Storm Approaches


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Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...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 Week Of October 5th


Warm morning thundershowers were one more indication that summer weather continues to prevail, the calendar notwithstanding. By mid afternoon it was sunny, and warm. There were even people on the beach! A neighbor is mowing his lawn, something I've deferred until spring hoping that frost would arrest the continuing growth. It's very dry. Eliza and Cedar creeks are almost empty at their harbor outfalls. One can hike across backwood marsh and slough that are normally only navigable by waterfoul and beaver. Shots ring out in the woods as bear hunters continue what must be a record kill. (Witnessed a bear being shot from a car while hiking the Delaware Road a few days ago. Awful sight, and also illegal.) Bow season for deer has started. Gun hunters have seeded their deer stands in preparation for the coming season. A newspaper report predicts a Michigan deer harvest of about a half million animals....and who knows how many hunters. Abby and I will stick to the main roads for awhile.


A day in the "hard country". That's how Abby and I spent the day....hiking the trail up to and around the Central location. Unlike the "soft country", the pine laden, softly rolling sandy lands to the west of the Harbor, the "hard country" up the hills behind us is rugged, rocky and dominated by birch, oak and maple....all now in the vivid reds and yellows of a Keweenaw fall. Breathtaking, not just for the steep climb, but more so for the spectacular color and vistas out over the blue lake. This is bird country, as well as bear and deer. Abby, always the hunter, had a true dog "field day". The sun was out, the air was warm, and the woods literally "crackled" in their extreme dry state. My friend Edo was as usual tending his Central camp (pictured in the "Winter Scenes" section of our web site), and as usual, grumbling about the work. Today he was snow shoveling the hundreds of apples that fall onto his beautifully groomed camp ground from the ancient apple trees that are so prevalent around old mine housing sites. He is always good for some wild stories about life in Central. I listened as he reported a recent visit by a bear that "reached up and emptied a bird feeder almost eight feet above the ground". He says he has been there over fifty years. It was a good day to be at Central, absorbing the smell and look of autumn at its peak, and hearing tales of life in the woods.


A drive to Houghton today for supplies and to check out the color along the canal. Warm, muggy, and cloudy weather prevailed, dampening the color of foilage in full fall bloom and sapping the cool crispiness that normally makes our October days so special. All was not lost, however. From Quincy Hill the eye absorbed a broad patchwork of muted colors, all seemingly fuzed together on the rolling landscape. Soft, a faded Hudson Bay blanket. None of the sharp color distinction one encounters close up on a hike through "hard country" on a sunny fall day. The Hancock and Houghton waterfronts, both being beautifully developed as public park and walkway, were mostly empty and quiet. Several seagulls, feathers ruffled by the strong wind blowing down from the lake, gathered noisily about me as I feasted on my monthly splurge from the house of Mac at a waterfront overlook. The Houghton County Marina was almost empty, but still open...awaiting PEREGRINE and her captain enroute to Pequaming next weekend.


Another October "shorts and tees" day. What's going on here. If it's indian summer, the indians must be on the warpath. Probably not warm by the standards of those of you further south, but at 75 degrees, it's hot by Harbor standards. The media explains this has nothing to do with el Nino, but one wonders. In the back of my mind the thought prevails...we're being set up.


Suddenly, a sense of impending finality to fall. I could feel it,see it, and hear it as I hiked from Central "down" to Gratiot Lake and back(with a lot of tough "up" along the way). As I crested the Gratiot hill and looked back to the north, an ominous looking skyfull of billowing dark clouds was rapidly moving in off the lake...the precusor of the fierce gale that was to ensue. Within a few minutes the wind quickly accelerated, creating a instant blizzard of leaves torn from trees and lifted from the ground. The noise was incredible. The wind howled through now almost bare trees, sounding like the roar of angry surf, although we (Abby and I) were miles from the nearest shore. Strong wind gusts "whooshed" through tall pines. Tree trunks and limbs groaned in protest. The sharp "crack" of trees broken by the onslaught was all about. Abby, ears wind flattened and clearly spooked, dove into the sanctuary of tall roadside grass. I marched on, stumbling as the strong wind on my back drove me forward like a sailboat about to broach. The temperature dropped steadily...hiking shorts and a light sweatshirt suddenly seeming inadequate. We arrived at the last half mile, the steep drop down to Gratiot. Now in the lee of the high hills behind us and thus sheltered from the brunt of the wind and accompanying noise, I paused and looked out over Gratiot Lake and the big lake behind it. Their dark surfaces were alive with cresting waves; grey, not white, as they raced before the wind. The still darker patterns of high wind gusts swirled about, shattering wave crests into streams of flying foam. An awesome sight. We trotted to the base of the hill and after a rest at the row of mailboxes, turned to begin the four mile jaunt back to Central. Another story for another day.


I'm tempted to move PEREGRINE to Pequaming today, or at least to Houghton. The lake has done another of its flip-flops...from 35 knot winds and 15 foot crashing waves to an almost dead calm and nearly flat sea in less than twelve hours. I check the marine forecast. "Friday night: Southeast winds building to 15 to 25 knots, waves 4 to 6 feet. Saturday: South winds 25 to 30 knots, waves 6 to 8 feet." Caution prevails. I wait. The lake and I get along just fine as long as I respect her tempestuousness, especially when she is provoked by the rapidly moving weather systems that are the hallmark of a Superior fall. I'll embark in her next moment of reverie.


I'm an early riser. Almost always on my feet by 5 am, often by 3:30 or 4 am. In mid-summer it's light or at least dawning as I rise. Now, only two months from winter solstice and yet on daylight saving time (can you really save "daylight"?), several hours pass before the new day arrives. Our little harbor hamlet, which even in mid-day in mid-summer seems to be taking a nap, is at early morn in early winter indistinguishable from the dark, permanently at rest, forested hills that are its neighbors. Only the lake is active, its tossing and churning evident in the low roar of waves breaking in darkness on reef and shore. The solitude is extreme. Such will be the several months fare for those few of us who inhabit this remote big lake refuge in winter. My books, my writing, my access to family, friends, and contemporaries through the marvelous communication technologhy of our times, including the web site we share, and my thoughts, will be constant companions in the months ahead. I am at peace.
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