One of the things I cherish most about living in Northern Michigan near the water is the change of seasons. Of course, people almost everywhere in the U.S. experience the transition. But in this region, the change is dramatic, more akin to turning a page between chapters of a book, rather than a slow 'fade-in fade-out” of a film. The fall colors usher in the transition from summer with vivid colors, colors that use the rolling hills and blue lake as a canvas to paint a seasonal vista unique to Northern Michigan. After the leaves are all but gone, winds increase further, days shorten significantly, and the steely waters begin brooding. For over a week now, I've driven through town every day to see an agitated gunmetal gray bay, full of closely stacked waves anywhere from three to eight feet, obscuring the marina breakwall and light in white clouds of spray and rolling in hurried formation into the east and southern shores of the bay.
Once the patterns shift to winter weather, lake effect snows begin. Cold fronts dropping across the warm lake pick up moisture and deposit it as snow along windward regions adjacent and inland from the lake. Meteorologists say about a fifteen-degree difference in temperatures is required to generate the conditions (obviously with air temps well below freezing). When these ingredients exist, even in the absence of an organized storm, the recipe can create widespread snow across entire regions or within surprisingly isolated areas. One can sit at a coffee shop in Petoskey, with overcast or even partly sunny skies, and look across to the north side of the bay to a heavy snowfall. Sometimes, with no snow falling in town, the other side of the bay is completely obscured by snow. During the beginning of winter, the temperature difference between water and air is great enough to keep us in almost-daily doses of fresh white stuff.