How Many Leaves Could a Leaf Peeper Peep...

The first time someone called me a leaf peeper I didn't know if I should call a cop, laugh hollowly or slap his face. Little did I know that I secretly was a leaf peeper, someone who likes to head out in the fall and admire all the lovely oranges, reds and yellows of the autumn foliage. Day trips are nice, camping trips are nicer and staying in a cushy lodge with a fireplace and hot chocolate is sublime. The changing of the leaves has begun and should run for another month. Some very popular spots are already booked up so if you are thinking about taking more than a day trip, now is the time to make reservations.

It doesn't matter if you live in the Carolinas, Virginia or the D.C. area. When the leaves start calling the first place you think of is the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway is immensely popular (the National Park Service says it's the most visited "unit") and it's long enough for you to jump in just about anywhere and find something beautiful. Stretching from the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Parkway is 469 miles long. The elevation is all over the place, reaching as high as 6000 feet. The range of the Parkway, both in height and length, is part of the reason you get such a variety of colors with some trees changing well before others. I like to stay at the Skyland Resort in the Shenandoah National Park because they have ponies!

The Hood River Valley Harvest Festival in Oregon takes place from the 14th through the 16th. There will be quite the selection of produce (does wine count as produce?) including apples, pears, garlic, salmon, and beautiful pumpkins. There will also be a corn maze and artisans but the most appealing feature of the festival is the train ride to admire the veritable blaze of color in the orchards. It's a simple mathematical formula, train + pretty = fun memories.

Wisconsin in the fall practically defines color. The cranberries along the Cranberry Highway are red, the trees look like they are full of fire and the pumpkins are that pleasing orange that makes you smile. If water sounds prettier to you then try the

Great River Road, which runs along the Mississippi. The road starts in Canada and runs all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The bit in Wisconsin is about 250 miles long, passes through some beautiful towns and farms and is perfect for bike riding, but bundle up because fall is cold in Wisconsin.

The single coolest leafy thing I learned while researching for this column is that the Forest Service has a fall colors hotline. You can call or go online and do a little digging to find out what percentage of leaves for your projected area have turned colors. Isn't the internet age wonderful? W00t!

If you happen to be in London on the tenth, the Oxford Street Borders is holding a must attend event. Cyberpunk genius Pat Cadigan (author of The Power and the Passion the best vampire story ever written) is organizing an evening of book readings and signings. Cory Doctorow will be there as will Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of the just published 9 Tail Fox, billed as a "noir melding of ancient Chinese folklore, organized crime and cutting edge medical technology." Pat Cadigan says get there early for a good seat. I say get there early if you don't want to stand up all night. Spectacular events like this one fill up very quickly.