These days, there is no trip more pleasant than one down a country road. Up along the shores of Lake Superior and the Canadian border, the colors are stunning and the air is brisk.
Farther south but still “up north,” the weather has been balmy these past few days, if a bit gray.
But that did not diminish the beauty of my recent drive north on business.
My trip was short, so I started it a full two hours later than last week’s journey. This time, I took an old county highway that twists and turns as it makes it way into the north woods.
We are on the cusp of summer and fall here still, so the wine-rich scent of fall does not yet linger. Only on cold nights does the smell of wood smoke permeate the air.
But the sights of a drive north are lovely as ever. I passed a trio of chickens in a farmhouse yard, saw a pair of great blue herons in a low meadow. A yellowed cornfield was black with Canada geese and crows, and more than once I waited for a pair of deer to cross the road.
The farms and fields at the south end of the road gradually morph into hunting camps and woodlands as the drive progresses. But now and then there are small settlements of shingled houses with pumpkins and cornstalks in the front yard and minivans in the driveway. Along the sides of the road are white-birch trees, their leaves turning golden, and clutches of bright scarlet sumac.
I was headed for an island on the border between Wisconsin and Michigan. The Michigan route is slightly shorter and less developed. Here the land seems timeless, despite proof of the 21st century.
Now and again, I passed through crossroads enclaves. There might be a handful of houses, a repair shop of some sort and always a tavern.
Finally I turned west toward Miscauno Island, taking three left turns to cross a single-lane bridge.
There it is, the 100-year old Four Seasons, a bit of luxury in the woods, white and elegant and sprawling. The place has a colorful history, a devastating fire the year my parents were born, years as a rustic retreat, and a more recent connection with dubious owners from the Chicago area. It is now a legitmate business with a good reputation.
(My father began his career here, and I have felt his presence, or perhaps imagined it.)
Once I checked into a long room overlooking the golf course, I set out with my camera to try to recreate the packet of photos he took in 1949.
But the place has changed in 58 years, and the land has changed, too. The building has evolved from a rustic lodge to a glittering resort.
Still, I was happy to have a few hours here to capture the loveliness of it, to hear the sounds of woodpeckers and other woodland creatures.
It was not edible, but it tasted sweet.