Q: Any ideas for ways to enjoy the fall other than just going for a drive?
A:Almost everyone will tell you fall is their favourite season. Strangely, many celebrate its arrival by pulling out eardrum-splitting gas-powered leaf blowers, then getting in their fossil-fuel-powered cars and going for a drive to see the leaves turn red and yellow. Here's the thing: if you keep warming up the atmosphere with all your emissions, people, you'll just delay the whole process until one day the leaves won't turn at all! Just so ya know, lawn equipment, including those leaf blowers, accounts for a shocking 20 per cent of ozone depleting VOC emissions and 23 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions in Toronto!
I'm not saying you can't go on a road trip to see all those pretty hues, but balance out your green karma by doing something ecologically sound while you're out there.
For instance, if you want to take advantage of October's bounty, skip pesticide-soaked orchards and head to an organic apple orchard instead. At Avalon Orchards in Innisfil (1-866-458-9902) you can not only pick your own, but you can go for a wagon ride, too. The blueberries might be all gone, but for sweet pesticide-free concord grapes (my personal fave), check out Blueberry Lane (a transitional organic farm) between Fort Erie and Port Colborne (905-894-4945).
Manual labour ain't your thing? You can still meander around Sun Run's certified organic farm in Cameron, near Lindsay (705-887-9429) during their weekend open houses (October 22 and November 12). Tour the grounds, drink some tea and walk through the forests for free .
Need a place to nestle at night that accommodates enlightened green souls like yourself? We were super-excited to stumble upon www.organicholidays.com. The website lists organic-friendly places to stay, not only in Ontario but everywhere else in the world, from Spain to South Africa. Perfect if you're planning a trip to faraway lands or just a local weekend escape. The site features places like Nonpareil Natural Health Retreat (www.retreatsonline.com/canada/ontario/east/nonpareil.htm), a gorgeous century farmhouse built in 1875 that offers lifestyle workshops, organic juice detoxing, yoga, hiking, reiki, mud baths and cycling ($150/day includes yoga, raw organic juices, power drinks and private accommodation).
If you like a little less cleansing but just as much nature, check out an organic B&B like Fieldstone Farm in Mitchell, near Stratford (www.fieldstonefarmbanb.com, from $90/night with breaky). This charmingly restored stone farmhouse is actually a working certified organic farm and orchard, so you'll be munching on homegrown chem-free fruits, veggies, and meat while you're there.
Every tree planter in town seems to be planning an event for the last weekend in October, so take your pick. Day trippers with wheels can join the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust and Evergreen (416-596-1465 ext 223) for some native planting at a gorgeous moraine property out in Uxbridge, on Saturday, October 29, from 10 am to 1 pm . Or, at the same date and time but a little closer to home, head to the planting event at Eglinton Flats Park (416-596-1495 ext 244). Friends of the Don East are naturalizing the South Goulding Estate the very same day, from 10 am to noon (416-657-2800).
Want more details on inner-city trails and the best forested parks for watching the fall rainbow come alive? Get a copy of the city's ecotourism guide, The Other Map Of Toronto. Then hop on your bike or lace up your walking shoes and go! (For ecologically tweaked maps of other cities around the globe, click to www.greenmap. com.)
All you hardcore cyclists should take advantage of your killer calves to ride out of town to see the season in all its glory. Urban Expeditions is gearing up for Toronto-Niagara two-day bike tours October 15 and 29 (all meals and accommodations included for $350, 416-606-7227 ). Or plan your own route with maps from www.bikeontours.on.ca.
Sea legs stronger than your road legs? Hitch up with Toronto Kayak and Canoe Adventures (416-536-2067) the weekend of October 15 to paddle the Humber River. It's their last venture of the season.
If you're planning to drive, don't waste your fuel heading out of town before the leaves turn. The province's fall colour report (www.ontariotravel. net/publications/fallcolourreport. pdf) gives you a blow-by-blow hue check for each region.
Or, better yet, skip the car altogether and jump on a train. The leaves have already started changing between Toronto and Montreal and the train is a great place to enjoy the view. To take advantage of some of the breathtaking scenery further north, either hitch onto the T.O.-Sudbury route or catch a sleeper car to the gorgeous Gaspé region of Quebec (discounts for students, seniors and kids.) For more info call 1-888-via-rail or check out www.viarail.com.
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