In northeastern Wisconsin I follow the coastline until it leads me into the peninsula at the upper edge of Lake Michigan. The weather is blustery and cold, but not yet raining, so I decide to camp at Peninsula State Park. It turns out to be probably the last time I’ll camp until I head further South. The huge campground is deserted and creepy. And it’s just one indicator of the true season of the area: Summer.
But the Fall is beautiful and something relatively new for me. Of course we have deciduous trees in California, but not like this. Not forests of them. Not such shocking colors. Here in Door County the leaves are all bright translucent yellow. Not ochre or slight green, but absolute pure yellow. The leaves flood the ground and rustle in the trees, the canopy and carpet of yellow almost surrounding me on every side were it not for the band of grey tree trunks in the middle.
In the morning it is raining, but not too heavily. The roads on the peninsula are made to be followed almost haphazardly, stumbling upon the next town, then breezing through open farmland, then forest, then through another small town and skirting the coastline. My Aunt in Muskego has told me somewhere around here there’s a Swedish restaurant where there are goats on a grass roof. As I’m driving through the town I think I must have missed it when I suddenly catch a glimpse of a shaggy grass roof. How can you possibly miss that? Today there are no goats. I wonder if the goat’s absence is due to the off-season or because it’s raining or both. I have Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. The atmosphere is nice on this cold day. Cheery delicate Swedish décor, warm lights and waitresses dressed in folk Scandinavian dresses.
The next night I stop at my Aunt Brenda’s in Eagle River to catch up. We get to talking and I learn that my Great Grandmother took a trip around the world at the age of 72 on a shipping vessel. So that must be where I get it from.
From my Aunt’s I head north to Keweenaw peninsula in what people around here call the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan). The yellow leaves continue here. At points along the road the trees tower over me and I drive through tunnels of filtered light. The coast here is more rugged and there are less touristy towns then there were in Door County. Lake Superior is so much calmer than the Pacific Ocean I‘m used to. It seems wider too. Somehow ominous in its slumbering state.