Fall feels like Mother Nature’s chance to show off. To paint the treetops in blazing reds, burnt oranges, nearly neon yellows and every shade in between, just begging you to go outside and take in every view before the snowflakes start arriving. No wonder it’s my favorite season.
We like to go on long drives among the kaleidoscope of leaves. It’s not just about reveling in the changing colors, but it’s the perfect excuse to go and spend time as a family, hanging out in the car and picking a path on the map.
Leaf peeping revolves around exploring: Seeing a leaf-bedecked road on one side, or the other, and then deciding on a whim to see what’s behind the next curve or hill.
To guide us on our adventures, I turned to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). They know a thing or two about how to make the most of Mother Nature’s colorful display, regularly updating the rest of us on each sign of autumn. They’ll give you a run down on how much the leaves have changed so you know a little bit of what to expect when you head out.
I went to their Fall Color Driving Tours website and started playing around with the suggested routes in and around Northeast Ohio. And on a recent Saturday morning, I picked a path and headed out early to catch the light drizzling onto the leaves as the sun was coming up. On the ODNR’s site, the path I chose started in Hinckley jutting in a straight line east through Cuyahoga Valley National Park passing through Hudson and on beyond.
From the map, I wasn’t entirely sure where to start so I headed right into downtown Hinckley, a place I’d seen on street signs, but had never driven through. Then, I saw where the map must have been pointing – Hinckley’s Coffee and Donuts at the crossroads of 303 and Ridge Road.
After all, I thought, any decent road trip should start off with donuts.
I noticed once I went into the small shop that nearly all the apple fritters were gone. So I grabbed the few remaining ones along with glazed, chocolate old-fashioned donuts, to eat as we drove.
While the route going west to east on 303 from Hinckley may be a straight, the road launches up and down so much that I felt a bit like I was on a roller coaster.
Passing a sign for Hinckley Reservation we decided to veer off course to check out the metropark. We munched on fritters on the picnic tables overlooking the spillway. The leaves were still more greens and yellows, we noticed.
Back in the car, the road started to curve and bend as we entered Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We took our time, stopping at random roads we saw on either side. A farm stand here, and a lonely-looking dirt road there.
Our first gaunt was just the beginning.
I found that while I started the path with every intention of going from one end to the other, I relished the excuse to slow down and take note of the explosion of color happening all around me. Before long, we’d chosen roads cutting through Hiram to Burton, Loudonville to Berlin, and others. The drives became less and less about the destination and more about enjoying the journey.
And maybe that’s what Mother Nature had in mind all along with her fireworks show of Fall – giving folks a reason to kick back, ease along the roadways, and enjoy
If you go: You can pull up the ODNR website on your smart phone, or do what I did and print out some of the maps to put in your car.
For more fall inspiration, Find It Here at Ohio.org.