October 2007 Issue
By boat, buggy or basket, this month is all about the leaves. Here, we offer five ways to pass a fabulous fall day.
Checking out the leaves from hundreds of feet above ground might sound dangerous, but if you’re a thrill seeker, stick with skydiving. “Balloons travel at about six knots per hour (less than 7 miles per hour),” explains Laurie Givin, owner of Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company in Lebanon. Guaranteed to disappoint adrenaline junkies, but an indescribable feeling for those seeking views of nature’s annual art show. “It’s like you’re standing still and the world is moving below you,” Givin says.
Trips are concentrated in southwestern Ohio, but can be customized. “We ask our customers what they want to see,” says Mike Gliatti, who owns Bella Balloons, also in Lebanon. Both companies offer sunrise or sunset flights, since that’s when the winds are the most stable. Gliatti says a typical ride sails over varied landscapes, and might include the oak- and maple-lined ridges and hillsides of nearby Caesar Creek State Park, as well as the corn mazes of local farms. You’re also likely to spot whitetail deer, red fox, coyotes and red tail hawks, he says.
The flights last an hour or more, flying low along the tree line or 500 to 700 feet above it, although most passengers are smitten by the birds-eye view. “We’ll take our passengers leaf picking,” says Givin. “People are used to being in an enclosed capsule when they fly. This lets them reach out and touch nature in way they probably haven’t before.”
Like a Horse and Carriage
Amish Country gets its share of coverage on our pages, but we particularly like it in the fall, since it’s on a short list of places where you can still find stretches of land uninterrupted by power lines and cell phone towers. Driving here, you’ll be overwhelmed by russets, reds, amber and gold before you put your car in park. But leave it to the champions of the simple life to show us a better way to experience their hills.
In Holmes County, two Amish-owned businesses — Shrock’s Amish Farm & Village in Berlin and Yoder’s Amish Home in Millersburg — let visitors feel the pull of real horse power with a peaceful ride in a traditional Amish buggy. The trips are short —15-minute tours around the respective farms — and navigated by an Amish driver. But taking in the kaleidoscope of colors to the soothing sound of the horse’s clippity clop make these outings a contender for the most charming 15 minutes of fall ever.
If you’d like to extend your trip, Shrock’s offers 30-minute wagon rides that run “out through the field, past the animals and into the woods,” says JoAnn Hershberger, whose family owns the popular destination. Hershberger notes that even though they bought the property nearly 20 years ago, she hasn’t tired of devoting a Saturday to taking buggy and wagon rides on the farm with her five grandchildren. “I love the woods here — it’s all dirt paths and no traffic other than the wagon — just the sound and smell of the leaves in the fall.”
As for the wireless hillsides, they’re best seen on a backroads tour with Happy Trails of Holmes County, a non-Amish carriage ride company that offers 30- and 60-minute (or longer, with notice) trips through the rolling hillsides. If the weather is on your side, request the vis-à-vis carriage, which is pulled by a Bertrand draft horse and has an open top. “We’ll take people out to watch the sunset, and that’s usually when they decide they want to retire here,” laughs Happy Trails owner Stan Gilbert.
“Brandywine Gorge is the best area in the park to observe the fall foliage change,” says Paul Motts, an interpretive park ranger and 16-year veteran at Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) near Cleveland. “There’s a tremendous variety of habitats,” he explains, “which means there’s a wide range of trees that show color at different points during the month — and you have the falls in the background.” The one-and-a-half-mile Brandywine Gorge trail is walled with forest, where early-turning trees such as sugar and red maples mingle with white and red oaks — two late-comers that transition into reddish-brown at the end of the season. Because the park is in the northern part of the state, the colors start to pop during the first week of October, with peak viewing time generally hitting about the third week. Motts says visitors can count on the mellowed yellow of sycamores, mottled gold from beech trees and tangerine and blood-orange foliage of sassafras to punctuate the canopies throughout the next few weeks. “You can see the entire season progress down there,” he says. Motts recommends two other spots in the park for color. “The Towpath Trail is good during the early season,” he says, citing the abundance of maples and willow trees along its rim. “The best spot there is by the beaver marsh,” he adds, which is accessible by hiking about one-quarter mile north from the Ira Trailhead off Riverview Road. Another of his favorites is the Oak Hill area, where hikers can choose from the inner (1.5 miles) or outer loop trail (4.9 miles). “The trails run past several beautiful ponds,” he explains. “It’s just magnificent.”
Go With the Flow
About a third of Ohio’s hardwoods are concentrated in the southeastern part of the state, which is why it’s beautiful here in the fall — and crowded. Fortunately, there’s a way to bypass the masses and get double the scenery, even on the weekends.
“We never have crowds to contend with,” says Mimi Morrison, owner of Touch the Earth Adventures in Athens, which offers guided kayaking excursions on the area’s tranquil waterways. “I think it’s because some of the small lakes have been forgotten. People used to come here for vacation — now they’re just as likely to go to Cancun.”
Morrison takes fall paddlers to parks in Athens and Vinton counties, including Burr Oak and Lake Hope state parks. No experience is required, and basic kayaking instruction is included with the trip.
If you need some coaxing to leave dry land, the lifelong outdoorswoman notes that in a kayak, you get the benefit of seeing the trees twice. “The hillsides are so forested in this area, the leaves just shimmer off the water,” she says.
But for most of her clients, Morrison says, it’s nature’s calming effect that draws them off the crowded trails and into the seat of a kayak. “The clarity of fall color, blue sky and clear, crisp air — it just lifts you,” she says.
For another take on experiencing fall foliage, visit www.ohiomagazine.com to learn about llama trekking at southeast Ohio’s Blue Rock Station.