Up north it’s the thinning ice at the edge of glacial kettle lakes that gives the first hint that spring is on the way. I spent the weekend on the other side of the dividing line between the southern deciduous forests and the mixed forests on their way to becoming boreal on the north shore of Superior. Anyone who has traveled north in Michigan knows that change. There are plenty of woods, but “climax forest” might be the most enticing phrase in the ecologist’s lexicon; it’s rarity testament to the rapaciousness of the continental conquest.
Very little is left of the towering white pines, jack spruce and hemlocks that covered Michigan and whose exploitation created the timber barons whose fortunes bankrolled Michigan’s nascent auto industries a century ago. As impressive as the remaining stands are, with their open floors of moss and pine needles and their 100 foot high canopies that allow only thin shafts of light, they exist as giant museums of an eco-system largely gone. One doesn’t replant a climax forest; it takes centuries to develop (and minutes to destroy).
The East Branch of the Au Sable is not like southerly rivers; it is home to otter, beaver, mink and ermine. At places the banks are think with their tracks, the rivers thick with trout. Bogs and marshes hug its course. A good place to spend the weekend, an even better place to spend a week. Alas…it’s Monday morning and the weekend is over.