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Make Leaf Peeping a New Tradition
Autumn is always my favourite time of year, not just because the temperatures are cooler, which makes working outside so much nicer, but also because it is the time of year that presents the wonderful prospect of leaf-peeping.
Leaf peeping isn’t new. I am sure many of us can remember Sunday drives with our parents and grandparents across the Ottawa Valley just to watch the leaves change colour. The concept of Leaf peeping is as simple as that - watching the refreshing transformation of colour that the tree leaves take each and every fall season.
In the past, you may have enjoyed a trip to Renfrew, with a stop in Pakenham for ice cream, or a run to Smiths Falls to picnic under the RCAF plane by the river. People often pick this time of year to make long drives to visit friends and family, along the way enjoying the cataclysm of colour that blankets Ontario.
Nowadays, with the COVID-19pandemic influencing so much of our lives, leaf-peeping can be therapeutic. It is a great way to get out of the house, spend some family time enjoying some spectacular views, and still maintain a physical distance from everyone else.
Inspiring this love for our trees in kids can be a particularly difficult task when you consider how much a drive to look at leaves really pales in comparison to the newest video game, or trending social media outlet, taking a break from screen-time and changing up the scenery is very important considering our current realities. Everyone gets a little stir crazy and needs to stretch their minds and legs, and leaf-peeping is a great excuse for a Sunday-style drive, with a country walk mixed in for good measure.
Surprising the kids out of bed early on a Sunday morning with pots-a-pounding, and exclamations of “ROAD TRIP!” might not win you any smiles, but sometimes the surprise on their face is totally worth it. Pile into your most comfortable ride, turn on your favourite music (louder than normal), open the car windows (weather permitting) and enjoy a day trip in honour of the trees. Sometimes there is an outdoor flea market to pop into, or some ‘’ooooh’’ and ‘’ahhh’’ moments at specific trees or beautiful looking homes that catch your eye - you may even spot a roadside chip stand and stop to enjoy a box of fries. Wherever the trip takes you, it will sure to be a refreshing break from the usual day to day activities.
The only hard part about leaf-peeping in Ottawa is picking which route to take. We are lucky to have so many possibilities: from the Gatineau Hills to the Calabogie Road, to Highway 2 that runs along the St. Lawrence or the Rockland lookout, Pinhey’s Point or up and down Highway #7– there are so many tree-filled choices.
No matter the direction you travel, the changing of the leaves in the Ottawa Valley is absolutely spectacular. Something as simple as the trees preparing for winter seems to inspire an annual ritual of appreciation and admiration for our natural surroundings, which makes us feel lucky to live here.
You can always stop along a riverside (Pakenham, Carleton Place, Almonte, Appleton, Perth) and take off your shoes and socks to dip your toes in the water one last time, and maybe pick up one of those fallen sheaves of red and orange, as a memento of the day. The chill to your feet from the icy cold water is a fresh reminder that winter is coming, and with great empathy for the trees, you will likely appreciate a hot apple cider all the more.
Sometimes it is really wonderful to have no purpose to the day other than being together and enjoying a drive and the views of our towns and trees, just like those good ole Sundays in times past. So if you haven’t already, take this year and begin by making lead peeping a new tradition, paying homage to the most beautiful air purifiers on earth, and getting to know and love the Ottawa Valley at the same time.
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