"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)
The annual leaf viewing pilgrimage is well underway. Abby and I have abandoned our road walk/jogs until things settle down. The cars aren't too threatening, but for every car there is at least five massive motorcastles, and they seem to be always driven with the co-pilot aligned over the road shoulder. They also travel in close convoy, like elephants in circus parade. Not a good situation for the wonderdog, who is as anxious to run up and greet a vehicle as she is a stranger.
So we have been "off road", or at least off the paved roads. Last Friday, after being chided for my less than "chamber of commerce" public assessment of this year's fall color, I decided to hike up to Central to see how badly I had erred in my color rating. A couple of my "chiders" had suggested I was too Harbor parochial, and that if I looked "over the hill" I would see color that at least qualified as beautiful, if not gorgeous. So off we went: down the road past the cemetery to Copper Falls stamp, then up the hill past Padbergs, through Copper Falls, and then over the old Central road to our destination.
That's quite a climb. I quickly discovered that I am not as far along in my recovery from the downtime for my heart surgery as I thought. The wonderdog didn't do much better. Jogging and trotting along the relatively flat paved lake and harborside roads is poor preparation for crawling up rocky hill paths from the Harbor to Central - and back. Abby's excuse, if she felt compelled to offer one (she didn't), might have been the mistreatment from her master while overdoing it on the ski trail last winter that resulted in a blown tendon in a rear leg. She might also have pointed out that as she is approaching her dog 11th birthday, she is older (and some say wiser) than her hiking partner. In any event, after the first couple miles of ranging through the pathside wood to flush birds, she trailed obediently along behind her wheezing master.
The old road up and over the Central hill is in pretty good condition. I suspect the loggers have been fixing it up as there is a lot of tree felling going on up there. We even met a couple out for a color drive in a brand new Audi. which kind of took the sense of adventure out of the hike. I thought of my mom as we trod along and her accounts of travel between Calumet and the Harbor by horse drawn vehicle along this road in the first decade of this century. I wondered when what we now call the "cutoff road" was opened. (A good question for the Harbor Q & A page of our Harbor Web.)
The trek through the woods did little to change my "pretty, but not as good as usual" rating of this year's color - at least until we arrived at Central and standing by the church looked out over the valley towards Gratiot Mountain. That, I must admit was "beautiful". Not as much red as I, and perhaps others, would prefer, but just enough that when combined with abundant bright yellows and set within the lush and varied shades of green, created a color tapestry worthy of the Chamber's most ferment brestbeating.
I lingered awhile, filling my lungs with the crisp and aromatic air of a Keweenaw fall day, and basking in the bright sunlight - made comfortably warm by the protection from northerly winds afforded by the lee of the hill over which we had climbed. Abby, who doesn't get as carried away with such moments, took a snooze.
The hike back was a bit easier, at least for me. We found some water up near Copper Falls Lake for the wonderdog to wallow in and quench her thirst. With that renewal, her springer instincts again propelled her in happy pursuit of the birds of fall. She flushed a couple and returned to me with disdain as I failed to perform my part of the bird hunting partnership. She just didn't get it - we were in search of color, not birds. I'm sure she thought, "What a waste!" Perhaps she was right.
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