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Oct. 15, 2006

Tucked inside the heart of Vermont, Woodstock is the definition of idyllic beauty. During the fall, when fiery foliage stands out against clear blue skies, it's not hard to see why Woodstock has been dubbed "the prettiest small town in America."

"Vermont is truly the best state to come to for ideal foliage because we have such a diversity of hardwood trees here that turn a huge variety of colors throughout the fall," said Annette Compton of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. "We've got everything from bright yellows to subtle purples."

There's no better way to admire the palette of colors than from high above the trees.

"Here in the Woodstock area, probably the most exciting thing you can do is go hot air ballooning. We have a benefit for viewing foliage that is unavailable any other way," said Gary Lovell, owner of Balloons Over New England. "In a balloon, we literally tickle the treetops. We are in the foliage. Trees look very different from above than they do from below."

The hills and valleys of Vermont make the state ideal for a ride through the skies.

"This area of Vermont is made for hot air ballooning. It's spectacularly scenic," Lovell said. "Very often, these waterways will give us a little mist and a little fog that in the early morning hours is just spectacular. I love watching the world wake up below me."

Woodstock offers plenty to see down on the ground as well. First settled in 1768, the town retains much of its colonial history.

"Woodstock, Vt., is the quintessential New England village. It's a place where you can relax, unwind, enjoy life at a different pace," said Compton. "Enjoy nature the way it's supposed to be. I notice in the late fall there's a silence that falls over the land. It's a little bit disturbing. But you know everything's going to sleep and it will be back in the spring."

One park preserves the aura of a time gone by.

"We're very proud in Woodstock to have the only national park in the state of Vermont," said Compton. "The Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park has provided a place for people to walk, to ride their horses, to commune with nature."

According to Compton, the people of Woodstock have reason to believe they're truly blessed.

"Jacob Collomer, who was one of the native sons here, once said, 'The good people of Woodstock have less reason to yearn for heaven than others,' " she said. "I think that's true. It's really a special place."

Oct. 8, 2006

Nestled in the Sierra Mountains on the California-Nevada state line, Lake Tahoe is an area most people associate with skiing.

But it is a pleasure to visit in the fall as well.

"Lake Tahoe is 72 miles around," said Dale Connor of the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. "It's 1,645 feet deep, which makes it the second-deepest lake in North America behind Crater Lake. And it's the largest alpine lake in North America."

The lake is also known for its color.

"Lake Tahoe is called 'the Jewel of the Sierras' due to the fact that it's such an emerald, beautiful blue color," said Mark Kimbrough of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

The color comes from a combination of elevation and high-quality air.

"We are in such a beautiful area, and such a high elevation and the air up here is so clean up here that the sky really reflects well on the water," Kimbrough said. "So it gives it that really strong blue color that people seem to enjoy."

White sand around the lake contrasts with the water's rich blue hue.

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