrs. Borgstrom said. The color traditionally starts in the northwest Upper Peninsula and rolls on a southeast diagonal across the state, she added.

Michigan helps keep color-watchers informed via a weekly e-mailed update; you can sign up for the free newsletter at www.michigan.org/travel.

The site also suggests fall color tours. One is an approximately 195-mile Jackson/Ann Arbor/Monroe loop, best traveled in mid to late October, that includes the Lake Erie shoreline, Sterling State Park, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Nichols Arboretum, Waterloo Recreation Area, Cambridge State Historic Park, the Irish Hills, Hayes State Park, Hidden Lake Gardens, farm markets, and a cider mill.

There are plenty of opportunities to experience fall beauty on foot rather than by car. The view in the Metroparks "changes from park to park, from day to day," noted Mark Plessner, a naturalist/historic interpreter. "It goes pretty quick," he added.

The Autumn Adventure series of walks includes a Sassafras Hike at 3:30 p.m. today at Wildwood Preserve. Another, at 10 a.m. Oct. 21 at Secor, is billed as a Fall Color Walk, and the last, on Nov. 7 at Wildwood, is called Farewell to Autumn. The full list is at www.metroparkstoledo.com.

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



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