A late summer day at Haserot Beach.

By MIKE NORTON

There’s still lots of summer yet. I keep telling myself that.

And yet… in spite of the mid-80s heat and the bustling beaches, I can feel that a change is in the air.

Here and there, I can see a change in the leaves that isn’t simply the result of summer stress – a clear spot of gold or scarlet peering out from the green canopy. The dusk falls earlier, the dawn comes later, and there’s a misty haze over the harbor most mornings that wasn’t there last week.

One sure sign of the approaching change is the proliferation of corn mazes this year. For the last few years, the only corn maze around Traverse City was Jacob’s Corn Maze over on M-72 west of town, across from Gallagher's Farm Market. With over 4.5 miles of twisting, turning paths, located on a century-old farm, Jacob's is over 10 acres in size -- larger than 10 high school football fields -- and it’s already been open for more than a week. So has the new five-acre Old Mission Corn Maze, right around the corner from my house at 3765 Old Mission Rd. (Yet another maze, at the Gill’s Pier Vineyard & Winery, is set to open this Saturday.)

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried one of these things, but they’re huge fun and a great way to spend an hour or so. We were at Jacob’s last year on an office outing, and it was a blast – though they say the best (and spookiest) experience is to try it after dark when the cornstalks are all rustling and whispering in the wind. Sounds like you’d better take a flashlight.

Now comes the best of summer: the golden time, when the light is softer, the water is warmer, and the fruit hangs dark and heavy on the vines. This is the time when the crowds thin out a little and we all catch our breath. Not quite autumn yet (no sense in rushing things!) but close enough that we still feel a little of that back-to-school melancholy even though it’s been years since we sat in a classroom.

It’s good weather for sailing now, as the breezes begin to pick up, and I was out on the Sunfish in Old Mission Harbor on Saturday morning. As usual, the winds were light and variable – one minute you’re speeding along and trying not to get wet; the next minute you’re utterly becalmed and wondering where the next breath of wind will come from. But it was a good day to be by the water, and Haserot Beach was full of sunbathers, swimmers, paddlers and boaters.

This morning was a very different experience – one that was much more dramatic. The Peninsula was wrapped in a light fog that grew steadily thinner as I got closer to the mainland, and in Traverse City itself, the morning was a dramatic blend of light and cloud, silver and green and gold. I found myself walking around the waterfront shooting photos of sky and water and the gathering fleet of fishing boats at the mouth of the Boardman River.

Morning Drama Over West Grand Traverse Bay

Soon it will be schooltime, and the beaches will turn quiet. Soon it will be time for harvest, and the vintage from this year’s grapes. (I think this may turn out to be the best year for wine we’ve ever had – but of course, we won’t get to drink any of it until 2013.) There will be bonfires in the evening, quiet walks on the shore, and the sweaters will come out of the closets again.

But this is not that day. This day we enjoy a little more summer weather, fire up the grill, sit out on the deck to watch the stars come out, and enjoy the luxury of short sleeves and sandals. Tempus fugit, bro.

A Late August Morning in Traverse City, Riding at Anchor.