The autumn color bonanza in the western part of Virginia may have passed, but it's not too late to enjoy the chromatic display here in the east. Here are tips to help you get the most from a foliage field trip.
* Don't delay. Typically, the peak leaf season in eastern Virginia ends around Nov. 15. Because of drought conditions in late summer and early autumn, this year's peak may fall seven to 10 days later. Certainly by the weekend after Thanksgiving, the show will be ending.
Here are some prime choices:
If you have an hour - The Colonial Parkway, which wends from Yorktown to Jamestown, is as picturesque a stretch of road as you'll find in our region.
If you have two hours - Cruise across the James River Bridge, head to Smithfield on Route 10, then continue on to Chippokes Plantation State Park. If time permits, continue to Surry, then take the Jamestown-Scotland ferry across the James River.
If you have three or more hours - Drive along plantation-dappled Route 5 from Williamsburg toward Richmond. It's been designated a scenic byway by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Another leaf-laden option is to cruise up to Gloucester on the Middle Peninsula, then take Route 14 to Mathews. If you're making a day of it, consider heading all the way up to the Northern Neck where you could drive on Route 354 to Belle Isle State Park.
* Step away from the car. You can soak up fall colors without burning fossil fuels. Consider walking the paths at Newport News Park, Yorktown Battlefield National Park or along the Noland Trail at The Mariners' Museum Park.
* Get to know Forester Tim. For updates on the progress of leaf color in Virginia call the state's Department of Forestry expert at 800-424-LOVE. Forester Tim (in truth, department Webmaster Gregg O'Donnell) updates the color forecast weekly. Call Wednesday afternoon for the most up-to-date information.
* Make your own soundtrack. Enhance your autumn visuals with music. Here are a few CDs that would make a fine soundtrack for a country drive. Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (from the Deutsche Grammophon CD "Beethoven: Symphonien No. 6 "Pastorale" & No. 8"); Mozart piano concerto No. 21 (from the Philips CD "Mozart: The Great Piano Concertos Vol. 1"); Norman Blake "The Fields of November"; John Jackson "Front Porch Blues"; Neil Young "Harvest Moon."