The lingering marks of October’s touch | News, Sports, Jobs

Karen Wils photo The old granary near the camp. I picked many hazelnuts by this weather-beaten wood.

ESCANABA – The cold hands of October are leaving their marks on the northern forests.

Time passes.

Another growing season is coming to an end.

The old autumn engraves everything it touches with the lines of wisdom and maturity. It’s time to enjoy the wonderful weather-beaten world around us, before it’s covered in snow.

The settlements, towns, and villages of Upper Michigan were built with locally harvested lumber. A sawmill was operating along the Escanaba River as early as 1836.

A cedar shingle production plant flourished at Cornell in the early 1900s. The I. Stephenson Lumber Company of Wells was world famous for its hardwood floors.

Everything from the great-grandfather’s barn to the Tilden house (famous Hotel Escanaba) was made of wood.

Some of this wood has stood the test of time remarkably well. Old barns and silos, country churches and old schools stand like yesterday’s beacons among the last colors of autumn.

The fence posts, silver gray after decades of use in the sun, wind, rain and snow, still soar above the dry milkweed and wilted ferns of summer.

Pyres, Sugar Shacks, and Saunas are common buildings in UP. Some of them belonged to three or more generations. The weather beaten woodshed has had a roof replacement but still houses all the firewood for the year. The sugar shack is a storage place except in March when it is the hottest place around, busy boiling the sap.

The sauna floorboards may be worn, but this small building is a Saturday night hideaway steeped in tradition.

The chilly hands of October changed the supple, green oak leaves into tough, red and brown flags. The branches of the thorn apple tree turn into wrought iron. Larches turn gold to October’s touch.

Fall is that magical time of year when you can look at antiques and almost step back in time. Visits at this time of year to places like the ghost town of Fayette State Park, lighthouses, forts, historic sites and museums are very popular.

Weather-beaten timber is found on many country roads. It’s worth taking a drive through rural Delta County and noticing the hands-on work of time on some of the old farmhouses, cabins, stores, root cellars and granaries.

October hands are busy and strong. From vibrant oranges and yellows to silver gray earth tones, weather in UP is a wonderful thing.


Karen (Rose) Wils has been a lifelong North Escanaba resident. His folk chronicles appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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