by Adriane Harrison
One of the gifts of living in Western Pennsylvania is the annual color display when the leaves change in Autumn. Throughout the urban and suburban landscape, hillsides everywhere are awash with shades of crimson, gold, orange, brown, and green. When these changes happen, it is really that leaves are showing their true colors – that are masked by the photosynthesis process. Photosynthesis makes leaves green, but once the days shorten and there is less rainfall, the photosynthesis “factory” in the leaves shuts down and the natural color of the leaves is revealed. If the fall days are warm and the nights are cool, the red colors will be more brilliant. The best fall colors happen when we have a warm, wet spring, a summer that is neither to hot or too dry, and a Fall with warm sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. So far, it’s shaping up to be a stunning season.
Venture Outdoors has plenty of programs that take advantage of the brilliant fall colors. The Fall Foliage Dam Ride on November 1 will travel the oldest section of the Great Allegheny Passage between Confluence and Ohiopyle, where participants will ride over the Youghiogheny Dam and be awed by the view. Or, come on the Armstrong Trail Ride on September 27. This is a 30-mile ride along the Allegheny River that highlights waterfalls, a historic coaling tower, a train turntable, and a beaver dam.
Paddling and leaf peeping go hand-in-hand, so join us for the Family Beginner Paddle on September 23, at North Park. This program will teach paddling basics and tour around North Park for some bird watching and sight-seeing. Geocaching is always a fun family outing, and the Tombstone Geocaching is a great way to get ready for Halloween, see the beautiful tree colors in the Allegheny Cemetery, and learn something about the past from the historic tombstones.
One of the best displays of fall color close to Pittsburgh is at Moraine State Park near Portersville. Venture Outdoors will host the Fall Photography Walk on October 25 at Moraine. This is an opportunity to learn about time, light distance, and composition when taking photos, and then using those principals to capture the gorgeous shots of the park and Lake Arthur. Another Moraine outing is the Moraine State Park Campout, on September 27. This is a 24-hour event that will have family-oriented educational activities during the day, then dinner around the campfire at night – with the fun of catching fireflies, roasting marshmallows, and sleeping under the stars.
More opportunities to take in the scenery are just a short drive from Pittsburgh. Some of the Pennsylvania State Parks have spectacular color and are a great way to spend a day hiking, biking, or paddling. Raccoon Creek State Park, west of Pittsburgh in Hookstown, PA; McConnell’s Mill State Park and Moraine State Park, both north of Pittsburgh near Portersville, PA; Shawnee State Park east of Pittsburgh in Bedford County, PA; and near that, Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County. To track where the best colors are blazing, check out the Leaf Peepr app available for your mobile device, or check out the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources website for the weekly Fall Foliage Report: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us