Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

August 2, 2009

Just Another Northern Michigan Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:41 pm

I awoke before the sun rose and ventured down to the edge of Budd Lake, located in the “near north” country of the Northeastern Lower Peninsula. A sign in the adjacent town of Harrison declares that there were “twenty lakes within twenty minutes” nearby- confirming that it was near impossible to witness a sunrise without a lake-view in these parts. A gang of noisy crows had been carrying on for some time before I ventured to the sandy shoreline, but things were otherwise quiet.  Gently migrating clouds of mists drifted over the water and obscured the silent cabins and scattered docks lining the opposite shore. The crisp air and early hour insured that the occupants were still curled up in their beds – leaving the lake to show it’s wild side.

About twenty minutes before sunrise, the haunting call of a loon echoed over the water from the north end of the lake ( listen here ). There is no more evocative sound than the “A-hey-hey-yah” chant of the loon.  The bird claiming this lake only called for a minute of two at a time and then only during the dim times of the day at  dawn and  sunset. This was enough, however, to establish the mood. On this morning, a bald eagle drifted into the scene and flew off over the silhouetted white pines on the horizon. Ah, just the start of another typical Northern Michigan day.

Down in the shallows, a sunfish slept while suspended just a few inches over the parallel ripples of the sandy bottom (see above). Snail graffiti, wiggly lines traced by a wandering gastropod, broke the regularity of the sand pattern next to the fish. Only a few involuntary flaps of the pectoral fins kept the panfish vertical as he dozed, but the tail end sunk down on occasion. I walked carefully so as not to disturb the fish, but it it awoke anyway and quickly dashed off to the depths.

A muskrat bobbed to the surface just as the sun began to peek over the treetops and broke the still water with a set of silver V waves (see beginning picture). It swam parallel to the shore, about twenty feet out,  and then suddenly veered straight for land. Cautiously, it stepped out of the water and ventured up into the vegetation- looking hesitant and somewhat guilty about leaving his element. After about a minute landside, it sprinted (as fast a short-legged ‘rat can go, anyway) back to the water and dove in with a splash. He was carrying something round and green in his mouth. The object turned out to be a little green apple from a gnarly feral tree which grew only ten feet from the water’s edge. Showing the kind of appreciation reserved for such a rare seasonal treat, the ‘rat consumed his prize slowly and patiently (see below) and then ended the feast with a bout of armpit scratching (see here) before returning for more.

The muskrat was dependant upon finding fallen apples, so his pick was undoubtedly sparse. I picked a few of the larger apples and threw them onto the ground as an offering of sorts before I left the shore to pursue the rest of my day. 

I observed a lot over the course of that day, but there is only enough room here to record that it all lived up to northern Michigan standards . The fuzzy fruit of the beaked hazelnut (see here) provided one of the many natural moments, but it was an encounter with one of the human residents that topped off the day. My wife and I encountered a little boy named Jacob who lived in a little cabin community called Wooden Shoe Village – located on, you guessed it, Wooden Shoe Lake. Wooden Shoe is actually an impoundment of the Titabawasee River which doesn’t look anything like a wooden shoe! This lake was, in fact, named after the Wooden Shoe Bar that still sits on the east bank. I’m not making that up.  The west bank cluster of cabins, on this same body of water, is called White Star and is named after yet another bar.

I saw Jake earlier in the day as he played with his friends. Two of them were on rusty bikes and one pulled a wagon. Jacob was rolling down the dirt street on a vintage (and seatless) red Sears pedal tractor equipped with an impressive antler hood ornament. I’m not saying that such a sight could only be found here, but his choice of decor and vehicle certainly spoke volumes here in hunting camp/cabin country. I tracked him down later and snapped his portrait (see below).

According to his mom the antlers came from his grandfather. The eight-point rack was up on the wall for a while, but Jacob really wanted to nail them to his tractor. His sister came up with a better attachment option when she scavenged up a roll of black electric tape. One roll of tape later, the rack was firmly affixed onto the hood over the grill.  There probably has never been such a cool chain-driven
Sears Pedal tractor in existence.  Jacob’s gap-toothed smile certainly reflects his pride in his lean red machine.

His smile also amply defines my sense of what things were like on this beautiful Northern Michigan day.

3 Comments »

  1. […] Just Another Northern Michigan Day « NaturespeakA sign in the adjacent town of Harrison declares that there were “twenty lakes within twenty minutes” nearby- confirming that it was near impossible to witness a sunrise without a lake-view in these parts. … It swam parallel to the shore, about twenty feet out, and then suddenly veered straight for land. Cautiously, it stepped out of the water and ventured up into the vegetation- looking hesitant and somewhat guilty about leaving his element. …  read more… […]

    Pingback by Lake view land | Lakefront Property and Land — August 3, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  2. Electrical tape? I thought the handyman up north’s secret weapon was duct tape! 😉 Love the beaver, muskrat, and snail trail.

    Comment by Monica the Garden Faerie — August 4, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  3. This is the right weblog for anybody who wants to seek out out about this topic. You understand a lot its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I actually would need…HaHa). You positively put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just nice!

    Comment by Jenna Basgall — December 16, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

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