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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Getting on toppa fall color

September 17, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"It's been a great season, but I'm glad my shift is coming to an end," WW&W meteorologist Summer Solstice said wearily. "I'm looking forward to handing the reins to Autumn next week. If you think I'm hot, she's the real eye candy."

"At least the most colorful." said WW&W fall foliage correspondent Autumn Equinox. scheduled to arrive next Wednesday, Sept. 22. "I love the first blush of fall color but I don't like frost on my pumpkins quite this early," she shivered.

Fresh offa run-and-gun whistlestop tour of Copper Country brookie cricks from the Otter to Fanny Hooe, I can tell you the woods are still 90 percent green with a splash of color here and there, the partridge are plump on apples and berries, and the flickers and blue jays, some the size of crows, are aspiring to become game birds. Partridge season opened Wednesday, but the green foliage is still so thick, the closest I've come to one is hearing the drumming along Woodtick Crick.

"First frost wreaks havoc with my chlorophyll levels," Autumn revealed, discussing her encroaching color season and 'splaining how her patented photosynthesis action worked, "Once my chlorophyll drops, carotene and every other chemical from anthocyanin to xanthophyll comes into play and my process of changing green leaves to red, yellow and orange takes over until they become so drunk with color, they fall to the ground, leaving our northern boreal forest bare sticks against the sky. That's why we call it Fall."

I love it when she makes science look and sound sexy. Fall is also nature's nudge, reminding us to stock the freezer with fish, fowl and game for the winter. From Ironwood to the Soo, Yoopers are going into cast and blast mode to do just that. September is prime time for hunting trophy fish and game, surpassed only by October. The wild geese are flying, and while you're hooking what might be your last splake of the season, you're thinking about hooking up the plow.

Meanwhile, out in Lake Superior, redfin lake trout are chasing chubs and smelt, getting in shape for hot spawning action on the near-shore reefs of the Keweenaw. Pre-spawn coho and king salmon are staging off the river mouths, and area piers and the north and south entries become hot fall fishing venues.

"I set my sights high this season," said Autumn. "I want my sugar maple red to sizzle like Sarah Palinen's lipstick, and my sumac and burning bush look like the woods are on fire; my Mountain Ash berries are the reddest ever," she added proudly.

"It's way too early to predict peak color, no matter how hot my equinoxing action gets," Autumn admitted. "You can keep an eye on foliage progress reports at, 800-338-7982, and plan your Copper Country Color Cruises accordingly."

In the meantime, grab your camera, binoculars, a picnic lunch and an ice chest chock fulla ice cold complex carbohydrates or your favorite refreshments, and follow me. The best way to get on toppa the color advancement is to head for the hills. Quincy Hill and Goat Hill overlooking the Keweenaw Waterway, Torch and Portage Lakes and K-Bay are good vantage points. From the toppa Bumbletown Hill, Brockway Mountain and Mt. Bohemia you can feast your eyes on fall foliage against the deep blue of Lake Superior, Lake Fanny Hooe, Lake Medora and Lac la Belle. Or try the Porkies, Huron Mountains, Mt. Arvon and Copper Peak. One of my favorite views of all is from the bar at the Calumet Golf Course.

Or slip those drop-dead gorgeous panoramas in reverse and enjoy a fisheye view from the water by boat, float tube, canoe or kayak. Whether you're a paddler or pedaler, one of the best places to enjoy Autumn Equinox and her spectacular fall foliage revue is from the water, the trails and the water trails. I recommend mountain biking and sea kayaking Copper Harbor and Lake Superior with Sam Raymond and the crew at Keweenaw Adventure Company, Michigan's northernmost outfitter,, 289-4303, or go take a hike with Charlie Eshbach's colorful guided tours of the Keweenaw,

My favorite fall foliage hikes are the nature trails backa Calumet Waterworks, McLain State Park, the Swedetown-Tamarack trail, the Sturgeon River Gorge, and any snowmobile trail, logging road or two-track.

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@



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