Summers End in the Northwoods

I haven’t lived in Wisconsin’s Northwoods all my life. I actually grew up in Central Illinois, attended college at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, raised a family and pursued a career in Central Wisconsin near Stevens Point, and then retired to the Northwoods.

The point is that the Northwoods environment and climate are still new to me. And hardly a day goes by when I don’t learn something about that environment and climate that truly amazes me.

For example, we have four seasons here. Instead of gradual change from one season to the other, it will go from summer to fall like someone threw a switch. Bam! It’s Fall. Happened overnight. Or Bam! It’s blazing hot and summer. Just like that.

The unprecedented heat wave that gripped the Central USA for so long this summer broke only two weeks ago. In our area, hot humid air was rapidly replaced by cool, dry Canadian air which reaches us once it crosses south across “always frigid” Lake Superior. I heard the weatherman on TV say, “Don’t worry folks. Summer is not over yet. This is just a brief breath of fresh air and then summer temperatures will likely return”. They didn’t. But who’s complaining?

I recall saying to my wife last week that the maple leaves have not started to change color yet. Therefore, that must mean a late or mild winter. That’s good. But then she picked out one tree about six miles south of here on State Highway 182 and said, “Larum’s maple in front of their house has had red leaves for about a week. It’s always the first to change color”. That killed my argument.

Today, I woke up to a thick fog over the lake, 60’s and 98% humidity. I track these things with a La Crosse weather station and all kinds of sensors on the roof of my house. Meteorology is a sideline hobby of mine. My wife, who watches the news (I don’t. Too depressing. Too much bad news), said it was supposed to be hot and humid today. I’ll believe that when I see it. At best, our weather for the last week has been mild and sunny during the day and downright chilly in the evening. Just yesterday, I donned a leather coat and turned the heat on in the car for the 45 minute drive to Minocqua.

So yes, someone flipped a switch in the Northwoods again and now it is fall. I confirmed that this morning while sitting in the front porch swing waiting for the fog to lift. A gentle breeze from the southeast blew the fog away. But it also caused brightly yellow-colored basswood leaves to fall from high in the canopy, of the otherwise green forest, which surrounds my log cabin on the banks of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.

I must admit that I find the end of another summer to be a bit sad. Summer in the Northwoods is such a pleasant time with long days of delightful weather, endless outdoor recreation, and cool nights filled with the sounds of crickets and the scent of campfires as island campers on the Flowage make dinner.

Labor Day is a couple of days away – the official end of summer. The resorts that border State highway 51 leading south through Minocqua, Hazelhurst, and Tomahawk will host their “end of summer” parties and place signs along the highway that bid farewell to tourists and the season until next year. The hundreds of resorts and tourists shops will close for the winter and the Northwoods will return to being a ghost town during the winter season; habituated only by those of us who live here year round.

That changeover began, if only in my mind, today when I saw the basswood leaves falling to the ground. Winter will bring new inhabitants as the skiers, snowmobilers, and ice fisherman move in. And before you know it, someone will throw a switch again and just that quickly, summer is here once again.

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