Late Summer Along The Rifle River

In northern Michigan, early September weather has a edge to it. Nights can be cold, and even when it’s sunny, mornings are slow to warm. Just a few weeks earlier, the midday sun meant a warm embrace. Now lower, it warms only one side of our face, pierces the landscape, and evokes a feeling of uneasiness and foreboding of things to come.

Early morning on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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We were spending a few days at Michigan’s Rifle River Recreation Area to explore nature and do a little fishing. What birds would we see? How about wildflowers? What other wildlife would be spotted on this later in the year visit? Would any fish be caught?

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Amazingly there were a good variety of late summer wildflowers to enjoy. The most striking may have been the Burr Marigold that lined a creek explored by canoe. On this year’s trip we found a wonderful natural area adjoining Au Sable Lake, a short drive outside the park boundary. The launch site is surrounded by cottages and hardly an encouragement to the explorer, but it wasn’t long before we were exploring a creek flowing from Au Sable to Little Au Sable Lake and beyond. An area with no development and unique natural beauty.

Blue Vervain, not only lovely to look at but a herb that can be used to treat depression and promote sleep, (Donna).

Burr Marigolds along the shoreline of Little Au Sable Lake.

The closed flower of the Bottle Gentian make entrance to feed on pollen or nectar difficult for many species of insects. Those strong enough to enter through the top of the flower include some digger and bumblebee species. The eastern carpenter bee chews a narrow slit at the base of the flower and “steals” nectar without pollinating the plant, a behavior known as nectar robbing. The holes in the petals created by this carpenter bees allow smaller insects to also access the nectar and pollen, including the honeybee, the green sweat bee and the eastern masked bee. Ref. Wikipedia, (Donna)

The fascinating turtlehead is a plant used in natural medicine. Traditional practices create a tonic that is claimed to be beneficial for indigestion, constipation, and stimulating the appetite. It is also an anthelmintic (de-wormer) and a salve from the leaves may relieve itching and inflammation. Ref. USFS, (Donna)

The berries of Jack in the Pulpit.

In the woods, asters add a splash of color.

Exploring a wildflower lined creek that flows into Little Au Sable Lake.

A late in the season water lily showing some signs of wear, (Donna).

The seeds of the Yellow Pond Lily were frequently collected by native Americans as a nutritious raw food source. They were also used in the making of bread by grinding the seeds to create a flour, (Donna).

Brook Lobelia, (Donna).

Near the end of it’s blooming season, the beautiful flower of the Grass of Parnassus, (Donna).

Swamp Loosestrife was found along lakes and wetlands in the park, (Donna).

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Our campsite was in the woods, surrounded by maple, poplar, and birch. In their embrace the light of the late summer morning came slowly, and unlike the openness of the lakeshore nearby, evening seemed to greet us before it should.  Only occasionally would the sun find it’s way through a small isolated opening and warm my face. But as I sat there in the shade of early evening after a good day, sunlight and a soft wind played in the leaves high overhead, and in a quiet voice reached out as if to say, stay a little longer, be here with us, don’t leave.

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It’s just you, the canoe, the paddle, a pole, and the fish. A beautiful aesthetic for those so inclined.

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It was a great time to see fungi, albeit sometimes impossible to positively identify. Recent wet weather was undoubtedly the reason for the profusion. Fortunately, given the cooler than normal temperatures, the rain was very light and sporadic during the day which actually made for good hiking weather.

Along the trail colorful but tiny unidentified mushrooms emerge, (Donna).

Three, what we believe to be, Parasol mushrooms.

Yellow Patches Mushroom.

Different stages of development.

Another tiny mushroom, perhaps Orange Mycena, pokes through the leaf liter.

A bolete with a few friends.

Recently emerged Emetic Russula.

A striking display of Sharp-scaly Pholiota.

Another bolete.

Perhaps a type of chanterelle, (Donna).

Jellied False Coral, (Donna).

Toxic False Morel, (Donna).

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Lodge Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.

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The first few days of our stay, warm sunny afternoons really brought out the insects.

Autumn Meadowhawks were common along the park roads, (Donna).

A Slender Spreadwing perches along the Rifle River, (Donna).

Milbert’s Tortoishell, a first ever sighting for us, (Donna).

American Copper, (Donna).

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We were concerned that by early September the loons normally inhabiting the park’s lakes earlier in the year would have already headed south. With the exception of the one juvenile seen on Little Au Sable Lake, that proved to be the case. We did see kingfishers, bald eagles, and a few warblers, but the eastern kingbirds, so common around the lake in midsummer, were gone. Fishing on Devoe Lake one cloudy damp afternoon it was a real treat to see a merlin, perhaps a migrant from further north, as it flew from tree to tree noisily protested a group of harassing blue jays. A snapshot in time passing.

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In the late afternoon near weeks end I found myself paddling into a stiff breeze on a wind swept lake having recently left the shelter of a lee shore at it’s far end. A contest between muscle and wind where there there could be no truce, no middle ground. I was glad only a few waves broke near the canoe as spray blew over the windward gunnel. It was such a contrast with the glass smooth surface that had greeted us in the early hours of that day. The cool quiet of the September morning and the wind and spray of the late afternoon, as the sun hovered above the horizon, was once again a summons, a reminder, to embrace the present and live life fully.

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Creek flowing into Little Au Sable Lake, (Donna).

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Thanks for stopping by.

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