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Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007 07:21 pm

Leaves are ch-ch-changin'

Look up and take in the sights of the season

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Untitled Document Corn and soybean fields aren’t all Illinois has to offer in the landscape department. Pockets of magnificent foliage are scattered throughout the Land of Lincoln. This autumn, take advantage of the state’s scenic back roads and nature preserves as their trees’ leaves change colors. Hop into the car, fill up the tank, and ride like the wind to our favorite spots for tree-gazing.
Here are some of our favorites: Starved Rock State Park, Utica — If you’re willing to travel the distance, Utica’s Starved Rock State Park won’t be a disappointment. Hike the 13 miles of trails peppered with canyons and bluffs swathed in trees or walk along the Illinois River. If hoofing it across the forest isn’t your preference, you can picnic, fish, or boat instead. The waterfalls, rivers and streams are the perfect accompaniment to the park’s white, red, and black oaks; red cedars; hickories in all their glory. Starved Rock State Park hosts a Fall Colors Weekend Oct. 20 and 21. For a full schedule of events, go to www.starvedrocklodge.com. Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive, Fulton County — This fall, travel along the Spoon River Valley for a prime view of fall colors in Fulton County. The highways and byways extend through such small historic communities as London Mills, Avon, Farmington, Fairview, Ellisville, Mount Pisgah, Cuba, Canton, and Lewistown along approximately 140 miles of road. Each community does its best to win over your stomach on the trek; London Mills is known for its apple butter cooked over an open fire, and Bernadotte, Fairview, and Lewistown offer up funnel cakes. Fulton County hosts the Fall Festival of Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Oct. 6 , 7, 13, and 14. For info, go to www.spoonriverdrive.org. Pike County Fall Color Drive, Pike County — Some parts of Illinois aren’t flat. Don’t believe us? Take note of western Illinois’ rolling hills on the Pike County Color Drive. The county is framed by the Mississippi River, its western boundary, and the Illinois River to the east. Pike County’s historic towns transport travelers to a time when one-room schoolhouses and country churches dotted the landscape. Watch horse-drawn plows in the fields of Perry or make a pit stop in Fish Hook, where passersby are welcome to take a break and carve a pumpkin. Pike County welcomes visitors for its color drive Oct. 20 and 21. For information, go to www.pikeil.org. Lincoln Memorial Garden, Springfield — To escape the hustle of the capital city, residents need only look in their back yard, to Lincoln Memorial Garden, for a serene experience. An homage to the Great Emancipator, the garden features plants native to Lincoln’s three home states. The 100 acres of green include leafy gardens and a sprawling pasture. Walk the Lake Trail, which flanks Lake Springfield, or meander down the Witch Hazel Trail to take in the vivid hues of the season. The garden hosts the Indian Summer Festival Oct. 13 and 14. Surrounded by the stunning colors of the garden, nature lovers can munch on caramel apples from Pease’s Candy Shop, sip cider, and take in the sounds of the Kevin Hart Jazz Trio and Kraig Kenning. For more information, go to www.lmgnc.org.
Contact Marissa Monson at mmonson@illinoistimes.com.