Notes from the North Country

By: Lon and Lynn Emerick

Autumn is a many splendored season, an interlude of raucous colors, aromas, harvest moons and frantic activity as nature gets ready for the next act: winter, the defining season in our northern paradise. Since our fall is fleeting, we must be outdoors to savor it before the arrival of the long white and cold.
One of the best times of day to enjoy our brief autumn is during the gloamin’. Sally forth in late evening “when the light is dim and low and quiet shadows falling” (Annie Harrison).
This last period of dusk or twilight is a magic interlude for discovery. The light angling through the trees touches all around more softly; the woods and waters seem to hush as night approaches.
Almost anywhere is good for a twilight ramble, but we usually seek out an edge, a place where two ecological communities meet (an ecotone); a dense forest adjoining an open field; an old roadway through a savannah; a marsh surrounded by tamarack trees.
Walk very slowly and stop often; to cover 100 yards in fifteen minutes is a good pace. Here are just a few of the delights we encountered early one recent autumn evening while moseying along Yalmer Road in Skandia:
• A flight of white-throated sparrows was assembling for the annual migration to a warmer clime. We counted at least a dozen birds feeding quickly. Most songbirds travel at night, guided by the stars, and they must stoke up for the long trip. Tomorrow morning they probably will be in Ohio.
• We scuffed through some downed aspen leaves and the rich organic aroma of autumn rose to grace our every step. This is the signature smell of the forest in fall woods.
• Stopping under a red maple tree, we marveled, as we do each fall, at the crimson glow. Even in the twilight, the splendor is reflected and amplified by hundreds of brilliantly glowing surfaces.
• Look over there, on the edge of the old field: a crowd of blue asters and pearly everlasting, almost the last actors in the seasonal drama of flowers. See how the ranks of goldenrod—frosty silver now—try to hold the stage.
As we made our way back to our vehicle, we stopped to watch thin wisps of mist rising from the fallow field. What a calm and restful way to end a day.
When asked about his apparent vigorous health, an elderly Cornishman (G.M. Trevelyan) responded:
“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right…when I walk my thoughts start out with me like blood-stained mutineers debauching themselves on board the ship, but when I bring them home at nightfall, they are larking and tumbling over each other like happy little boy scouts at play.”
So, we urge you now to go roamin’ in the gloamin’—and hum a tune in honor of Harry Lauder, Scottish singer, who made the phrase his own. Savor these last fragments of autumn before the North Country enters the long white slumber.
—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Sites we return to in the fall
• The old railroad bed by Harlow Lake—take the walk to the granite overlook above Harlow Lake for sweeping views of the forest and lake.
• Sand Point Marsh boardwalk (Munising)
• Day’s River Pathway (Gladstone)
• Redwyn Dunes Natural Area (Eagle Harbor)
• Silver River Falls (L’Anse)
• Lake Michigan boardwalk (Manistique)
• Anderson Lake Pathway (south of Gwinn)
• Mt. Marquette’s granite overlooks
• Bruno’s Run Trail along the Indian River (Hiawatha National Forest, Hwy 13, south of Wetmore)

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