Early fall color just south of town

Early fall color just south of town

By MIKE NORTON

Fall is on its way. Little by little, hints of red and gold are appearing among the trees. The days seem to alternate between razor-sharp clarity and a dreamy blue haze, and the air is sweet with the scent of apples and woodsmoke.

And something else. Usually it seems as though, autumn in this part of the world arrives in a flurry of color and is over in an instant -- leaving only the muted golds, browns and grays of dry grass, bare trees and fallen leaves. This year, though, it's as if the cool summer rains have delayed the onset of fall; it's almost October, but sometimes it looks and feels as though fall hasn't properly begun.

Not that I'm complaining. This is my favorite season of the year, and I'd love to be able to enjoy it to its fullest extent. Winter will be here soon enough, and it will last more than long enough. So I'm keeping the boat in the water, enjoying some nice hikes and bike rides, astonished that you can still get ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market and enjoying the taste of a crisp McIntosh apple.

Black-eyed Susans beside the Boardman River at Brown Bridge

Black-eyed Susans beside the Boardman River at Brown Bridge

And I'm on this quest to find whatever bits of fall color that can be found. On Monday I drove out to the Brown Bridge area in the upper Boardman Valley, walking the upper trail above what used to be Brown Bridge Pond and descending the long stairs to the floor of the valley itself, where the newly-liberated Boardman River chatters and flows like a glittering snake through the meadows. There were a few bright swamp maples and some Virginia creeper glowing at the edge of the wetlands, and a stand of lovely winterberry -- Michigan's beautiful deciduous holly -- but no real fall color yet.

Winterberry at Brown Bridge

Winterberry at Brown Bridge

The next day I headed for the Sleeping Bear Dunes with Robin David Frommer, a visiting writer/photographer from Germany. He'd seen a photograph on the Visit Traverse City website showing the great dune nicely framed by brilliant fall leaves at the end of the Empire Bluff Trail, and he wanted to recreate it for himself. No such luck, of course -- although I could see a little tinge of red beginning to assert itself in hat sea of green foliage below us.

Robin David Frommer shoots his photo of Sleeping Bear in shades of green and blue.

Robin David Frommer shoots his photo of Sleeping Bear in shades of green and blue.

Green is also a color, I reminded myself -- and one that we'll be hungry enough to see in another few months. And the glorious blue of the sky, the tawny beaches and dunes, the fierce glitter of sunlight off the water off Point Betsie, the astonishing glow of jade, turquoise, aquamarine and cobalt from the huge lake at our feet...  ah, what's not to love about that?

Fall will be here soon -- and once it comes, it will fly swiftly. This, I think, is a little gift for us. One we should enjoy!