Saturday, October 31, 2015

Splendid Color at the Tunnel of Trees

Early in October a friend and I decided to take a road trip to the Tunnel of Trees near Harbor Springs.  We didn't know exactly when the color there would peak, but we planned it for the last Saturday in October.

The forecast for that day was 100% rain and we wondered if it would be worth making the drive, but we decided to set out anyway.

M-119 runs on a high bluff alongside Lake Michigan and is a spectacular vantage point, even  on a cloudy gray day.

Entering a forested area, it didn't take long to see why this route is called the Tunnel of Trees.

Besides the colors within the wooded tunnel, there were vistas of color on the many hillsides.

It might have been a bit past peak color, but it was still a beautiful drive....even with gray skies.

There were only a few places to stop along the way and view the color from the bluffs, but when we stopped others had the same idea and were snapping pictures too.

When we got to the end of the highway at Cross Village, we went to the Lake Michigan beach, also showing fall color.  We'd hoped to eat lunch at Legs Inn, but it had already closed for the season. 

Ready for lunch, we headed back towards Harbor Springs with skies darkening.  Even though rain had been forecast at 100%, we'd hardly had a sprinkle until we were almost back in town.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Night Skies Perplex

Earlier this week, space weather forecasters indicated we were in the midst of a strong, G-3 level geomagnetic storm.  The Kp Index ran between 5-7 for two days straight, signalling a strong probability that auroras would be present in the night skies.  So when darkness settled in Wednesday night, a friend and I headed to Peterson Park to do some night photography, hopefully of auroras.

No one was at the park when we arrived, so we set up our gear on the platform overlooking Lake Michigan.  The night was clear and crisp.  We were happy we'd dressed warmly because the breeze off the lake was cold.  The constant lapping of the water at the shoreline below serenaded us the whole time we were there.  Large swaths of white light across the sky made us hopeful that we'd see auroras.

The sky was magnificent!  We even saw an occasional shooting star.  As I started taking test shots to the north, I wasn't picking up the bright green or red colors that I usually associate with the northern lights.  Instead, the sky had a faint greenish cast to it.  Near the horizon, however, there was a band of ocher coloring.  I wondered if these were auroras.

Towards the southwest, I saw a similar green cast to the sky, but the band near the horizon was more fiery-appearing.  It looked like the sun had just set, but I knew that had occurred nearly three hours ago.

I continued to search the skies for auroras by taking shots of the sky from different positions with various exposure settings hoping to coax some auroras from the faint green sky, but this was about as close as I got.

Behind us clouds from the east began drifting in, effectively occluding any color to the sky.  Relaxed from the constant wave action of the Lake, we packed our gear and headed home.  Had we seen auroras?  Maybe.  They certainly weren't like the auroras I'd seen in the past, but there was color to the sky probably indicative that we'd seen some kind of auroral activity. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Becoming Fall

Up here in the North Country, the time of year can sometimes be determined by what fruit is in season.  For me, besides the considerably cooler temperatures of this past week, apples are one sign that fall has begun. 

Many varieties are already at area farm markets and fruit stands; others are about ready for picking.

Wooden crates line the rows of area orchards and are ready for filling, as the apples are picked.

But apples aren't the only sign of autumn.  Colorful mums now grace the bridge boxes in the village.

Pumpkins and winter squash are appearing along the roadsides.

But the sign of fall that many people wait for and enjoy the most is the changing color of the foliage.  Here and there spots of orange and red are beginning to emerge on the trees.  It won't be long before leaf peepers travel the county roads in search of our beautiful vistas.

While we're a long way from peak, some colorful landscapes are beginning to show.  Prairie grass has browned and the trees at the edge have begun changing too.

But the foliage isn't the only thing in nature that's changing color.  My herd of white-tail deer, usually reddish or golden brown in the summer, has begun molting and the new coats are markedly grayer and darker.  With this new coat, they'll be better camouflaged against the bare tree trunks.  The new coats also help the deer better absorb the heat.  We definitely have entered the transition from summer to winter, but fall brings delights of its own that we don't want to miss.