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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Caution: Photosynthesis in progress

October 1, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"I love the way brookies and splake are all dolled up in their radiant fall spawning colors with their orange bellies to match the fall leaves, "said WW&W foliage correspondent Autumn Equinox.

Yesterday was the last day of brookie season and I'm in deep withdrawal. But when one door closes another one opens, and it's nothing that can't be cured with a little variety. Archery deer season opens statewide today, and if you're into outdoor multi-tasking, you can shoot a bird, arrow a deer, or catch a fish these days. I've already switched gears and gear to the fall salmon run, splake, partridge and woodcock.

Another glorious color season is cosmetizing the Keweenaw right on schedule and getting ready to peak. Our northern hardwoods have been busy photosynthesizing their brains out, and it shows, especially on the back roads.

"I'm letting my chorophyll levels go and pumping up my anthocyanin, carotenoid and xanthophyll to add an extra shot of color to fall fishing and hunting," Autumn added.

If you thought I was bad about trolling the backroads before, I take them more than ever now. Even when I go to Hancock, I take the scenic route, M 203, with side trips through Calumet Waterworks, McLain State Park and Bear Lake, then lollygag at Lily Pond and throw a few casts. I also keep my shotgun handy in case I come across a pesky partridge impeding traffic.

We're surrounded with hot photosynthesis action and I go outta my way to get as much as I can. So does WW&W backroads travel correspondent Sandy Bottom.

"Whenever I do take 41 south, I don't take it for long," Sandy said. "I duck backa the Calumet Golf Course down the hill to Hubbell, Hungarian Falls way. Or I get off and go Boston way, or take Arcadian Road backa the airport to Dollar Bay, Dolly Partanen's and my place," she added. "Either way, the color's hotter, there's less traffic and it takes longer."

Our fall woods seem more colorful, inviting and welcoming than ever. I love going for a walk when the forest floor is covered with golden pine needles punctuated with pine cones and colored leaves. Everywhere you look, the understory is electric with the bright mixed yellows and golds of aspen, beech and birch against dark green pine and hemlock. Stands of cedar and birch blend into the dusty gold of tamarack swamps, bordered by splashes of bright red maple reflecting in water the color of Red Jacket Oatmeal Stout.

No matter where you look, Keweenaw color is dangerously close to peaking. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that we're at about 75 percent, with peak color development just another sunny day and frosty night away. October is traditionally our last month for leaves and the first month for snow. For updated foliage reports, call 1-800-338-7982, or visit

If you really wanna surround yourself in color, all you hafta do is go backa, as in backa Laurium, backa Mohawk, backa Pelkie, backa Baltic, backa Baraga, backa Bumbletown, or backa anywhere.

Which brings us to the moment you've been waiting so patiently for, where I reveal my annual Top 10 Copper Country Color Cruises, dedicated to the theory that just about any back road will take you backa somewhere. (1) Cliff Drive backa Mohawk past Seneca Lake and the Gratiot River to Phoenix; (2) Mayflower Hill backa Kearsarge down to Traprock Valley; (3) Pine Street (M 203) backa Calumet past McLain State Park to Hancock (Lakeview Cemetery is a foliage hot spot along the way); (4) Five Mile Point Road backa Ahmeek to Eagle River; (5) Arcadian Road backa the airport from US 41 to Dollar Bay; (6) the Covered Road backa Houghton Canal to Redridge, Beacon Hill and Freda; (7) Lake Linden to White City/Jacobsville and backa Rabbit Bay; (8) Triple A Road from Big Erik's Bridge backa L'Anse to Big Bay; (9) Herman-Nestoria Road, and (10) US 41 North from Delaware to Copper Harbor.

"Take any of these color tours and you'll see what archers and partridge hunters already know," Sandy said. "Their respective targets still have plenty of cover in the woods. I've been startled a number of times by the sudden, furious wingbeats of a flushed bird I never saw just a few feet away."

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at



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