Fall Travel Series Part 2: The road less traveled
In September I started a three-part series diving into traveling this fall. Part 1 took a look at what not to pack when planning that big trip... or that weekend getaway. This month I want to dive into where you should go. So that's a pretty broad subject. Where should you go this Fall? Like you, many MANY people are taking to the road and getting out of town now that leaves are changing and temperatures are dropping. This is arguably the premiere time of year to head to national parks and popular leaf peeping destinations. I live in Indiana... we have a little state park called Brown County State Park (which sits... surprise surprise in Brown County). I wouldn't touch that park with a 10 foot pole duct taped to a 20 foot pole. It's swarming with people stopping to peep at orange, red and yellow leaves and buying woodcarvings of Elvis and flapjacks (translation: pancakes). If you don't find being hussled to purchase chainsaw carvings or two pounds of rocky road fudge by Jim Bob and his brothers Joe, John Boy and Sheldon relaxing what is one to do? Easy, take the road less traveled... literally and figuratively.
Recently during the government shutdown (don't get me started) I shook my head just a little at stories of people sneaking into national parks to hike. I know some of it was out of defiance for the man but there were sob stories of people whose vacations were ruined by the shutdown. There are cases that were a major bummer. Not being able to raft through the Grand Canyon stinks, or missing out on a once in lifetime trip to climb El Cap is a major downer but if your plans consisted of going to these places to hike and see the leaves... you have other options.
Nature Preserves: Many states have a whole slew of small, often times not advertised nature preserves. These areas exist for the purpose of... well... preserving natural habitats. They also make awesome day trips and come without the hoards.
Long Trails: Many of us have heard of the Appalachian Trail but have you heard of the Benton-Mackaye Trail, Knobstone Trail or the Foothills Trail? There's a long Long Trails list (find it here: Long Trails courtesy of Wikipedia) and many of them have great views and even great isolation. Lets face it. People want to enjoy nature from the comfort of their automobile or the hot tub on the deck of their cabin... hike a few miles on one of the trails and you're bound to leave all the light weights behind.
National Forests: I've talked about visiting these areas before. I'm a huge proponent of national forests. Usually they're close to identical to their national park counterpart right next door and have an intricate network of trails and camping facilities without the hoopla of the more popular and overcrowded national parks. This isn't always a give me as people are catching onto these areas or in some cases a national forest counterpart to the park doesn't exist. Still most states have a plethora of public land and opportunities to get out and stop and admire the changing seasons. This is a great map that shows many of the national forests and grasslands.
I know this post doesn't really get into other activities besides those of the outdoor genre but really the same concept holds true. Do things that will avoid standing in line and upping the stress level. Plan less and make sites and stops more spontaneous. Think like a tourist and act like a local.