For the leisure class at both ends of the social spectrum, autumn is the best season for outdoor fun. Everyone else is back to work after summer vacation. School has started, to-do lists are a mile long, e-mail messages have piled up, and there's a stack of work to rival the Rock of Gibraltar.
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The next big holiday is Christmas, or a long Thanksgiving weekend—with a bit of luck. But just because you are caught between summer and winter is no reason to hang up your hiking boots and hunker down until the snows fall. The working cognoscenti take advantage of the balmy Indian Summer as it creeps into fall with its lack of crowds and off-season rates.
Whether you're biking, hiking, paddling or climbing, consider joining the outdoor sophisticates who head to the mountains and lakes after Labor Day weekend. If you plan carefully, you can take advantage of those special spots where summer's grasp clings on to the very last moment--with warm sunny days fighting off the encroaching winter chill.
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Or, if you're weary of the heat and ready for snow, look for places where winter arrives as an early guest, unable to wait until December to serve up its icy dish. Fall truly offers the best of both worlds for the avid outdoor adventurer.
This low-traffic season is ideal for trying new sports—most likely you'll have the trails, crags and waterways to yourself. This is a slow period for many guides as well; chances are you can get good rates on first-class instruction. And in some places, you can have the best of both worlds: summer sports one day, and winter fun the next.
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