Saturday, October 23, 2010
Generally the first weekend of every October you can expect a nip in the air and the leaves of trees to be turning. Autumn is just getting started and the burst of colors before the quiet stark beauty of winter is just beginning to appear in the lower peninsula of Michigan. It is a fine time to be outdoors and a great reason to spend time with friends. With that in mind the Western Michigan chapter of the North Country Trail Association holds an annual event they call Fall Fun Day. A day is spent doing some gentle hikes in the area of White Cloud, Michigan based out of the Birch Grove Schoolhouse. After the hiking is done those that are up for it spend a few more happy hours enjoying fantastic food that has been prepared by diligent volunteers of the chapter.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
It was a glorious Fall day with just a few clouds adding texture to the blue sky. In the sun it was pleasantly warm. We set out just before noon and made the quick portage across the dam to start our paddle. We did not think we would see anyone on the river after leaving the boat landing and we were right. But we made up for the lack of people encountered by spotting numerous turtles, 3 osprey, a heron, and naturally numerous fish in the very clear water. The trees were beginning to show their fall colors, various birds besides what Steve spied were out and about calling to each other, and once in a while you would hear a croak of a frog.
We would eventually see one kayaker and late in the day a couple canoeing a small portion of the river. One fisherman out late in the day perhaps hoping to catch something as the afternoon waned. All in all, we were pretty much alone.
Overall the paddle would take us a little more than four hours. We paused for an hour at the Dexter Cider Mill to have lunch. The cider mill was closed but the pizza and sub shop across the street was open and although it took a bit longer to get our food than we thought it would the hot subs made a welcome lunch. To add a bit of excitement to that break I found that I had to re-assemble my Puffin a bit. The Pakboat Puffin is a folding kayak. It's probably better to say assemble-able kayak. You have a skin, I don't recall what the material is called now but it is tough, and their are several metal struts and ribs. You insert the long struts and ribs to create the kayak, fill the air tubes - sponsons - to increase floatation and stability, put on the spray deck, and you have a kayak that is quite serviceable in rivers and sheltered bays (I'd not use it in big open water). Pakboat is known for their folding canoes that are often used to paddle wilderness rivers so they have a good reputation and the Puffin 12 foot kayak is a tough boat. Steve has a similar boat, the Puffin Sport. I had a rib pop out on me at the lunch break. It probably happened when I got out of the boat, pushing down on the boat as I stood up. It's easy enough to fix but I had to first remove the spray deck, deflate the sponsons, and then reset the rib. Once that was done my Puffin was good as new.
One other aspect worth noting about skin-on-frame boats is that when you bump a rock you really feel it. Sadly I bumped more than a few rocks along the way. I'll probably never be a big whitewater paddler as I can't read the water from a distance. But then when the water is low even a sighted fellow like Steve will bump a rock now and then too. I can't swear to it but I suspect I have a sore spot on my rear because of the few rocks I bumped.
We had a very good day. We spent a few good hours paddling on the water and the time spent setting up Steve's motorcycle so he could ride back to the truck and then return to fetch me and his boat wasn't all that long. I since have taken a look at a map of the area and it looks like we may have paddled around 12 miles, perhaps closer to 13 miles. I was surprised by this and it makes me feel better about the sore thighs and butt.
One last little note about the photos taken on this trip. I used my iPhone 4 to take the pictures. I had put the phone inside an Aquapac bag which has an optically clear section of plastic that you can shoot through. They call it "optically clear" but unless you manage to keep things clean you are going to have slightly blurrier images than you would shooting with a naked lens. However, having the phone in the waterproof bag is definitely worth the price of slightly less clear photos.