Enjoying the Wonder and Beauty of Autumn's Colour
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“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Autumn is a pleasant time to hike, bike and see the sights.
During the last few falls our family has enjoyed hiking scenic footpaths such as the Bruce Trail, the Trout Hollow Trail and the trails on Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Moderate temperatures at this time of year make outdoor activities like hiking, cycling and canoeing even more enjoyable. And the lack of biting insects is an added bonus. But for us, and many others, a major attraction for autumn outings is the changing colours of the leaves.
There are numerous places to enjoy the myriad colours. The transformation begins with little fanfare, but before you know it many of the leaves have turned colour and fallen to the ground so it is a good idea to be prepared well in advance, which can include plans of where to go to enjoy fall's colours. The spectacular fall colours of nature's artistry that occur in Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States are second to none.
While some trees can start turning colour in August, early to mid September is when many trees start their colour transformation, no matter how subtle, providing us with a hint of what is to come. October is when that brief period occurs, when forests show off their fall finest with breathtaking tapestries of yellows, oranges, golds, reds and purples. The climax of colours is a spectacular sight to behold and definitely one worth waiting for and planning activities around. In order to see how colours are progressing in various areas, you can access some government and tourism websites that have fall colour reports.
If you enjoy observing the autumn colours from a car, there are numerous driving tours that you can take. The Georgian Triangle Tourist Association's website “Visit South Georgian Bay” features seven driving tours with distances ranging from the 41 kilometre “Blue Mountain Tour” to 150 kilometres in the case of “The Great Falls Adventure”. If you would prefer cycling, they list 11 cycling tours. Hikers can choose from a large selection of trails provided by the Georgian Triangle Tourist Association. These tours are also in their South Georgian Bay Visitor Guide.
Hiking is a wonderful way to appreciate the changing colours of Ontario's forests and the Bruce Trail is an ideal trail as it features spectacular scenery and it is the oldest and longest continuous footpath in Canada. Our family hikes the Bruce Trail near our home north of Mansfield and further afield including areas in Grey County.
Another breathtaking trail to hike is the Trout Hollow Trail in Meaford. Although it is not widely known outside of the Meaford area, this hidden gem features fantastic scenery as the approximately 14-kilometre trail runs along both sides of the picturesque Bighead River. The winding Bighead River with trees of various colours in the background makes a spectacular scene and one worth driving to Meaford for.
If you want to hike numerous trails surrounded by Georgian Bay there is Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Beausoleil Island is the largest island in the park. The approximately 7 kilometres long by 1.6 kilometres wide island features an impressive trail system. Autumn colours on Beausoleil Island are impressive, especially in contrast to the beautiful blue water of Georgian Bay.
If you enjoy watching the changing leaves from the car but enjoy hiking and want to get out and stretch your legs once in a while how about taking the Grey County Waterfall Tour? This tour features eight beautiful waterfalls in Grey County. Not only will you be able to enjoy the colours as you drive to each waterfall, but to view several of the falls you have a short hike along a scenic trail. Grey County Tourism provides an informative brochure, including directions, about their waterfall tour online and for those who request one.
Don't forget to check out the colours in your neighbourhood. Some of the most striking colours may be in your own backyard. But don't wait long; for once the colours reach their peak they don't last long. A few blustery days will blow the majority of leaves from the trees where they will decompose returning nutrients to the soil. The leaves feed soil organisms which help to break down the leaves on the ground turning them into humus and other soil components necessary for plants to grow.
And don't put your hiking boots away once the majority of leaves are on the ground. Hiking leaf-covered trails where you can see well into the forest due to the lack of leaves on the trees is also a pleasurable experience you won't soon forget.

Why Leaves Change Colour
Trees turn into an impressive array of colours in autumn as a result of the chlorophyll disappearing from their leaves. Chlorophyll is the pigment in trees that gives leaves their green colour, and it plays a vital role in photosynthesis, a process that turns light energy into food (sugar) for the tree. As winter approaches, photosynthesis stops in deciduous trees because there is not enough available water or light, and chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the chlorophyll disappears, the other pigments already in the leaves become visible. Carotenoids, xanthophylls and anthocyanins are responsible for the brilliant yellow, orange, red, purple and crimson colours in the leaves.

Where to Go for More Information
The following websites offer additional information that can make your excursions to enjoy the fall colours even better.
Bruce Trail   |  www.brucetrail.org
Trout Hollow Trail   |  www.bigheadriver.org
Georgian Bay Islands National Park  |  www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/on/georg/index.aspx
Grey County Waterfall Tour  |  www.visitgrey.ca/waterfalls
Georgian Triangle Tourist Association  |  www.visitsouthgeorgianbay.ca
Fall Colour Report  |  www.ontariotravel.net/publications/fallcolourreport.pdf
Ontario Fall Colours Road Trips & Drives  |  www.400eleven.com/colour-report.html



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