Fall Preview: Get out...and play

Fall may be the best time in Maine
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 15, 2010

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Our Fall Arts Preview is bursting with ways to amuse yourself this autumn — art, theater, books, TV, movies, food. We’ve rounded up a few more activities that defied such classic classifications — outdoor fun, mostly, but some suggestions for rainy days as well. Check thePhoenix.com/AboutTown and these pages for updates through the season.

Picking and Pies
Whether you pick a bushel or a peck, you’re sure to love this quintessential fall-in-Maine activity (fun fact: there are four pecks in a bushel). Pick-your-own orchards abound within a one-hour-drive radius; each has its own special hook. At BRACKETT’S ORCHARDS, in Limington (thought to be the oldest family-owned and -operated orchard in Maine), visitors enjoy pumpkin painting, cider doughnuts, and hayrides. DOUGLAS HILL ORCHARD, in Sebago, offers nearby hiking and views of the White Mountains. At LIBBY AND SON U-PICK, in Limerick, there are blueberries to pick through mid-October. THOMPSON’S ORCHARD, in New Gloucester, features tractor rides and apple cider, as well as Christmas wreaths and trees post-Thanksgiving. Visit MaineApples.org or AllAboutApples.com/orchard/me.htm for addresses and phone numbers — and be sure to call ahead, because every orchard keeps different days and hours. Once you’ve picked your peck, it’s time for a day in the kitchen. Experiment with apple butter, pie, crisp, crumble, sauce, salad, compote, chutney . . . We’re intrigued by a Bon Appétit recipe for apple, goat cheese, and honey tartlets.

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Leaf-peeping
Rusty oranges, burnt reds, and mustardy yellows (as well as rich browns and even some hazy purples) color Maine’s hills and forests from mid-September (up north) through mid-October (southern and coastal Maine). The folks at MaineFoliage.com (a site run by the state Department of Conservation) are predicting a good leaf-peeping season: "The forests are healthy and Mother Nature has graced us with a long, hot summer, with adequate moisture." They suggest visiting WOLFE’S NECK WOODS STATE PARK in Freeport for "an exceptionally bright yellow display that normally peaks in mid-October," or FERRY BEACH STATE PARK in Saco, where "the tupelo trees turn a bright crimson and normally reach peak coloration in late September or early October." Visit the Web site for detailed foliage reports as well as recommended driving and hiking routes. Or if you want to make a fancy weekend of it, consider the CHEBEAGUE ISLAND INN’s Fall Foliage package ($571.37 per person; ChebeagueIslandInn.com), available between now and October 14 — a three-night midweek special that includes a five-course meal, nightly hot cocoa, and access to bikes, not to mention a truly unique vantage point.

Hiking and Biking
Fall is the best time to pack up and hike into Maine’s abundant woods. As long as you’re well-equipped for chilly nighttime temps, it’s also a great season for camping. Starting on Monday, Maine State Park campsites shifted to off-season rates and are first-come/first-served through Columbus Day. BRADBURY MOUNTAIN and CAMDEN HILLS state parks and MAHOOSUC PUBLIC RESERVED LAND are all within 100 miles (Bradbury’s just on the other side of Freeport) and offer beautiful views and trails that cater to everyone from daily strollers to strenuous outdoorsmen (visit tiny.cc/mainehikes to search the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands for your perfect destination). If you prefer to explore with two wheels beneath you, we recommend the 41-MILE LIGHTHOUSE ROUTE from Portland to Prouts Neck. Also, up through Pownal can be fun, with a stop at Toots Ice Cream in North Yarmouth to refuel (but they’re only open weekends through September, so hurry!).

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