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    Front Page "Seasons"The Essence of Leelanau

Leelanau! Leelanau! "Land of Delight"!
Majestic are her hills, her land.
Surrounded by water, sunrise, sunset
Touching her shores of sand.

  When one first enters this Leelanau, this "Land of Delight," no matter what the season, the usual first impression is awe. As time and distance encompass one, the appreciation builds to a near reverence of this lovely spot, the "little finger" of Michigan's mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. Michigan's motto is especially true of the Leelanau peninsula: "If you seek a lovely peninsula just look around you."

   The waters on her lakes are many various shades of blues and greens, sometimes gentle and quiet and at other times windswept and awesome in their power.

   The land is sculpted with many hills, some so steep that the skies look like mountains behind them. Others are more rolling, many planted with cherries--oh, the cherries, so lovingly cultivated for so many generations and seasons past and seasons to come.

   There are the Leelanau's massive dune areas, windswept and also changing with each season. These are a sacred ground, something to be deeply respected for the fragility of this land and for the power the dunes evoke.

   The sunrises and sunsets that claim Leelanau are a beautiful rite of their own. On the peninsula one gets the delight of wakening to a sunrise and the pleasure of a sunset over water.

   Sunrise touches Grand Traverse Bay before the hills are gently wakened. One notices a lightening in the east, which gradually turns into a pinkish hue, and then--sunrise. A vast ball of crimson begins to blaze over the waters and land, the beginning of a new day.

   Sunsets can be described only as majestic and thought provoking as one watches this fiery ball slip deeper and deeper into Lake Michigan's horizon. As one travels through the gentle hills and valleys at sunset, one is bathed in an immense golden glow, which slowly gives way to evening's quiet darkness.

   Each season of the Leelanau is fresh, offering both the visitor and resident something new to discover, experience, or explore. From the start of early spring, snow still amassed on her beaches and hills, there is memorable spring skiing, for both the cross-country and downhill skiers. Getting off the beaten track, although none is so civilized as to be overused, you can find private vistas over her bays and the Great Lake, where it takes your breath away.

   Maple trees are in abundance in this area, producing the sweet sap to turn into maple syrup. Wildflowers, too, are found everywhere. In spring there are masses of trilliums in the wooded areas. At first their lovely white petals are tinged with green in their veins. Later some turn a salmon pink. They are definitely worth a stop to admire. But please do not pick; they are on the ever-growing list of protected species. In the wetter areas of the county, bogs are filled with swamp marigolds on display in their brilliant yellow. Morels, too, can be found here; the county some years has an abundance of this delectable mushroom.

   The cherry trees, acres and acres of them, begin their show sometime in late spring depending on the weather. Their blossoms look like balls of snowflakes perched on their branches. The sight and fragrance of the cherry blossoms in bloom is unforgettable as fresh spring air mixes with the clean westerly breezes off Lake Michigan. Soon one finds the trees loaded down with little red cherries, a sharp contrast to the pointed green leaves and the heavenly blue skies above. They make up handsomely for the lost sight of the blossoms. Soon the tastes of tarts and sweets will tempt the palate, and roadside stands everywhere will beckon the passerby with signs that read Cherries, Cherries.

   Early June is a quiet time as the beaches lie silent awaiting the first bare feet to dare the waters. The local tall ships have been sailing for some time now, filled with eager students and visitors savoring the cool waters and breezes while aboard. On shore the distant admirer watches the tall ships as they silently and ever so majestically glide over the waters, while smaller fishing boats dot the poetic scene.

   The towns across the peninsula are still waking from the winter past. Many stores are just opening, and those that have been open all winter are eager for the summer visitors and festivals soon to advance upon them. But the quiet time now is also something to enjoy, for it will not be experienced again until nearly hunting season.

   As summer arrives the tempo and the warmth of the waters rise steadily, together welcoming the visitors, who come from everywhere and gently fill this quiet, clean land. The migrant workers and their families have arrived, mostly from Texas and Florida, a part of the cherry industry for so many seasons past and seasons to come.

   Early September brings a softness and a quietness to the Leelanau. Even the air seems to change to an often smoky haze over her hills, waters, and lakes, this even before fall's majestic dance of colors begin their parade. It is a wonderful time to come and explore; the beaches lie quiet, still yearning for company, solitary walks provide an escape rare in these times. Shopkeepers are now taking a breather, but still anxious for the visitors before the long winter sets in with her seal. It is a great time to shop; lots of bargains make way for a new season, a new year.

   And then October. What a sight to behold in the Leelanau! Michigan, so well known for her color spectacular in autumn, has given the peninsula a great share in this display. Hike the National Lakeshore by woods or field. Drive past the apple orchards dripping heavily with several kinds of apple species. See the rolling hills draped with such beautiful extravaganza. See the azure blues of her bays, lakes, and the power of Lake Michigan. Often you will glimpse freighters camped in Suttons Bay, taking refuge from November's rath and Lake Michigan's changing fury. Canoe the Crystal River, admire her gentleness. Yes, fall is a great time in the Leelanau.

   The first snow can sometimes be a surprise. Drivers must relearn their "snow sense" and the plows must ready for their work ahead. The clouds hang long and deep and gray over the peninsula. Sometimes a foot of snow will drop in early November, as it often does, but the skiers, always ready, are anxious and already out to christen a new winter season. Though the warm earth usually melts the first snows, soon the county is covered in a white fairyland surrounded by beautiful blue waters to gaze at and admire.

The Essence of Timing . . .

   First spring wildflowers: Mid-April.
   Morel mushrooms: May.
   Trilliums blossom: Early to mid-May.
   Cherry blossoms: Early to mid-May.
   Leaf-out of trees: Mid-May.
   Lake Michigan reaches seventy degrees: Late July to August.
   Meteor showers: Mid-August (most years).
   Coho salmon returns to rivers: September.
   Peak of fall colors: Second week of October.
   First snow: Varies from early November to mid-December.

. . . and perhaps you can add some of your own "essence" between the lines.

   Whatever the season, the Leelanau is a most special part of the earth we share, an area to be guarded, appreciated, and loved.  


Seasons of the Leelanau, by Sandra Serra Bradshaw.
Copyright © 1994 by Sandra Serra Bradshaw.
All Rights Reserved.

Trillium blossom drawn by Mary Bain.