Taking Leaves of Your Senses

Now is the time to make plans to catch the brilliant fall foliage season. And this year promises to be one of the most colorful autumns that we have had in years.

The peak foliage season usually extends from mid-September through October, and sometimes even into November. The quiet beauty of fall offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle of everyday life as the breathtaking panorama of pure color blankets the landscape.

This time of year also seems to be the most popular vacation period with travelers, according to innkeepers and hoteliers who have been booking reservations for months now.

Barbara Arbani, proprietor with her chef/husband of the Hotel du Village in New Hope, notes that they have been taking reservations since last September: "Many folks return, year after year, for the season is not only beautiful, but so serene and relaxing."

It's almost a time of slowing down one's internal clock in order to appreciate the spectacle of the changing leaves.

David Berman, who is originally from Philadelphia, moved upstate to Stroudsburg about 20 years ago. "We have quite an active Jewish community here," he explains. "Many of our out-of-town relatives particularly like to visit in the fall, for there are so many ways to enjoy the foliage here in the Poconos."

Northeast America is fortunate to experience an explosion of changing colors. Here is a selection of places to discover:

Foliage by Rail

Two special lines offer fall foliage excursions with gorgeous views of the countryside while passengers ride comfortably on real working railroads.

The Strasburg Railroad's 45-minute train trip through Pennsylvania Dutch country begins in historic Strasburg, near Lancaster. And the Railroad Museum of America is just steps away (www.strasburgrailroad.com).

The Stourbridge Line offers a three-hour ride in the Pocono Mountains area, which begins in Honesdale and glides by the Lackawaxen River, with time for a one-hour stop in the Victorian Village of Hawley (www.waynecountrycc.com).

Foliage by Chairlift

At Shawnee-on-Delaware, the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area operates chairlift rides during its weekend Timber and Balloon Festival, Oct. 12-14. There are also tethered balloon rides; nearby is the spacious Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort (www.shawneemt. com).

Foliage From a Mountaintop

On the peak of Camelback Mountain, near Tannersville, the cozy Cameltop restaurant features "Lunch With a View," a delicious way to peer over the lovely valley nestled in the 3,400 acres of Big Pocono State Park. Breakfast and lunch are served daily.

With a handsome view overlooking Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey — and with seven miles of maintained trails — visitors can leisurely hike along the mountaintop. The mountain elevation is 2,900 feet.

Townhouses by the mountainside feature two- and three-bedroom lodging (www.skicamelback.com).

Foliage by Hiking

The tree-lined walkways — and bikeways — along Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Trail find not only glorious foliage vistas but historic sites as well. The 23-mile, multi-use path from Philadelphia to Valley Forge can begin at the foot of the Walnut Street Bridge, just west of 23rd Street, although walkers may start anywhere they choose.

There's also an entrance ramp onto the Market Street Bridge, just west of 23rd Street (www. gophilly.com).

Foliage With Yoga

At Skytop Lodge and Resort in the Poconos, a walking class called "Yoga on the Move" combines walking with yoga exercises for all levels, in the mountains and gardens, by the lake. Participants also can choose a fitness hike to Levitt Falls, one of two waterfalls on the property, covering a 100-foot change in elevation over rugged terrain.

On-site naturalist John Serrao takes guests on guided nature walks over the 5,500-acre property, discussing trees, natural wildlife (like beaver, fox and bear), as well as native plants (www.skytoplodge.com).

Foliage by Trolley

In the delightful seaside town of Cape May, N.J., visitors can choose from several ways to tour the country's oldest seashore resort. The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts sponsors trolley rides through town that showcase historic sites, a nature center and tree-lined streets near the beach.

There are also galleries, concerts, museums and shopping. And more than 400 Victorian-style gingerbread houses flourish through the town, where carriage rides are also popular. Another real treasure is the Cape May Bird Observatory overlooking Lake Lily on Cape May Point.

Typical hospitality is found at the Bedford Inn (a twin house built in 1893 for a mother and daughter), where visitors enjoy breakfast on the porch, parlor or dining room, as well as afternoon tea (www.capemaymac.org).

Foliage From the Water

Two exciting ways to view foliage are offered by two companies that provide daily adventures, as well as some lasting several days. Delaware River Tubing, in Frenchtown, N.J., takes guests down the river, with stops at a private island for a free BBQ meal by the "Famous River Hot-Dog Man" — with picnic tables (no kidding!) in the water (www. delawarerivertubing.com).

Point Pleasant Canoe & Tube in Point Pleasant, Pa., glides canoers through the calmer waters of the Delaware and offers other kinds of adventurous trips on Tohickon Creek (www.rivercountry.net).

Foliage From a Tower

In Washington Crossing Historic Park, Bowman's Hill Tower Wildflower Preserve, not far from New Hope, contains a 125-foot tall stone tower that offers magnificent views of the park — complete with a bird observatory, wildflowers, a small museum, gardens and ponds (www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing/ visit/bowman.htm).



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