“..Now Autumns fire burns slowly along woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.”
…Irish Poet, William Allingham
About this time of year I start getting phone calls and emails about the best places to see autumn leaves in Ohio.
I have several favorite destinations, all of them an easy Ohio Road Trip.It’s hard to beat the experience of autumn in Ohio’s Amish Country. It has the smell of apples and dusty leaves. Cool winds, push cloud castles across the sky, sunlight streaming through the clouds. There are the cries of flying geese hurrying to a destination of which only they are aware.
Just about any side road in Geauga, Holmes, Wayne, or Tuscarawas County can be a living Currier and Ives Lithograph. Horse-drawn Amish buggies trot down color-splashed lanes and across bridges over streams with dancing diamond-like reflections. It is a place where cattle graze in rich pastures. Rolling fields of scraggly corn shocks stand sentinel over disorderly rows of golden pumpkins. Winding country roads with neat white homes and barns punctuate the end of less-traveled gravel lanes Roadside produce stands are laden with the season’s harvest in a cacophony of color
.The perfect place to start exploring if you have not visited the area before is at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, home of the cyclorama, entitled: “Behalt”, an enormous painting that fills an entire room and tells the story of the Amish and Mennonite Faith. This is a wonderful place to learn about the Amish who still live in a horse-and-buggy culture and where the friendly staff will give you directions, maps and offer suggestions about where the best vistas are to be found.
Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, 5798 County Road 77, Berlin, Ohio 44610, 330-893-3192, www.behalt.com
Another favorite destination when I go in search of the colors of fall is southeast, to Marietta at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers.
There is something wonderful and also melancholy in the deep-throated blast of a horn on a riverboat splashing its way up and down these historic waterways.
The 157-foot long Valley Gem Sternwheeler cruise boat has been a fixture for over two generations at this junction of two great rivers…
The Valley Gem offers scenic cruises each autumn from Marietta, where the Northwest Territory began, up the Muskingum River, and through the historic Devols lock and dam. On a fall day it is a beautiful, relaxing way to see our state in all its Buckeye glory. Captain Jason J. Sands, the second generation of his family to pilot the Valley Gem, grew up on this boat and he gives a wonderful commentary about the history and makeup of the river and the countryside unfolding along the banks as the boat paddles its way upriver leaving in its churning wake a mist where rainbows dance.
Valley Gem Sternwheeler, 601 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio 45750, 740-373-7862, www.valleygemsternwheeler.com
In northeast Ohio the beauty of autumn just adds to the charm of the seventeen covered bridges of Ashtabula County. Many of them are located on quiet country roads where the only sound is the rustle of leaves drying in the wind and the song of a rippling stream passing beneath the structure with the occasional rumble of wheels crossing the bridge.
. There is also the covered bridge festival that is always held the second full weekend in October in the county seat of Jefferson, Ohio. While Ashtabula is Ohio’s largest county in square miles it is still very rural and offers many miles of forest and winding roads that come alive with color in the fall of the year.
Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival, 25 West Jefferson Street, Jefferson, Ohio 44047, 440-576-3769, www.coveredbridgefestival.org
You don’t need to go east in autumn. Discover the beauty of an Ohio Autumn.