Autumn in Michigan is synonymous with color! Red sumac, orange maples, gold birch and aspen and dark green pines! Our Fall Color trip was just a few days before prime color but it did NOT disappoint! Crisp, cool mornings, dark rolling storm clouds interspersed with periodic bright blue skies kept our senses guessing. This time, our venture started out on the Lake Huron side of the state, beginning in Pinconning and pausing in Tawas City where we parked at a Passport America campground that was okay for the price we paid but certainly not for the price without the discount. The good part was that since it was not right on Lake Huron, as the city park is, the gusty lake winds were buffered somewhat before they slid into the campground. Breakfast was the first day’s agenda and we found a tasty one at the local restaurant in downtown East Tawas! Exploring was next and we headed north - towards Alpena, stopping every little bit to check out a park or shop or a lighthouse. The upcoming weekend was the local lighthouse festival so we missed the doings at the Sturgeon Point lighthouse and school but the views of the threatening storm clouds over the expanse of empty beach was impressive.
On our way back to camp we traveled the “River Road National Scenic Byway” which is a 22-mile rambling road, which runs west from Lake Huron in Oscoda and follows the always beautiful Au Sable River. We stopped at dams, checked out the campgrounds where we have stayed before, revisited the Lumberman’s Memorial Monument which is a 15 ft bronze statue that represents the 1800 lumber industry. We even managed to descend the 300 steps at Iargo Springs to view the natural springs ¾ of the way to the rivers edge. We took advantage of the several viewing decks and thankfully managed to ascend those 300 steps back to the top! Further west were several more viewing areas with awesome views of the winding river and her wider pond areas with hillsides splattered with bursts of color
The next morning, after another good breakfast at another good restaurant in town, we did get to climb the close together, circular, open steps of the Tawas Point Lighthouse and scan the horizon from the very narrow top! We climbed slowly and came down more slowly - me with my eyes fixed on the back of H’s head, one hand securely on his shoulder and the other gripping the cold metal railing!
From Tawas we moved farther west to Rose City and secured a good spot in the Grouse Haven campground in the Rifle River Recreation Area. H did see a grouse! We also saw a deer and 2 of her teenage fawns and a handful of huge black turkeys! As always we retraveled the gravely, one way, VERY narrow roadway that meanders thru the park, past the 5 secluded pristine lakes and the primitive campgrounds snuggled into the dense woods.
One of H’s favorite things to do in this area is to “hunt grouse” - - from the drivers seat of his truck! And we did! Once we left the city limits of Rose City we found a sandy two track and followed first one and then another and another – going north, then east, then west and then north again! After one of those turns we ended up on a power line trail. At the top of the big soft sandy hill, which was obviously very popular with other 4-wheelers, you could see the light tan ribbon of trail lying out in front of us! We ended up in Mio and never drove on a paved road till we reached that city limit!
The weekend was approaching and we were to be at the Bay City Conservation and Gun Club so H could participate in a Sporting Clay Event on Sunday so on Saturday morning we headed south. The fella’s at the club welcomed us and assisted in getting us set up and hooked into their electric power for the evening. With the afternoon open, we asked for directions on finding the Dow Gardens in Midland, which was about 20 miles away. We had seen signs for the gardens on our previous trip thru that town and were anxious to see them up close. I am so glad that we did! The grounds are on 110 acres that was the original family estate of Herbert H Dow the founder of the Dow Chemical Co. He and his wife Grace raised their children there and their son, Alden B Dow built his modernistic home there in 1942. He studied under Frank Lloyd Wright before becoming a famous architect in his own right. His home and studio seem as if they are growing in the middle of a pond! Some of the buildings and features in the garden were designed by Alden, including the “Sun Bridge” which casts a perfect circle on the calm waters of the stream that pass below it. Even tho the bright colors of the summer blooms have faded, the fall foliage still glowed along the stepping stone walkways, or near the bouldered passageways or around the bend from the bridge built out of clinkers. It must have been prom night in Midland because the park became overrun with pretty girls dressed in their finest, escorted by lanky teen boys in their matching tux. Helicopter Moms with busy cameras hovered over and around all of them!! It was indeed a great spot for prom pictures!!! But the sun was sinking lower and the temps were dropping and getting colder so we knew it was time to head back to base.
The Bay City C&G Club sure put on a nice event for their shooters. Bob fixed breakfast for everyone and while the guys were out “hunting” for those wary bright orange clay pigeons, he prepared chili, brats, beans, hotdogs and brownies for the cold, hungry hunters! Since H shot in the first group that went out, he was back fairly early so we enjoyed a good meal, said our thanks and good byes and headed south and home.