Table of contents

Introduction 1

Loon Song 7
Spring Arrives 10
Water, Water 12
The Color of Steelhead 15
A Random Act 17
An April Shower 19
Opening Days 22
Night Watch on The Malabar 26
The Overlooked Forest 28
Drenched in Color 31
From a Hilltop, Looking Back 33
Yellowthroats and Agates 37
The Night Country 40
Rivers and Time 43
A Bountiful Weekend 45
The Dawn Chorus 48

Summer and Slow Time 53
Getting Lost 55
Island Song 57
The Wind on the Beach 67
Sandblasted 72
Our Bay Life 74
The Rules of Cottage Living 76
Sparks in the Sky 79
Ways of Seeing Sleeping Beat 81
Shorewalking 84
Creek Music 92
Boys of Summer 95
A Spur of the Moment Kind of Day 97
Surprised by Beauty 100
In the Upper Country 102
Making Trail 104
August Explorations 106
Making Memories 108
Summer Work and High Water 110

The Fringe of Autumn 115
The Many Autumns 117
A Riot of Colors, with Violins 122
The Autumn Trail 124
A Round River 126
River Rush 129
Bird Camp Memories 132
Two-Trackin' 140
The Restless Season 143
A November Wind 145

Winter Roads 149
Winter and White Space 151
The Quiet Hours 153
Ken Scott's Ice Caves 156
Star Matter 160
Winter Time 163
Waxwings in Winter 165
My Lost Lake 167
Real Winter 169
Visitors 171
Season of Snow and Books 173

Acknowledgments 177

Look Inside


Northern Michigan is a place, like all places, in change. Over the past half century, its landscape has been bulldozed, subdivided, and built upon. Climate change warms the water of the Great Lakes at an alarming rate—Lake Superior is now the fastest-warming large body of freshwater on the planet—creating increasingly frequent and severe storm events, altering aquatic and shoreline ecosystems, and contributing to further invasions by non-native plants and animals.

And yet the essence of this region, known to many as simply “Up North,” has proved remarkably perennial. Millions of acres of state and national forests and other public lands remain intact. Small towns peppered across the rural countryside have changed little over the decades, pushing back the machinery of progress with the help of dedicated land conservancies, conservation organizations, and other advocacy groups.

Up North in Michigan, the new collection from celebrated nature writer Jerry Dennis, captures its author’s lifelong journey to better know this place he calls home by exploring it in every season, in every kind of weather, on foot, on bicycle, in canoes and cars. The essays in this book are more than an homage to a particular region, its people, and its natural wonders. They are a reflection on the Up North that can only be experienced through your feet and fingertips, through your ears, mouth, and nose—the Up North that makes its way into your bones as surely as sand makes its way into wood grain.

Jerry Dennis is an award-winning nature writer who calls Traverse City, Michigan, home. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Audubon, National Geographic Traveler, and Gray’s Sporting Journal, among other periodicals. He has written over a dozen books, including The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes; The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas; and Canoeing Michigan Rivers: A Comprehensive Guide to 45 Rivers, now in its 3rd edition.

"Such a treasure Jerry Dennis is, whose work in words gives us such generous glimpses of the illuminated world, his singular pilgrimage. Part Thoreau, part Hemingway, Dennis is naturalist, voyageur, conservationist and curator, equal measures purveyor and patron saint. He encounters Northern Michigan as the theologian considers mystery—as a life’s work, with a ‘ground sense’ born of total immersion. We are lucky to have his elegant field notes."
—Thomas Lynch, Poet & Author

"Northern Michigan has spawned and shaped many fine writers, and Jerry Dennis is among the very best. Not only has he created a prose style that is pure and chiseled, but he knows more about the history and natural history of his region than just about anyone else, writer or not. It is a joy, even a privilege, to read this intimate and beautiful book that celebrates its author’s place."
—Keith Taylor, author of Let Them Be Left and The Bird-while

"With this gorgeous gem of a collection, Jerry Dennis has given us a new classic of nature writing. Not destined for anyone’s dusty shelf, Up North will be savored on travels through north woods and lake country, or on snow-drenched nights at home, until its pages have absorbed the very smells and wrinkles of northern Michigan."
—Lynne Heasley, author of The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes

"Dennis is now the dean of the region’s literature, taking up the mantle from writers like Jim Harrison, he grounds readers in the rhythms that ring familiar to those who spend time outdoors in the North. Author of “The Windward Shore '' and “The Living Great Lakes,” among others, he illustrates the tension between longing to know a particular piece of ground intimately over a lifetime against the urge to explore new territory."
Petoskey News-Review

- Glen Young

"Jerry Dennis is a Michigan treasure. . . . His recently-released Up North in Michigan: A Portrait of Place in Four Seasons, illustrated by frequent collaborator artist Glenn Wolff, gets at the timeless feel of the North Country in an era of rapid global change."
FLOW For Love of Water

- FLOW For Love of Water

"One could wear out a highlighter on the memorable sentences and phrase found in this book. . . . Pick up this book and you may well be holding a classic."
Michigan in Books 

- Michigan in Books

"A beautifully written collection of essays that will remind every northern Michigander why this is such a special place."
—Ryan Deery, Director of the Charlevoix Public Library

- Ryan Deery, Director of the Charlevoix Public Library

"This collection of essays celebrates and reflects upon transitions in weather, life, and seasons. It's a close-up look at a life spent exploring a particular landscape. This book reminds the reader that a familiar place can still offer novelty and surprises along with a sense of familiar consistency."
Harbor Light Newspaper

- Emily Meier

"No contemporary writer of nonfiction portrays as much depth of knowledge about and experience with natural Michigan as Dennis does. None establishes such a sense of place. None with such eloquence. And ardor. Careful readers will harvest as many literary fruits as they do field guide-type nuggets of factual information from Up North. It’s easy to get lost in the brief, welcoming essays as the writing unspools itself with grace right before your eyes."
The Upland Almanac

- Tom Carney

"Jerry Dennis, the award-winning Traverse City-based nature writer, brings more of his evocative prose to Up North in Michigan, a collection of short essays that celebrates the natural history and scenic wonder of northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula."
The Michigan Historical Review

- Edwin M. Bradley

"The essays comprising Up North in Michigan are more than an homage to a particular region, its people, and its natural wonders. They are a reflection on the Up North that can only be experienced through your feet and fingertips, through your ears, mouth, and nose -- the Up North that makes its way into your bones as surely as sand makes its way into wood grain."
Midwest Book Review

- Midwest Book Review

Finalist: Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) 2022 Midwest Book Award in Nonfiction– Nature.

- MIPA Midwest Book Award

Named a Library of Michigan 2022 Michigan Notable Book

- Michigan Notable Book

"Dennis is always seeking a larger, transcendent view, even in seemingly mundane activities, like paddling a canoe...These transcendent views surface over and over again, and yet, they remain remarkably unexpected - one of the many pleasures of reading this book. No one, it seems, is more delighted than Dennis himself when nature reveals a new perspective. He accepts these moments as gifts he shares with the reader..."

- Jacqueline Justice

Read | Article "'Up North in Michigan' reminds readers of the many reasons to get out and explore" in The Petoskey News-Review | November 12, 2021 | Link
Read | Interview in FLOW For the Love of Water | October 25, 2021 | Link
Read | Article "Search for place brings writer back to Northern Michigan" in The Petoskey News-Review | October 26, 2021 | Link
Listen | Interview on Michigan Radio's Stateside Podcast | September 23, 2021 | Link
Listen | Interview on Interlochen Public Radio's Michigan Writers on Air | July 2022 | Link