Autumn's blazing show, all inside the Beltway


You don't have to be a naturalist to notice fall's brilliant colors.

All over town, maple trees that endure foul air and too much humidity in other months are putting on a grand show.

The reds, oranges and gold colors make it seem as if the woods of New England have been transplanted here.

That this would be a brilliant fall was evident a few weeks ago when I glanced at one of my favorite bellwether trees.

It stands outside an apartment house at 30th and St. Paul streets.

That particular tree turns color before any other in Charles Village.

If it explodes in an especially hot orange -- the color of artificially dyed candy corn -- I know it's going to be a dazzling fall.

The city long ago lost its rustic barns, corn shocks and split rail fences -- the sort of things you see in pictures of the 10th month of the year on calendars.

But the trees and their hues remain.

Here are some suggestions for a fall color tour without going outside the Baltimore Beltway:

* Lake Roland-Robert E. Lee Park -- This preserve, owned by the city of Baltimore but situated in Baltimore County, presents an outstanding show of fall foliage.

It also has numerous walkable trails and paths.

Even the most reluctant walker would have no trouble getting around this area.

It's also served by the Central Light Rail Line's Falls Road station.

Don't miss a hillside stand of hardwood trees overlooking the lake just to the east of the light rail bridge, which has a pedestrian walkway that allows easy access to this spot.

The geography here permits a show of color worthy of July 4th fireworks.

The trees are banked alongside the hill and their colors show a mix like those on an artist's palette. There are dull ochers, rusts, tans, sunshine yellows and Halloween oranges.

Try to visit this spot in the early morning or about early dusk. The half light only heightens the show and scenery.

If you have the energy and enthusiasm, there's a long trail along the abandoned Greenspring Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This flat, former rail right of way -- many a wood tie and a few rails are still visible -- runs along the lake's western edge.

Walk for a little more than a mile and you'll enter a very worthy stand of trees. Go back in the spring, too. It's excellent then as well.

* Dickeyville-Gwynns Falls Park-Leakin Park-Carroll Park Golf Course -- Gwynns Falls meanders through Northwest and West Baltimore. It's the city's largest natural preserve.

For a mix of trees and architecture, visit the restored village of Dickeyville off Wetheredsville Road. The only thing missing from this spot is a Vermont ZIP code.

There's an old dam just down the hill from the village and some excellent late fall gardens surrounded by paling fences, too.

Other neighborhoods -- Windsor Hills, Walbrook and Hunting Ridge -- jut into this stream valley.

There are also many mature hardwood trees planted decades ago by patient and conscientious gardeners in these parts.

Leathery leaf oaks and straight-as-a-yardstick tulip poplars thrive here.

* Herring Run Park -- This is Northeast Baltimore's secret. It bends and twists all the way from Mount Pleasant Golf Course through Morgan State University to Lauraville, Mayfield, Arcadia, Belair-Edison and Armistead Gardens.

The trick here is to get down to the level of the stream bed and start walking. Although surrounded by some fairly dense residential development, the park is clean and is home to wildlife.

More than one person has spotted a fox darting across Belair Road near Shannon Drive. Rabbits and raccoons are also seen.

* Stony Run Park -- This is the fairly timid stream that winds through North Baltimore, beginning at Remington, then passing through Hampden, Wyman Park, Tuscany-Canterbury, Evergreen, Roland Park and Tuxedo Park.

In some spots, there are good, level paths along the former Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad right of way.

Try starting at West 33rd Street and Remington Avenue. Walkers will be down in a dell of ancient trees, while high-rise apartment dwellers along University Parkway are breathing manufactured air. Too bad. It's their loss.

Don't put off taking a fall color walk. Baltimore's weather has a way of producing a late October wind and rain squall that ends the whole show very abruptly.


For information on peak fall foliage times and fall-related events, call (800) 843-9873.

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