Leaf-peeping season is poised to start in most of the United States in the coming weeks. Even though leaf-peeping sounds rather naughty, it actually involves looking at trees. Alternate names include leafing, fall foliage viewing, and probably others as well. For the Japanese, it's called momijigari ("leaf hunting") and is considered a noble activity. You may not think leaf-peeping (or whatever you choose to call it) is noble, but the following tips can help make it an enjoyable way to spend fall days, whether you're driving or walking.
How to Leaf
Generally, the simplest way to go leafing is to pick an area where the leaves are changing colors, and drive or walk around. Residents of areas where the leaves change colors may already know of good spots for leafing. Even if you don't know where to find the best colors, you can probably drive out to the country and find an area with lots of trees and not much traffic. Environmentally-minded people may prefer to hike instead of driving, especially since this gives everyone a chance to focus on the leaves instead of the road. National or regional parks are particularly good places for leaf-peeping, since they don't restrict you to the area directly around your home but do allow you to walk and enjoy the fresh air.
Those who take children along on a fall foliage tour may want to consider bringing a book in which to store especially interesting leaves encountered on the way. Remembering a special leafing experience is easier if you can preserve a physical reminder, because pictures only tell part of the story. Efficient leaf-peeping also depends on the right supplies, so make sure you bring items like food, drinks, a cell phone, and proper clothing. Especially in cold or rainy areas, extra gear like jackets and umbrellas can be important if the weather doesn't cooperate. Sometimes a short walk turns into a daylong hike, and it's always better to have supplies and not need them than to need supplies and not have them.
Motorcycle and Bike Leafing Tours
A motorcycle ride through the countryside can be an ideal way to enjoy the changing colors, but despite the extra visuals offered by not wearing a helmet, please follow all state laws and regulations regarding helmets, and put safety first no matter what.
Likewise, bicycling is also a wonderful and healthy alternative to driving, and with the right safety equipment (always wear a helmet!) and preparation, leaf-peeping and biking can be a great mix.
If you're leaf peeping around your hometown, newspapers and the local news often have updates on the best spots to view fall foliage. If you're planning a special leafing tour, many websites have reports on the state of the foliage. The USDA Forest Service provides extensive planning information for leaf-peepers, including links to national and regional forest spots perfect for leafing. The Weather Channel provides a map of the U.S. that shows foliage conditions for different regions, and The Foliage Network has regional foliage reports, as well as resources for planning your leafing trip. When planning your trip, remember to check the local sunset time-"you might be surprised by the sun going down, so plan accordingly. Make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery in the daylight.
Leaf From Home
If you don't live in an area where the leaves change colors, or simply don't have time to get out for a trip, you can still experience the grand vistas of nature-right from your own home. It's not quite the same as being there, but several organizations maintain web cameras to monitor air quality that double as foliage cameras. Two of these organizations are the USDA Forest Service and CAMNET. In addition, many cities and states maintain traffic and weather web cameras that can be used to view fall foliage as it changes color. These cameras are also a great way to see if the area you want to visit is currently in season or not.
Don't Leave Safety Behind
Even though it may seem like you're alone when you're leaf-peeping, remember that many others may be enjoying the leaves as well. If you're driving, make sure to pay attention to the road first and the leaves second. If it's possible, pull over to the side and park so you're not distracted. If you're riding a motorcycle, bear in mind these safety tips as well-"and we encourage you to wear a helmet, regardless of the laws in your state. To get more tips on leafing and safety, listen to our Fall Foliage Tours podcast.
Do you have any leaf-peeping tips or stories? What do you and your friends call leafing? Let us know!
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