By MIKE NORTON When it's a perfect fall day, with just a hint of color in the trees, a light wind blowing clouds across the sky, and the orchards heavy with fat red apples, I can't bring myself to sit in the office writing about things that I should be out experiencing first-hand. Well, that was my excuse anyway. So I hopped into the car with my trusty camera and headed over to Shanty Creek Resorts in search of fall color, autumn golfers and news from the beautiful Chain of Lakes region around the village of Bellaire. And, as always it was well worth the trip! Shanty Creek is a bit farther inland and a bit higher in elevation than most of the Traverse City area, so the fall colors tend to be a little farther along than they are down here around the Bay. We're at about 10% of peak color right now, but at Shanty it's probably closer to 15%. The views from the Lakeview Lodge across Lake Bellaire were splendid, and the colors were even better in the other direction, looking down from the top of Schuss Mountain.
- The View of Lake Bellaire from the Lakeview Lodge at Shanty Creek Resorts
And there were golfers, just as I'd expected. When the weather is this warm, those folks swarm out to the local courses to take advantage of the end-of-season deals - and the ones at Shanty Creek are pretty darn good. They're running a fall golf package where you get a night's lodging and unlimited play on their four courses for $94, as well as a series of Twilight Golf Specials where you can play a round for as low as $12 at The Summit or $25 at Schuss after 1 p.m., and for $25 at The Legend or $35 at Cedar River after 3 p.m. (No, twilight doesn't start that early!) It's been a warm fall so far, and the leaves have been slow in changing, but I have a strong suspicion that things are going to speed up now that we're moving into October. Can you believe that this coming Saturday is Oct. 1 already? On my way back from Bellaire, I stopped at the lovely village of Elk Rapids and saw them getting ready for Saturday's ArtBeat Fall Tour. Elk Rapids has some really excellent art galleries, and five of them (Blue Heron, Mullaly's 128, Seed Studio/Gallery, Twisted Fish and Viola) work together on this popular event. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., they open their doors to visitors, with artist demonstrations, musicians and gift certificate drawings. Closer to home, Saturday is also the day when downtown Traverse City holds its annual Fall Festival Sale & Happy Apple Days promotion. This has been going on forever - ever since somebody got the idea of having the downtown merchants buy bushels of apples to hand out to their customers -- but there always seem to be a few new touches (live mannequin displays, store specials, children's activities, storytelling and other entertainment). The streets are always decked with cornstalks and festive mums, and it really feels very festive in a small-town way. Which is how I like TC the best, when you get right down to it. Apples aren't the only fall crops around here, either. Out at the Chateau Chantal winery on the Old Mission Peninsula, Saturday is when they hold their annual Harvest Day Festival. From noon until 4 p.m., they're inviting people to drop in for complimentary wine tastings, grape stomping, mini-seminars, and an open house. It's all free of charge and open to families - though only guests who are 21 or older will be able to do any wine-tasting. Whew! The fun never stops around here, does it?
- Golfers on the Course at Schuss Mountain (a Bird's Eye View!)