Friday, October 17, 2003

Catch the fallin' leaves

All around us, trees are showing off their awesome autumn colors

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] James Flowers of North College Hill jogs through Mount Airy Forest.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
Like a slow-motion fireworks show, the trees in the Tristate are booming with color. Scarlet to russet, lemon to amber and shades of orange to spark imagination will hang from limbs, then descend slowly to earth for the next several weeks.

This week marks the crest of this year's show; leaf colors in our area are peaking. To take advantage of the show, go beyond your neighborhood and the familiar path to work and school. Drive or walk through area parks and byways to experience the best reds, oranges and yellows nature can produce. If you want to collect and save leaves, we'll tell you how.

Here are five spots where you can enjoy the fall foliage. Some are a little more than an hour from downtown Cincinnati, and one is right here in Hamilton County.

Blue Licks State Park

Dogwoods and redbuds produce brilliant reds in Blue Licks (Web site). It is also home to Short's goldenrod, an endangered plant species.Trees include sugar maple, white ash, walnut and buckeye. Optimum places to view foliage in the park are driving the Licking River Road or hiking along the Licking River Trail. Blue Licks is about 80 miles southeast of Cincinnati, near Carlisle, Ky.

From Cincinnati: I-471 to I-275 west. Take Exit 77 and turn right on Licking Pike (Ky. 9). Bear right on Ky. 9/10, turn right on Lexington Road, which becomes U.S. 68 and takes you right to the park.

Mount Airy Forest

The largest park in the Cincinnati Parks system, Mount Airy Forest (Web site) covers 1,469 acres in Colerain Township, with 14 miles of hiking trails. The park's jewel is its Arboretum, which includes more than 5,000 plants representing 1,600 species, and a variety of deciduous trees and shrubs and evergreens.

The park hosts a variety of trees, including a lot of sugar maples, black gums and oaks.

From Cincinnati, take: I-75 north to I-74 west, to Colerain Avenue exit (18), left on Colerain Avenue for about 3 miles. Park is on left.

Ohio River Scenic Byway

If you had lots of time, you could see spectacular leaves along the river all the way from East Liverpool, Ohio, to Cairo, Ill., some 900 miles. The Ohio Scenic Byway is the longest National Scenic Byway (Web site). in the country, playing hide-and-seek with the river and now offering bright vistas of nature's best leaf colors.

From Cincinnati: For the Ohio section, take U.S. 50 east to U.S. 52 to Ohio 7. Just outside Pomeroy, the state routes switch from 7 to 124 to 338, back to 124, then back to Ohio 7, before ending in East Liverpool. In Indiana, travel west on U.S. 50 to Indiana routes 56, 62, 66 and 662.

Stonelick State Park

Stonelick (Web site) covers a little more than 1,000 acres in Clermont County and has a significant number of sweet gum, beech and maple trees.

Roads traverse the park, so you can take a slow drive and experience the full effect of the trees' show. The walk to Stonelick Lake in the center of the park offers a spectacular fall vista.

From Cincinnati: Take I-75 north to I-275 east to the Milford Parkway exit, turn right on Milford Parkway (U.S. 50 and Ohio 131), follow for about 8 miles, turn left on Highway 727. Park is 3 miles on the left.

Versailles State Park

This sprawling stretch of nature is nearly 6,000 acres in Ripley County (Ind.), with 6 miles of hiking trails and the winding, 27-mile Hoosier Hills Bicycle Route. Another good place to experience the fine foliage at Versailles (Web site) is at the shore of the park's 230-acre lake. Watch for the unusually shaped leaves from the tulip tree, Indiana's official state tree. Other trees to enjoy include red maples and oaks.

From Cincinnati: Take U.S. 50 west into Indiana. The park is approximately 56 miles from downtown Cincinnati. The park's entrance is on U.S. 50.

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