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Falling for fall

October 22, 2009
Julie Baker

The fiery reds and golden yellows making up the local fall foliage soon will be gone, and although the colder-than-average weather might have made the leaves more vibrant, it also made for a less-than-ideal viewing season.

Deb Pardike, director of the Alpena Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the cold and wet weather likely has been a deterrent to the typical fall color tourists.

"Fall is a really great time for people to visit Alpena and we do promote our fall tourism. We start in early August and with all the inquiries we get, we send out fall information," Pardike said. "We can do all the promotion in the world, but when people want to take a car ride to view the fall colors they don't want to do it in snow, and they don't want to do it in the wet and cold. But there's always next year."

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Typically, the most vibrant fall colors come from sunny days and cool nights, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The visitors bureau has maps available with recommendations for driving color tour routes, including one that winds around Long and Grand lakes, and another that circles Hubbard Lake.

The Pure Michigan campaign tracks fall color around the state and updates its Web site,, in accordance with peak times. Currently, the site is reporting that the northwest and northeast Lower Peninsula are at prime viewing at 50-75 percent.

The color frenzy even inspires some to seek a view from the top and take a color tour with Alpena's Aviation North.

Greg Konwinski, office manager for Aviation North, said the number of people who go on color tours has reduced tremendously over the past seven to eight years. What used to be hundreds of people who would pay for the prime view of the fall foliage, Konwinski said this year they've taken just two color viewing trips.

Hard times in the area has significantly cut down on the amount of business, although Konwinski said Aviation North doesn't have a plane that's particularly well-suited for color viewing right now.

For $150, a five-person group gets a 20-minute color viewing ride. Typically, the pilot will fly over areas they know are good for color viewing, or will just fly to where the color looks vibrant.

Fall color tourism typically starts after Labor Day, and includes empty nesters and senior citizens who are not tied down with kids at home. Fall color viewing is usually a more spontaneous trip than a summer vacation though and if the weather's bad, they likely will opt to stay at home, Pardike said. That's why it's difficult to judge how well this year's fall tourism went.

"We did have a color season that has been extended longer than it usually is. It started later and lasted longer, but lasting longer doesn't make a difference when we have horrible weather," Pardike said. "We do the best we can do."

Julie Baker can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 354-3111 Ext. 324.



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