The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - BY CHARU SURI

“Au­tumn is a sec­ond spring where ev­ery leaf is a flower,” wrote French philoso­pher Al­bert Ca­mus.

In North Amer­ica, most ex­perts agree that the peak time of those “flow­ers” oc­curs around mid-October, depend­ing on the lat­i­tude, al­ti­tude and prox­im­ity to the coast. David An­gotti, co-founder of the Smokey Moun­tains fo­liage pre­dic­tion map, said the peak may be slightly de­layed this year be­cause of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures in gen­eral.

Many trav­el­ers take leisurely drives to spot or post the range of bril­liant col­ors on In­sta­gram. But here are five more un­usual ways to en­joy leaf­peep­ing sea­son this year:


New York Zi­pline Ad­ven­tures at Hunter Moun­tain, in the Catskills re­gion, runs the SkyRider tour, a 4.6-mile-long mul­ti­ple ca­ble ad­ven­ture that takes guests 600 feet high at speeds of up to 60 mph. The zip line is con­sid­ered the long­est, fastest and high­est of its kind in North Amer­ica. “Peo­ple specif­i­cally call ahead to book the zip line to see the fo­liage,” says Alex Cava­liere, of­fice man­ager for the com­pany. “On these tours, you zip from moun­tain­top to moun­tain­top to where the val­leys meet so you are hundreds of feet above the for­est canopy,” she said. The guided tour lasts up to three hours; guides of­ten point out tree fo­liage species.

“Catskills forests, with pre­dom­i­nantly oak, beech, birch and maple with some cot­ton­wood, as­pen, hick­ory, cherry and sy­camore, pro­vide in­ter­est­ing color con­trasts,” said Jerry Carl­son, chief of for­est health and pro­tec­tion at New York state's depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion. “The unique­ness of this re­gion lies in the den­sity: Some parts are heavy maple, and some parts are heavy oak.”

Zip line rates are $119 on week­days, $129 on week­ends. Tours are lim­ited to 12 peo­ple.


The Foundry Ho­tel in Asheville, N.C., of­fers a “leaf peep­ing by land, air and sea” pack­age that starts with a guided Blue Ridge Park­way tour in a Tesla Model X, a hot-air bal­loon ride over the Pis­gah Na­tional For­est and a pad­dle boat ride on the French Broad River. The boat tour takes around two hours and lets guests leisurely take in the col­ors of red and white oak trees, as well as the Ap­palachian ter­rain filled with black gum and sour woods.

The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Con­necti­cut of­fers a guided two-hour kayak­ing ex­cur­sion on the nearby Ban­tam River. The river tour me­an­ders past a na­ture con­ser­vancy in Litch­field, with a nat­u­ral­ist ed­u­cat­ing vis­i­tors about the sur­round­ing Cana­dian hem­locks (the tallest trees in the North­east), as well as the Amer­i­can sycamores, sugar maples, oak trees, white pine and birch.

Want to do it your­self? The Dis­cover-Boat­ing site lets you find boat rentals in your ZIP code and rec­om­mends the Columbia River Gorge in the Pa­cific North­west, Lake Ta­hoe in Cal­i­for­nia and Aca­dia Na­tional Park in Maine as some top ar­eas to take in the fall fo­liage from the wa­ter.

The “Eco-friendly Leaf Peep­ing by Land, Air and Sea” pack­age is $500 per per­son; rates at The Foundry start from $400 per night. The guided kayak ex­cur­sion of­fered by the Mayflower Inn & Spa is $170 per cou­ple (a pic­nic is ex­tra); rates at the ho­tel start from $800 per night.


Paragon Guides in Vail, Colorado, in­tro­duced llama treks in the re­gion in 2013. Since then, the out­fit­ter says they've been ex­tremely pop­u­lar with children in the sum­mer and dur­ing peak fo­liage sea­son.

Vis­i­tors get to hike with a llama or two in a small group; a red-check­ered pic­nic lunch is pro­vided. Most hikes oc­cur at around 9,000 feet, and the guides select the best fo­liage trails from more than 300 op­tions, in­clud­ing Big Horn, Gore and Grouse creeks, and Mis­souri and Nancy passes, where a lot of as­pen clus­ters are found. Nate Gold­berg, a lead guide with the out­fit­ter, said vis­i­tors see “a lot of un­der­brush, red and yel­low as­pen leaves, scrub oak, berries and wil­lows which turn a bright yel­low.”

A four-hour, 3-mile hike starts at $450 for two peo­ple; $95 for each ad­di­tional guest.


The be­spoke travel op­er­a­tor Pelorus or­ga­nizes climbs up gi­ant se­quoia trees and coast red­woods, con­sid­ered the largest and old­est liv­ing trees on Earth. Spots are lim­ited to two peo­ple who as­sist scientists ex­am­in­ing the drought's ef­fect on trees. The ex­pe­di­tion oc­curs at Yosemite Na­tional Park, specif­i­cally at the Free­man Creek gi­ant se­quoia grove in the Sierra Nevada. Scaled trees can at­tain a height of 278 feet and can be as old as 2,000 years.

“You have a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of fall fo­liage and one that re­lates back to many peo­ple's child­hood mem­o­ries of climb­ing trees,” said Jimmy Car­roll, co-founder of Pelorus. “And you can watch the sun­set and sun­rise while sleep­ing on a por­taledge,” he said, adding that this niche ex­pe­di­tion takes care not to harm the trees.

The cus­tom trip is around $45,000 for two peo­ple.


Peer-to-peer RV rental site RVshare re­ported a sharp in­crease in motor home rentals dur­ing fo­liage sea­son in cer­tain cities in the United States over the past two years, with even more book­ings an­tic­i­pated this year. The site has an in­ven­tory of more than 100,000 units, in­clud­ing those with full­func­tion­ing kitchens and out­door awn­ings so guests can “stay right in the mid­dle of the fo­liage,” said Me­gan Buemi, se­nior man­ager of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Renters also get rec­om­men­da­tions for top fo­liage drives.

Rental rates start from $200 per night on av­er­age. Each motor home comes with var­i­ous ameni­ties determined by the owner.

Pelorus via NYT

A clim­ber scales a gi­ant se­quoia in the Sierra Nevada. The be­spoke travel op­er­a­tor Pelorus or­ga­nizes climbs up gi­ant se­quoia trees and coast red­woods. Spots are lim­ited to two peo­ple who as­sist scientists ex­am­in­ing the drought ef­fect on trees.

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