"Changing of Seasons"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, October 15, 2011

October ushers in the time for change, but this year we are not seeing much change in our area. After returning from a color tour up north a week ago, where all the trees displayed brilliant colors, our tree displays are disappointing.

Many trees in our area are a muted orange, brown or bare with only a few areas of bright color. As you travel M-25 from Port Austin to Caseville, there is some good color but on M-53 around Filion the color is lackluster. The dead ash trees around Grindstone are blighting the effects of any color there.

I recently met with a tree expert and asked him: “What is happening to our trees this year?”

He told me: “There are just too many diseases infecting them and many views regarding the cause of the aliments. One consensus is contaminates are in the air, coming off the water, introduced by foreign ships.”

As you research, the list of tree and shrub diseases is long and complex. Maple trees around my home all seem to be infected with some kind of fungus, perhaps leaf spot disease. Instead of displaying their usual brilliant yellow, all their leaves are shriveled, with black spots.

Fall’s change also affects animal habits. As crops leave the fields and fruit trees shed, deer dart out of wooded areas feasting on the bounty, making driving an obstacle course.

Not only do cars hit deer — the deer often run into cars resulting in major damage. Squirrels, raccoons and everyone’s favorite, skunks (Pepe La Pew) litter the roads this time of year as they gather food for the long winter. These critters also become a hazard as cars swerve to avoid hitting them.

Every fall for many years, we take a color tour with our friends Gordon and Catherine Miller. After checking out the UP, we headed for the bridge where the girls always want to stop and take pictures. We spotted a freighter heading toward the Mac and decided to try to beat it to the bridge’s center. As usual, workers were painting and had equipment in our way, but we managed to get some cool pictures as we and the freighter met near mid-span. We managed to get a photo of the ship heading under the main span and another as it came out the other side — all the while dodging barricades, traffic and driving over the big MAC!

Our next encounter as we traveled the top of the Lower Peninsula occurred in Levering. As we rounded a sharp curve on County Road 81 near the Wilderness State Park entry, we passed what looked like a giant pumpkin patch. We all decided we had to check it out. It was a family farm dating from 1937 called “The Pumpkin Barn.” There was a display of hundreds of bright, orange pumpkins everywhere of all sizes and gourds of all colors plus some squash mixed in. Alongside the barn was a pen with turkeys, ducks and geese, and parked in the yard was a blazing red 1950s Ford pick-up truck loaded with pumpkins. Inside the barn was a selection of apples and hot apple cider. We learned that although the “Barn” was located in the middle of nowhere, thousands of travelers stop each year on the way to the tunnel of trees, which was where we were headed.

The tunnel runs for 20 miles along M-119 through a variety of trees that form a canopy overhead. Cross Village, a very busy tourist stop (we saw five busloads), is along the route and is busy year-round. As you travel through the tunnel, breaks in the trees provide beautiful views of Lake Michigan. The trip is tough on the driver, however, because the road is narrow and winds around narrow curves where you often meet traffic.

When we exited the tunnel we arrived in Harbor Springs where we stopped for ice cream at Bob-In-Again. Homemade root beer and frozen pumpkin flavored custard were choices we made in the great 1950s atmosphere themed restaurant. We continued our trip along M-131 to Cadillac, then took M-55 across to Manistee where we stopped overnight. The next day we traveled M-55 to US-10 east to Clare for a quick stop, then over to Bay City and on to Bad Axe. Colors along M-131, M-55 and US-10 were peaked and better than we expected.

As I see it, you better get out and enjoy this fall weather because we all know it will soon change.



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