Next Weekend: Golden Days

<strong>Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina</strong><br>Getty Images


Paddle a Northern Swamp, MARYLAND

All knock-kneed and wide-bottomed, the bald cypress is an ungainly emblem of Dixieland and -- trivia time! -- Maryland. To view the Old Line State's swampworthy stands, maneuver a canoe or kayak down the pekoe-hued Pocomoke River from Porters Crossing, on the eastern shore. After paddling a 13-mile (20-kilometer)run beneath a canopy of golden cypress, make camp at Milburn Landing ($20; In the morning retrace your strokes seven miles to the mouth of Nassawango Creek and paddle upstream to the Nature Conservancy's peaceful Nassawango Creek Preserve. Pocomoke River Canoe Company rents boats ($40 a day; 800-258-0905) and provides shuttles ($40).


The secret to the best leaf-peeping in the Blue Ridge Mountains: an altitude adjustment. At 3,500 feet (1,067 meters), prime foliage arrives in early November. At the same elevation, the Balsam Mountain Inn ($135; 800-224-9498) sports hundred-foot decks overlooking the 6,000-foot (1,829-meter) Balsam Range. Enjoy the show, then peep a little closer along the nearby eight-mile (13-kilometer) Haywood Gap–Buckeye Gap loop trail, which winds through the Middle Prong Wilderness (find the trailhead between mileposts 426 and 427 on the Blue Ridge Parkway).

Pedal With Personality, SOUTH CAROLINA

Braking is optional on the bike trails in Manchester State Forest, near Sumter. No roots, rocks, or brush impedes riders as they cruise up and over sand dunes and through a dense pine forest. The riding here routinely rates among the state's best, due in large part to the personality of each trail: The Campbell Pond Trail's long climbs get your heart rate up, Hardcore challenges your bike-handling skills and Killer Three Trail entices you to drop the hammer. Set up base camp at Poinsett State Park, but be aware that until December 30th, trails are only open on Sundays, due to deer hunting.

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