The Best of Ed: Part 3

Published 9:45 am Sunday, October 21, 2012

Leaf peeping can be a fun seasonal outdoor activity in the fall


Editor’s note: This is the third in an eight-part series featuring some of former Tribune writer Ed Shannon’s best work. This article originally published Oct. 22, 2010.

Not too many years ago some folks in this area used to say one of their favorite fall weekend events was traveling east to look at the leaves on the trees along the river. That river is still the Mississippi and those colorful leaves are on both sides of the river from La Crescent to Red Wing and even further north and south.

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I’m not too sure what has happened to this one popular fall activity of going east to look at all those leaves. Maybe it’s the price of gasoline. Then again, there are folks who feel they can see more than enough trees with colorful leaves here in the city, in nearby communities and in the woods here and there around the countryside.

There are also those folks who have to contend with those leaves after they fall from the trees onto their lawns and roofs. By the way, cleaning leaves out of roof gutters isn’t exactly a favorite outdoor activity for anyone.

Now let’s get back to the somewhat unusual term of leaf peeping. We could call the area enthusiasts of this outdoor activity leaf lookers. Out in New England and the upper part of New York the folks who travel from the cities to see the colorful countryside are called leaf peepers.

Real proof that leaf peeper is a very legitimate term can be found on Google. Just type those two words on the keyboard, hit search and see what evolves. For those folks who are really fussy about computer entries, I suggest the use of

Just when and where the term leaf peeper originated is not known. However, as I’ve already indicated, it’s a popular term this time of year out in New England and New York. In fact, fall leaf peeping or foliage viewing provides a real seasonal boost for businesses in the rural parts of the seven states in this part of the nation, especially on weekends with sunny conditions.

According to the 2010 September/October issue of Yankee Magazine, the person who gets credit for creating the leaf peeper tradition was Arthur Tauck Sr. of North Adams, Mass. He started giving bus tours of the colorful New England countryside in the fall of 1925.

Today, family-owned Tauck Tours of Norwalk, Conn., is a major travel agency that promotes tours to other parts of the world.

Yankee happens to be one of the best of the nation’s regional magazines. And there’s a firm guarantee that each year the September/October issue will feature several articles and photos based on the annual autumn tradition of leaf peeping in New England and upper New York.

Also helping to promote the viewing of leaves in the fall are foliage hotlines. These 800 telephone numbers, sponsored by several states, provide updates on the best times and areas to enjoy leaf peeping or viewing. For the folks here in Minnesota this foliage hotline number is 1-800-657-3700. (There’s no number listed for Iowa.)

For area folks who don’t want to drive all the way to the river to see leaves, they can go to the colorful city of Lanesboro. This very interesting locality, according to a recent telecast, is promoting itself as an excellent destination for leaf looking and other weekend diversions.

For those area folks who may want to go to the river to start what may be the last weekend for seeing leaves on the hillsides and bluffs, the best place to start could be La Crescent. A tasty diversion here are the roadside stands with apples from the nearby orchards, plus other fruits and veggies.

A suggested leaf looking route north from La Crescent is to go north to Winona, then either farther north to Wabasha or cross the river and go on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi and cross back to Wabasha. The most interesting diversions in this area are the National Eagle Center and Lark Toy in nearby Kellogg. To end the day or weekend trip the route could continue even further north past Lake Pepin to Red Wing.

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