August Explorations

As the days grow shorter, our urge to get out and explore grows. // Illustration by Glenn Wolff
August Explorations

Somehow, August never quite lives up to its promise. In winter, we look ahead to it as the lazy middle of summer, when every day is so long that there’s plenty of time to go biking or boating in the morning, meet friends for lunch, then work in the garden all afternoon. In the evening, you can grill something for dinner, then listen to the Tigers on the radio while watching fireflies blinking in the yard. And that’s all on the same Saturday.

But then August arrives, and the days fling past just as they do in every other month. What were we thinking? August isn’t deep summer — it’s the beginning of autumn. The days are growing shorter, splashes of red are showing in the maples, and at night, there’s a bite of cold in the air. The machinery of the seasons is clanking along, as always, and suddenly we realize that we have to get outside now to go fishing, hiking, boating, golfing — whatever it is we love to do in summer.

Those of us whose preferences tend to involve water are lucky to live in Michigan, where there are more creeks, rivers, lakes, ponds and Great Lakes shorelines than anyone could explore in a lifetime. August might not be the best time to fish the inland lakes — the water is at its warmest then and most of the fish have gone deep — but it’s the best month for poking around in places outside your usual tramping grounds. The weather is usually dry, so dirt roads and two-tracks are in good shape, and mosquitoes are past their peak, making it a fine time to bushwhack through cedar swamps in search of creeks and beaver ponds. Also, it’s blueberry season, so even when the fishing isn’t great, the foraging can be. Blueberries are one of the bonuses of the season.

An even bigger bonus is the knowledge that accumulates with the seasons and the years. Explore a place long enough, and it becomes part of your life. Its history merges with your history, and pretty soon, it’s impossible to separate the two. It’s a lifetime effort. You can go at it methodically, planning expeditions across the state, studying maps and guidebooks, interviewing local experts, initiating conversations with strangers at the supermarket. Or you can let it happen at its own pace, organically, until the day you look around and realize you’ve found your favorite place.

One of my own favorites is located — well, never mind where it’s located. What matters is that we find our own places. And it pays to stay alert while you’re doing it. The world is full of surprise gifts. Those wild blueberries are one gift that you can carry home and share with your family and friends. If it’s a bountiful year, seal a quart or two in bags and hide them in the back of the freezer. The fruits of summer are delicious come February.

Jerry Dennis writes from his home near Traverse City. Visit him at

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