Page 3 of 5   <       >

7 Ways to Fall for Autumn

State Arboretum of Virginia,
In Clarke County, the grove of ginkgoes at the State Arboretum of Virginia turns gold in autumn. Miles of trails offer plenty of opportunities to view the changing leaves. (Tim Farmer -- State Arboretum of Virginia)

Speaking of canines, we all know who's really yearning for a frolic in the falling leaves, and if tails could talk, the one wagging hopefully at you right now would be saying, "Surely you're not thinking of leaving me behind?"

"Hiking with a dog, in addition to giving you an enthusiastic hiking companion, also gives you a different perspective on the trail," says Jeff Bolognese, coordinator for K9 Trailblazers, a dog-hiking club in the Washington-Baltimore area that holds monthly group hikes for leashed dogs and their human companions. (K9 emphasizes, and park rules usually require, that dogs remain on leashes at all times during these outings.) "Dogs notice things that we might not (scents, animal tracks and so forth), and seeing them interact with the natural world expands and enriches how we see that world," he says.

Bolognese recommends Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, Md., in Frederick County, as "one of K9TB's all-time favorite hiking spots." There are a variety of hiking trails, and "fall is an especially nice time to visit," he says. "The changing colors are beautiful, and many of the hiking trails offer scenic views of the surrounding country."

SKY MEADOWS STATE PARK -- 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Va. 540-592-3556. The Fall Farm Fest is Saturday and Sunday and Oct. 29-30. A Holiday Home festival is Nov. 26 through Dec. 4, featuring Virginia foods and products. $3 weekdays, $4 weekends through Oct. 31; $2 Nov. 1 through March 31.

ROCK CREEK PARK -- Pierce Barn, Tilden Street and Beach Drive NW. 202-282-0927. Morning Fall Hike, for ages 8 and older, leaves at 9:30. Free. For other hikes, programs and activities, visit Visitor information (Wednesday through Sunday), 202-895-6070. Free.

K9 TRAILBLAZERS -- A schedule of upcoming hikes, a pocket guide to hiking with your dog and a list of dog-friendly hiking destinations in the Baltimore-Washington area.

SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN -- 7901 Comus Rd., off Route 109, Dickerson, Md. 301-874-2024. Open from 8 a.m. to one hour before sunset. Free.

Float Your Boat

Paddles and lifejackets seem more your style than walking sticks and blistered feet? No experience is necessary to take part in the fall color paddling tours at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton.

"We do a little bit of instruction at the beginning before we get on the water, and it's all flat-water paddling," says Assistant Park Manager Laurelyn Rawson. Paddles, boats and lifejackets are provided, and participants need bring only water and a snack. (Sunscreen, bug spray and a hat are good to have, too, and remember your binoculars as well.)

"We lead the tours back into Pohick Bay. A huge portion of Mason Neck is parklands, so there is a lot of protected land out here. With the park on one side of the bay and Fort Belvoir on the other, with no development on their side, you feel like you are in a different world," Rawson says.

Bald eagles are often spotted on morning paddles in particular, along with blue herons, white egrets, fish and beavers. Rawson expects the best fall colors in the woods and marshlands in the next few weeks. "The end of October, beginning of November, it should be really spectacular."

To the east in Upper Marlboro, Patuxent River Park's Kayak Kaper on Saturday is another guided, no-experience-necessary paddle trip, this one exploring tidal wetlands of the Patuxent River.

<          3           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company