We arrived at our camp a little before 16:30. We had paddled about two thirds of our planned route in less than four hours. Our campsite has several gullies running through it. It did not occur to me what these might be but I think Larry must be right that they represent stream beds. They're a source of annoyance for me though as the banks are high enough to make a single step up or down impossible.
Several thousand years ago glaciers swept down across Michigan. I am not sure if they created the Manistee River but and all the associated rollings valleys but they certainly had a hand in shaping the land. Today the glaciers are gone and all we see in the winter is snow clad land along the curving course of the river. On the weekend of January 24-25, 2015 I joined 9 other adventurers to kayak approximately 17 miles of the Manistee River between Tippy Dam and Rainbow Bend. Our plan we to paddle about two-thirds of the distance on Saturday and the remaining third Sunday. We would overnight camp on the river. What follows are my thoughts written (and then edited later) during the trip. I hope you enjoy what you see.
Sitting on a couch In Lansing, MI - January 24, 2015It never seems to fail: the night before a trip begins I sleep poorly. It's true that I couldn't sleep much even if I wanted to since we will be leaving so early but I have been laying on this couch for what seems a long time and not falling asleep even though I am tired. Maybe I can blame the couch but it is probably better to blame pre-trip jitters. After all, Mike C. , Mike J. and I spent some time earlier discussing things that could, though you fervently hope won't, go wrong during a winter kayaking trip. I am sure Mike J. is feeling jitters since he is the trip leader (OK, he has help from Larri but this is really his baby). I hope I can drop off soon because I want to feel ready for the real adventure later today.
It is overcast and nippy at Tippy Dam on the Manistee River. The temperature likely never rose much above the mid-upper 30s °F. It is obviously not too cold to keep fisherman from wading into the chilly water in their quest to catch steelheads. Our group arrived more or less at the same time and by 11:00 we had all our kayaks packed and ready to go. Man of the group then piled into cars to drive down to Rainbow Bend and thus set up the car shuttle. This would take well over an hour so our group of intrepid adventurers would not put paddle to water until about 12:30.
We often would pass by bluffs like this. Now and then we thought we might have spotted the trails of river otters sliding down the snow into the river.
On the Mainstee River at camp (44.263781°N, 86.084637°W) - January 24, 2015
Let there be fire. As soon as shelters were set up people including Aaron (shown here) were out and about gathering wood from mere twigs to modest logs for our necessary campfire. It sure would cast a wonderful warmth and glow for the several hours we all would cluster about it sharing stories, making up tales, chatting amiably about whatever came to mind. When Chuck "Pathfinder" Hayden made a surprise visit having hiked in from the road which lies a good mile or so away the amiability may have grown more pronounced still. The light freezing rain that turned to light snow didn't dampen our sprits one bit.
During the night the temperature plummeted down to around 10°F. If you were up and had the eyes for it you could see stars twinkling. The sun is rising on a chilly morning. Fortunately our campsite is reasonably protected from the wind so morning chores aren't too areas once you get moving and warmed up.
Larry is perhaps our most colorful, certainly brightest, paddler passing by one of the many snowy bluffs.
Sitting on the couch in Lansing - January 25, 2015The trip is done; the adventurous portion of it is done since I still have to take the bus back to Ann Arbor tomorrow morning. What a difference a day can make. Sunday dawned partly cloudy and promised to clear throughout the day. It was also considerably colder and windier. I doubt the temperature broke 20F and the low during the night may have nudge 10. But sunshine can make you feel warmer even if, to some degree at least, it is all in your head. Certainly when we gathered again around a campfire we were all warmer and you warm up remarkably fast trying to work frozen tent stakes out of the ground but it really wasn't too bad once we got moving and got some food into our bodies. No doubt the trees helped block the wind which certainly cut through us while upon the river. A very fine morning of lazy packing and sometimes a bit of fun. After all, you aren't in a hurry or concerned with the remaining third of paddling if you take time out to build a snowman. But you can only dawdle so long and again around 12:30 everyone was in their kayaks and on the river. The skies had cleared up completely and the wind started to chew into us. I am glad I had my rain jacket to help act as a windbreaker and I reckon the PFD added some protection too but we all felt the bite of the wind on exposed skin. I wonder if the big drop in temperature and rise in the wind kept fishermen away because today I think we only saw a couple fishing from small motorboats marveling that people would choose to kayak at this time of year. Personally, I think today was a great day to be out even though parts of me were quite chilled. Colors really popped and though we spotted far less wildlife it felt good to be outside. I think everyone felt quite alive even those that may have been wiped out by the kayaking. Those last couple of hours, covering the last third of the 17.5 miles of paddling, seemed to go by quite quickly and I am sure everyone enjoyed the time immensely. That enjoyment was marred by the wretched wind and cold that ripped through us as we unloaded, almost as much of a chore as loading, the boats and put them on their various cars.
We have arrived at Rainbow Bend and Mike, aka Seadod, is one of the last to disembark. Of course, we still had to unload our kayaks and then put them up on the various cars before we could depart. That seemed to take an eternity. The wind had become fiercer and that made everyone feel far colder than we had been all day.