Heading out before the chill sets in

By: April Lehmbeck | C&G Newspapers | Published September 28, 2011

For those Michigan residents who hate the bitter cold of the winter months, autumn is a great time to get outside for those last trips across the state to enjoy some of nature’s vibrant colors, warm and rich tastes, and that sweater-and-jeans, football-watching weather.

Michigan has plenty to do in the fall, including fall color tours, hiking, canoeing, wine tasting, cider mills and more.

Here are some of the possibilities for fall road trips:

A splash of color
Fall’s color changes can be viewed from a number of venues, and there are lists of paths online, including a list of hot spots at Pure Michigan’s website, www.michigan.org.

While people can hop in the car and drive the routes themselves, the Southern Michigan Railroad Society allows people to take a train color tour.

“Our fall color tours are our biggest draw of the year, with most trains filling up,” said Lance Charter, trainmaster/vice president of the Southern Michigan Railroad Society. “We travel south from Tecumseh to our southern terminus at Raisin Center Highway, which is about a 50-minute trip. We then layover for about 30 minutes to enjoy cider and doughnuts, and perhaps catch a Norfolk Southern freight train on their nearby tracks.”

A round trip back to Tecumseh takes more than two hours.

“We cross the River Raisin on our steel girder bridge for a panoramic view of the fall colors and the river valley,” Charter said. “The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and is approximately 40 feet above the water.”

The cost of a tour is $15 for adults and $12 for senior citizens with children’s fares at $9 from ages 2 to 12.

For the schedule and more information, visit www.southernmichiganrailroad.com.

A visit to Grayling
The middle of the state boasts some spectacular foliage that can be enjoyed from the car, a kayak or even a short hike through a park.

“Our area is popular for canoeing and kayaking on the AuSable and Manistee rivers,” said Ilene Wilson, executive director of the Grayling Visitors Bureau. “Many people use this way to enjoy the warm Indian summer days. Hartwick Pines State Park annually draws thousands of visitors to view the ‘old growth’ forest and tour the visitor’s center and logging museums. Wellington Farm Park, a Depression-era farm, is still open in the fall.

“Hiking and biking are also very popular this time of year, as is fishing on the rivers,” she added.

Grayling is hosting its Harvest Fest on Oct. 1 and 2 with an antique tractor show, farmers market, arts and crafts, and more.

There are a number of other fall events listed on Grayling’s website, www.grayling-mi.com.

A bit farther north
Road trip enthusiasts who don’t mind a bit of a drive from the Detroit area can find plenty to do in Petoskey.

“Ours is a terrific area to visit in the fall,” said Diane Dakins, assistant director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. “From farmers markets and hayrides to zip-line adventures to an incredible bike path and gorgeous hiking trails, we’ve got it here.

“How about a trail ride atop a trusty steed or a bird’s eye view from a chairlift?” she said. “And our roadways take you through beautiful areas with bright reds, yellows and oranges popping out all over the place.”

For those who are ready to jump in the car right away, the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society is hosting tours of the Little Traverse Lighthouse on Lake Michigan on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The area’s Harvest Festival is on Oct. 1, as well, with music, folk art, a scarecrow-making contest and more.

There are some other festivals coming up in the area, including the C.S. Lewis Festival, which runs from Oct. 17 to Nov. 30 at various locations.

For more information on activities in the Petoskey area, visit www.petoskeyarea.com.

Cider mills abound
If it’s cider you’re after, that’s in no short supply in the state. There’s even an application for iPhone users that is being promoted by the Michigan Apple Committee that will help visitors find orchards, cider mills and other places that sell locally grown apples.

“Michigan is among the first states to develop such an innovative app for agriculture, which was a joint effort of the Michigan Apple Committee, Michigan Farm Marketing and Agri-tourism Association, Michigan Farmers Market Association and the Michigan Cider Makers Guild,” states a press release on the organization’s website. “The app currently covers about 300 direct sales locations.”

The app is free and can be found under Michigan Farm Markets in the Apple App Store.