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The Jackson Covered Bridge is a popular photo stop for bus tours and drew a group Monday from Susquehanna Trailways out of Williamsport, Pa. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

Officials hope bright fall foliage colors draw more tourists

JACKSON — By the time the passengers on the Susquehanna Trailways bus out of Williamsport, Pa., stopped at the Jackson Covered Bridge on Monday afternoon, they had already had a busy day.

Tour escort Judy Wirth said they had stayed the night before in the Waterville Valley, rode the Kancamagus Highway, then taken a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad before stopping at the Jackson landmark.

After the photo stop, they were heading to Cannon Mountain, where they were scheduled to take a ride up on the aerial tramway. Then came dinner aboard the Café Lafayette Dinner Train in Lincoln. Next, she said, the tour was going to Maine for a couple of days.

Wirth said, &#';We're glad the rain stopped.&#';

She said she had told the passengers, &#';'Just keep thinking sunshine' and it worked!&#';

It's one of the busiest weeks of the year in the White Mountains, and not just for the lodging and dining establishments. Many tourists who come to New England want to bring something home with them, whether it's a bottle of maple syrup, a scenic calendar, or a plush moose, so homegrown retail establishments do a brisk business. Regional tourism officials say their membership is happy with this year's season, as it follows a strong summer.

The staff of all those establishments, though, don't put the miles on that those visiting the area do.

This year, there's good reason for visitors to do a full tour, as the foliage is strong, according to Jayne O'Connor, president of the White Mountain Attractions Association.

&#';It is one of those beautiful years where all the colors are peaking at the same time,&#'; she said. &#';We don't always get that, so it's a treat to see it.&#';

She said the leaves are peaking in Franconia, and, from her trip around the mountains, the best spots are on the Kancamagus, in Bretton Woods and Franconia.

&#';We're noting a particularly beautiful foliage display this year,&#'; said Marti Mayne, PR manager for the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Harvey Meredith came to the White Mountains all the way from Austin, Texas, having first gone on a cruise from Canada to Boston. In Boston, he said, he rented a car. He and his wife had hoped to drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road, but said it had snowed up on the summit.

Asked if he had ever seen a covered bridge before, he replied that he had, having lived in the upper Midwest. &#';They've become pretty famous because they don't make them anymore,&#'; he noted.

Conor MacEvilly of Seattle was hoping for a little more sunshine, saying that it would provide better contrast for viewing the foliage. Just after he drove off with fellow Seattle resident Mona Deprey, the sun broke through the clouds.

A note to those coming up for Columbus Day weekend without lodging reservations: It will be hard to find a room, but some of the larger properties hold back a room or two from online booking to guard against customers booking online while the front desk clerk is selling the same room over the phone or in person. These rooms generally are held until late afternoon, though policies among hotels differ.

syoungknox@newstote.com

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