April is a free-for-all in the wild U.P. woods
ESCANABA — The flumes are flowing and the water is dashing over the dam.
White water, frothy and free, dances at almost every bend of the river. Gulls sing and eagles stare as April ushers the ice out of the bay and river.
Out of the cold, green cedar swamp steps a thin shaggy deer. Looking like a ragamuffin leftover by the winter days, the whitetail gingerly edges out to snow-free south side of the clearing.
The pointed hooves stab into to soggy, muddy ground and it feels great.
As the April sun begins to set, it is a free-for-all in the open fields. The deer scrounge for any left behind crops, or bird seed or treetops in logging areas.
The road sides draw in deer out of the soggy woods. The decaying snow and the icy spring runoff often put whitetails right where we don’t want them — the middle of the road.
April is crazy time for the squirrels. The red squirrels chase each other silly at mating time, pausing only long enough to sip some of the sweet sap from the maple branches.
The flying squirrels venture out on freeze-free nights. Soon baby gliders will fill the cozy nest in the little hollow of the oak tree.
Upper Michigan’s rivers and streams are wild now raging with water and wildlife. Canada geese honk while claiming their space by the water. Bufflehead ducks swim along with the ice floes. The wood duck floats peacefully in a vernal pond still mostly encased in ice.
Down in the swishy marsh lands, the pussy willows are growing. The red-winged black bird is still tired from his long flight back up north, but still he chirps.
Just beyond the garden gate, the ground is brown and free of snow. Camouflaged so earthy brown the cottontail rabbit is there. During April the rabbits will be busy tending to their little nests tucked down in the grass and weeds.
April is a musical month with many free concerts all around the north woods. One day you wake up and hear a robin or a bluebird or an indigo bunting singing.
The raccoons and the bears leave paw prints in the old snow and the new mud. April is a happy time to go for a wander.
It is also a time to slow down and use a little more care on the roads because of the springtime surge of wildlife.
The rivers and lakes are to be respected as they swell to their yearly high points.
Even in these hard times of fighting the coronavirus, we can still keep our social distance and enjoy ice out and the free-for-all in the woods at this time.
April has tons of awesome, totally free sights to see.
Be safe and take care.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.