Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Maybe I’m just a romantic at heart or maybe it’s my age. For whatever reason, I find myself drawn to old things and old places. Authentic places. Places that have a story. Places you can feel.
The North Branch Outing Club is one of those places. Over a century of history lives within these walls and on the well-worn paths that line the river’s edge. It’s easy to imagine the dining room bustling with elegantly dressed visitors from all over the world, traveling by plane and train to this quiet Northern Michigan respite. It’s easy to summon mental images of the person who might have rested on this very bench and contemplated their fly selection or in this chair by the fireplace with a book. In the library if you listen hard enough you can almost hear the conversations and feel the presence of those that came before.
Or maybe it’s just the season. It’s a moody overcast early November day and the place is nearly empty as they begin the shut down for the coming winter. The first wet snow of the year is starting to fall.
I pour a cup of coffee from the dinged-up thermos and take my time pulling on the waders. There’s no rush.
The breeze has the scent of wet leaves with just a hint of what’s to come. Like the smell of an old book or wood burning in a fireplace, it's familiar and comforting. I take a sip of the coffee and watch the old bird dog lounge in front of the door. The sun peaks through the clouds and, for a moment, the trees are covered in a dappled light.
I finish the coffee and slowly pull up the waders to make my way down to the river, the old hunting dog following lazily behind. The breeze is on my neck and I flip up my collar with an involuntary shiver.
The Au Sable is a quiet river and even more so on a day like today. I gently step in and, as the water softly parts around my feet, I stop and watch and smell and feel. Today I can’t help but be nostalgic for a slower, simpler and more elegant time.