Autumn in the great outdoors of the U.P.

Karen Wils photo The autumn riverside.

ESCANABA — The lazy, hazy sun begins to sink over the mid-October slough.

The temperature slowly plummets, and so does a stray red maple leaf.

The wetlands and the woodlands of Upper Michigan take center stage in autumn. There are so many fantastic fall scenes out there that we can’t possibly take them all in!

From the apple orchard to the pumpkin patch to the great tapestry of autumn colors along every riverside and twisting trail, the season is an absolute sensation.

From the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I was out there tagging along with my Dad and others in the awesome autumn grandeur.

With no doubt, fall is the best in to be in the woods in the U.P. The mosquitoes and bugs are gone for the most part; the days are warm, and the nights nice and cool for sleeping. Snowshoes aren’t required yet either.

Each little niche in the wildlands had its own special beauty and its own little descriptive name too.

My dad took me hiking to the slough hole, the gully, the balsam ridge, the swamp and the hardwood hills. With my beagle dogs I ran in the blueberry marsh, the creek bottom, the muskeg and the iron mountain.

My uncles and brothers told hunting tales about the deer crossing the swale, the moon in the meadow, running rabbits through the pine plantations and popple (aspen) groves.

The balsam ridge was one of my favorite walks. Put on some good leather or rubber boots and come along with me. Picky wool is needed on an October day. Dad wears wool pants and a red and black plaid hunting shirt with his game bag across his shoulder.

The cool green balsam branches sweep almost to the ground. The yellow leaves from the birch trees sprinkle down like rain. The ground is quietly cushioned with princess pine, moss and pale mushrooms.

The balsam ridge has a smell so woodsy and wonderful.

A flock of chickadees flit through the trees singing away. But today it is the grouse that we are looking for. The balsam ridge was a great place for grouse.

The gully was another good descriptive place that Dad and I often traversed. The gully was a wrinkle in the landscape, a gouge left perhaps by the glaciers. In the early spring, the gully often filled with water. In the fall, the gully was a fun landmark to follow with autumn elm and ash leaves falling down.

We are so fortunate to have such a variety of wetlands in our area. We have the Carney fen (a wetland with mineral-rich surface water) and the Jamestown slough (wetland natural area) near Manistique and many cedar swamps in-between.

Don’t let the sun set on another wet but wonderful fall day. Visit your favorite woodland or wetland and give it a unique name.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.