Monday, July 18, 2011

Paddling Trip to Michigan

June 15-24, 2011
I left home at 5 am Thursday and drove 14 hrs so I could spend the night in a cool campground. I arrived at Kankakee SP in Illinois at approximately 7:30. I had never taken a road trip that far before and I was surprised that I could make that many miles without getting tired. The campground was nice, but right off the highway, so I required earplugs and two Tylenol pm to get to sleep. It was a balmy 62 degrees when I left the next morning.
I headed out early the next morning and decided since I’d made such good time to head up the shoreline and take the scenic route. I stopped and had breakfast in Benton Harbor, stopped in Manistee, then headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes. While on the way, my hostess Lois called and suggested I hike the Empire Bluff trail, which I did.  Wow, what a view!  I would have liked to explore further, but as I was walking back toward the car my host John called and said he was on his way home and would meet me there and we’d go have dinner, as Lois had graduation parties to attend. 
I had planned on arriving Sat afternoon, but since I was ahead of schedule I joined them on a paddle on the Manistee River. It was interesting that there were six of us on the trip and three of them were from Texas. Besides myself there was John Walton from El Paso, and his daughter Claire. Claire was born with a condition that left here without the use of her legs and limited use of her hands. She is an amazing young woman who is currently working on her PhD in math. Along with Lois and John, was Tracie Lord. The Manistee is a beautiful river, with wild irises along the banks and the North Country Trail follows it for several miles. After the paddle there was an obligatory stop for ice cream. I have never seen a single cone that big! From there we drove to the Interlochen SP where we showered, then drove to the Interlochen Arts Academy to see a live performance of A Prairie Home Companion.  It was a great show, and afterward we stopped for dinner.  It was a long, but really fun day. We got home at 10:00 and it still wasn’t dark outside, which took some getting used to.
Sunday morning we got up early and headed to the Pine River, a beautiful narrow and twisty scenic river! On this trip I met several more of the members of the paddle club.  After the trip we stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. John grilled tuna steaks and asparagus that was delicious. We were all pretty tired after the long previous day and I finally said goodnight around 9:30.
We awoke Monday and once again headed to the river, this time the south branch of the Au Sable. On this trip there were 11 boats and 12 people. My hosts had chosen a section that was within the Mason tract, which was left to the state with the expressed stipulation that it never be developed. It was shallow and a little wider with less current than the Pine River and beautiful.
Our plans for Tuesday were rained out. So I missed getting to paddle the Boardman in the morning and then the Jordan in the afternoon, but with a 70 percent chance of rain, it just wasn’t in the cards.  I think we were all secretly a little pleased to have a day of rest without sacrificing a sunny day. John took it upon himself to raise the seat of my canoe in his wonderful basement shop. Later, we headed downtown to see an amazing exhibit at a local museum titled the Body Human, attended a meeting on the removal of a dam on a section of the Boardman River, and then walked a while on the waterfront. It was a very relaxed day after two days of driving and three days of nonstop shuttling, paddling, and eating!
On Wednesday, my last day, we did an afternoon paddle on the Jordan river, the most technical of the rivers we'd paddled. Shortly after putting in we were hit with a short thunderstorm, it rained so hard it became difficult to read the water, but once the rain stopped we were treated to the sound of white-throated sparrows, and thanks to Jocelyn's keen eyes, showy lady slippers. After the paddle we all drove to a nearby town and had a great meal. 

Thursday morning I loaded up and we said our goodbyes. It was a great visit! I made my way south stopping for the night at Ferne Clyffe SP. The River to River trail runs through the park but I only hiked a few of the main trails before heading down the road and stopping at an area of the Mississippi river that was unfortunately closed due to flooding .  I rolled into the driveway at about 6 PM. 
Thanks Lois and John and all the wonderful folks I met and paddled with for making my trip such a success!!! I hope we'll do it again sometime!

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