Colors of Autumn in the U.P.

Part One

Drive to McCormick Wilderness

Headed west Sunday morning to look for some unique birds (Boreal Chickadee and Canada Jay) in the beautiful autumn forests of the Upper Peninsula. The first thing I noticed, cars coming from the west had SNOW on them. October 13 must be the first day of winter in the U.P. The sky opened up to let some sunshine in while I drove west, but most of the day would be grey. Here is a map showing the area traveled. The first set of pictures was taken along of and off of Hwy 41, followed by images along a 15 mile stretch of the Pesheskee Grade, and then McCormick Wilderness, just the area near the entrance. I hope you enjoy this trip as much as I did, and no, I did not locate the target birds, this time.

Pesheskee Grade

The Pesheskee Grade is a road, sort of, that travels north from Hwy. 41 up through the lower-left corner of the McCormick Wilderness, and on into no-man’s-land. I loved it!
The pavement is in terrible shape, more like a rollercoaster than a highway. Some sections have been recently paved, but the drive is not for the faint-hearted or low suspension.


Gallery of images taken along the way to McCormick

McCormick Wilderness

“Three generations of McCormicks, the descendants of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaping machine, held the deed to this area before Gordon McCromick willed the land to the U.S. Forest Service. McCormick Wilderness has recovered from the logging era that ended in the early 1900’s. Today, you’ll find a mixture of northern hardwoods and lowland conifers interspersed with small patches of towering white pine, Michigan’s State Tree. Straddling the divide between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, this region ranges from nearly level terrain to rocky cliffs. McCormick’s water is what draws most visitors, with the Huron, Dead, Pahokee, and the Wild and Scenic Yellow Dog Rivers all have part of their headwaters within the wilderness. Many cascading waterfalls on the Yellow Dog make it unnavigable. The Yellow Dog is one of a few Eastern rivers designated “Wild”. Eighteen small lakes add sparkle to the landscape. Trout, pike, and bass live here, but only in small numbers due to the less-than-fertile-waters. The three mile White Lake Trail connects County Road 607 to White Deer Lake where the McCormick Estate once stood. Remnants of old, unmaintained trails can sometimes be found, but the rest of the Wilderness is fairly rugged, isolated, unspoiled, and relatively difficult to access.”   USNFS

Birds seen along the White Lake Trail

Since I did not come prepared, and it was quite wintry, I covered only 1.5 miles of the White Lake Trail. Now, knowing what to expect, on the next trip, I will be prepared for the longer hike. This is not an area you want to go into unprepared, but it is an area worth visiting multiple times.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) 1
Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) 1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 3
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) 2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 5
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) 3
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 14
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) 3

Part Two

Marquette area

Sheree arrived from North Carolina on Saturday morning, and we spent the next three days relaxing in Marquette and Alger counties, both at home and in the woods.
Impressive sunrise views are less than five minutes from our house. The city of Marquette has excellent riding and walking paths and trails, all accessible by just walking out the front door. In the Marquette area, there are over 100 miles of hiking, biking, snowmobile, Fat Tire bike, and cross-country ski trails, as well as many miles of ATV trails.

Sunrise at Picnic Rocks

Sheree' at the summit of Mount Marquette, the city in the background.

Red Squirrel

Big Bay / Yellow Dog River

Traveling north of Marquette along the Lake Superior shoreline, we had a pleasant trip in the autumn countryside of Upper Michigan. After a short hike up to Thomas Overlook, we took a long drive west on County Road AAA, 15-20 miles, past Eagle Mine, through Superior State Forest and across the northern boundary of the McCormick Wilderness. We then backtracked, driving east and then south to the Yellow Dog River before returning to Marquette for a pasty lunch.

Big Bay - from the Thomas Overlook

A section of the Yellow Dog River is a National Wild and Scenic River. The first 4 miles (6 km) of the river, from its origin to the national forest boundary, was designated on March 3, 1992.

The Yellow Dog River drops sharply through numerous outcrops and cascades within the 17,000-acre (6,900 ha) McCormick Wilderness. Vegetation consists of large eastern white pineeastern hemlocksugar maplenorthern red oak, and other old-growth northern hardwood species.

The river runs through the Yellow Dog Plains, a remote and virtually untouched wilderness, aside from large scale logging operations. There are many beautiful waterfalls along its length.

Laughing Whitefish Lake Nature Preserve

Traveling east of Marquette on M-28, we turned onto Deerton Road, then Peter White Road, which took us to Laughing Whitefish Lake Nature Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property. This land was donated by the nephew of George Siras III. I will return next spring to further explore the area. 

“Situated between Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Area and Hiawatha National Forest, the 1,728-acre preserve lies along Laughing Whitefish Lake and River, six miles south of where the river empties at Lake Superior. The preserve includes three-quarters of the lake as well as over 1,000 acres of surrounding wetlands and upland forest. 

Abundant wildlife including Bald eagles and loons, along with black bear, river otter, beaver, leopard frog and a host of warblers, thrushes and woodpeckers frequent the area. The varied habitats here—marsh and swamp, hardwood and beech-maple forests—all work in unison to support these creatures.  “

Laughing Whitefish Lake Nature Preserve

Laughing Whitefish Falls

Located in Alger County, southeast of Marquette of M-94, this Michigan DNR property is a highlight to any trip of the Upper Peninsula. 

“Laughing Whitefish Falls is considered by many to be the most spectacular of Michigan’s falls. The falls cascade through a picturesque gorge with old growth white pine and hemlock towering above. The falls can be reached by a moderate (.6 mile) hike through beech-maple forest.”

Laughing Whitefish Falls

Some Autumn Flora we found on our various hikes

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