active-travel

Get out! 5 leaf-peeping adventures

Oct. 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM ET

tree climbers
Courtesy Tree Climb Connecticut
Want to see the colors of the changing leaves up close? Tree Climb Connecticut offers a treetop view.

Travelers these days can experience autumn foliage in a mind-boggling number of ways: floating over treetops in hot air balloons, paddling kayaks down rivers and lakes, or ziplining high above the forest floor. There are even tree-climbing lessons.

Leaf peeping clearly isn’t what it used to be.

The annual fall rite of passage of reveling in the wonders of nature has become more active in recent years, said Rena Calcaterra, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Connecticut Office of Tourism, as people, especially aging baby boomers, have become more health-conscious.

“The trend is not just to look and see, but to participate," Calcaterra said. "And it’s a lot more fun that way.”

Here is a roundup of 5 leaf-peeping adventures.

Tree climbing in Connecticut
Climbing trees is a regular activity for many children, yet most adults rarely do it. But what better way to see the turning leaves than being in up in the treetops among them? Tree Climb Connecticut, based in Manchester, offers several ways for want-to-be arborists ages 7 to 70, to experience the fall foliage. “You can climb up to 80 feet into the canopy of a forest for a truly awesome view,” the website notes, enjoying “the Peter Pan feeling as you "float " in the forest, learn to walk on a limb, swing from the tree tops, or even descend past limbs like an elevator past floors.” In 1-½ day long Recreational Tree Climbing classes, participants learn how to climb on their own. Instruction includes the basics of safety and technique, how to select proper trees and equipment, and how to tie, throw and set ropes. Adventure Climbs are for those who want to climb trees for a morning or afternoon while being supervised, but without formal training. The sport of tree climbing began about 15 years ago in Georgia, then moved out West, said Gary Gross, Tree Climb Connecticut’s founder, who also trains professional arborists. “But no one was doing it in New England,” said Gross, one of 11 children who grew up on a farm and spent much of his childhood climbing trees. Similar services are offered in neighboring states. Classes cost $280 per person; adventure climbs cost $60.

Guided walking in Vermont
Country Walkers, a company that specializes in active travel, offers a number of hiking and walking tours that take-in fall foliage, including a six-day, five-night guided walking tour: Vermont Fall Foliage-Goshen to Stowe. Travelers on foot journey on trails through rolling hills, lush meadows and forests. “You’re out in the leaves. You can smell them and hear the crunch under your feet,” said Carolyn Walters Fox, who handles the company’s marketing and media relations. “Pumpkins are all ripe in the fields.” On a clear day, foliage in three states and Quebec can be viewed from Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Stops include general stores in quintessential “picture-perfect” New England villages, hayrides, visits to a dairy farm, a lost pioneer settlement, and a cabin where Robert Frost wrote. “You are walking off the beaten-tourist path -- completely,” said Fox. After a day of walking, it’s hot cider and cookies in front of a fire, chef-prepared meals, and overnight stays at cozy country inns. Departure is Oct. 7; $2,698 per person, based on double occupancy.

Boating on Lakeof the Ozarks in Missouri
The Lake of the Ozarks, a man-made lake about 175 miles from St. Louis, runs 92 miles end to end and is surrounded by state parks and the Ozark Mountains. “Our fall is in full swing right now,” said Rebecca Green, a spokeswoman for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, of the region that prides itself on everything from its hiking trails to its world-class boating. “With our rolling hills and the colors we get along the 1,150 mile shoreline, it’s hard to beat.” Coming up is the 27th Annual Fall Harbor Hop on Oct. 13 when participating boaters “hop from place to place” at over 40 locations to try their hand at poker, all while listening to live music. “There is no better way to enjoy the fall foliage as well as being on the water,” Green said. Boats -- from speedboats and pontoons to fishing boats, personal watercraft and even houseboats -- can be rented or chartered by the hour, day or longer, and several commercial vessels operate narrated scenic cruises through late fall.“ Why drive to a restaurant when you can cruise there?” the website notes. The region boasts plenty of non-water related activities, too, like the 33rd annual “Olde Tyme Apple Festival” on Oct. 6. (Think apple pie, a parade, and a fiddling contest).

Ziplining inAsheville, N.C.
Navitat Canopy Adventures, based in a secluded mountain cove in the Southern Appalachians, promises an adventure through the treetops that harkens back to the carefree days of childhood, soaring high above the forest floor while taking the epic scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The company’s small, personalized groups of no more than eight guests and two highly trained guides, are educational, it says, and boast some of the longest and highest ziplines in the Southeast. “The views are phenomenal” said Marla Tambellini, director of marketing and public relations for the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The Asheville area is fortunate to have one of the best fall color displays in our backyard. With more than 100 deciduous tree species, significant elevation changes, and a variety of micro-climates, we enjoy one of the most extended fall foliage seasons in the nation, lasting from late September to early November.” Navitat wrote on its website: “You’ll cross two suspended sky bridges and experience rappelling twice. By the end, you’re guaranteed to feel like Indiana Jones, or at least a genuine tree-lovin’, tree-huggin’ ziplining expert.”

Floating and soaring above inHocking Hills, Ohio
Soaring above Hocking Hills, located about 40 miles southeast of Columbus, in a small plane is one of the best ways to see the stunning fall tapestries of color in the some 10,000 acres of lush forests, lakes and distinctive geological formations, locals say. Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours offers panoramic, aerial views that get close enough to waterfalls “to see water actually coming off the rocks, and see into caves,” said Harry Sowers, a pilot of 44 years and flight instructor who owns the company. “I think most people are touched by the Hills’ grandeur, the awesomeness of it, and the uniqueness and beauty of nature,” said Sowers, who frequently breaks into John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart imitations. “It’s to ease them into feeling comfortable.” Sunset, sunrise, and customized flights “at prices the average family can afford,” he said, start at $80.25 for two people for 20 minutes. Visitors can float over the treetops and take in 360-degree views as “foliage unfurls from beneath the balloon's basket” with Hocking Hills Hot Air Ballooning. Other activities include fall-themed historic train rides that serve wine and cheese, and organized hikes, like the three-mile Lake Hope Fall Hike that begins with a cup of sassafras tea and ends with bean soup and cornbread.

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