Mark as usual was already up and had his tent down when I crawled out of mine. Normally Toby is up, but this morning he's still snug in his sleeping bag. Must be catching an extra wink because of the trains coming by every half hour last night. Dan likes his sleep and as usual was the last one up, but he's always ready to push off when it's time to go.
We took our time this morning for we had less than 12 miles to go. Again the water was relatively calm with only a slight breeze coming from the southeast which for one of the few times will helped while we've been on Lake Michigan.
For the last 2 1/2 days we've been able to see the skyline of Chicago. First with a dim veiw of the Sears building, then the beautiful sunset view of two days ago and now the whole city has jumped right out in front of us. Spectacular view from the water.
Again, not much conversation for I'm sure my fellow paddlers have many thoughts going through their heads as I do.
The last couple of days I've played back in my mind the many things that have transpired on this journey. All good. Even the bad weather days are good ones. What's jumped out most have been the people I've met. On all my journeys I've met so many nice people and this trip has been no exception. I think back to the beginning when Mel Herrera and Gloria Kelly treated us all to dinner the night before we pushed off. Then there was Ron Dean, Bryan Taylor and Chuck Amboy joining us for the first day of paddling. Bob Bradford, who'd I'd get to know better later was also there to see us off.
I think back to how we all started off together only to find myself paddling with Jon until about noon and then by myself until these last three days. I had a blast during that time, fighting the current of the Huron, meeting so many people wondering what I was doing as I bike-portaged parts of Ann Arbor. My cross country trip from Dexter to the Grand River - a view that reminded me a lot of the farm country of my home state of Wisconsin. The start down the flooded Grand River, twisting and turning through a mass of trees, but for the first time going with the current. All good thoughts.
Then came a very special meeting. I can still see Karen and Nancy escorting Karen's father, Jim Woodruff down to the water's edge when I was pulling into the Dimondale park. I've been looking forward to meeting Jim for it's been through his endless research of Hugh Heward's voyage in 1790 that we are retracing Heward's route from Detroit to Chicago. He'd been tracking all of us from the beginning with a running account of what we are doing and comparing it with the actual adventure of Hugh Heward. Just an amazing job . Now I had the honor of meeting the man. I remember introducing myself only to hear what sounded like my own father's direct way of talking telling me, "For gosh sakes man, what are you doing standing in that water with sandals on? Don't you realize you're in Michigan? Put some boots on!" (On my website at http://www.lhoff.com/
you can listen and see the entire conversation) That set the tone for a great evening and the beginning of friendships I will cherish from now on.
I continued to paddle towards Chicago thinking of the many other people I've met, especially during the Hugh Heward 50 Mile Challenge. Chuck Amboy graciously inviting all of us for lunch at the English Inn in Dimondale the day before the challenge. This allowed me the chance to reunite with Toby, Dan, Mark, Charlie and Jon for the first time since Detroit. Then there was Mike Lehrer who took his time to show me the town of Portland. I was able to met both he and his wife again at the challenge. Great people. Mike even thought I was a halfway decent paddler. I remember being in awe of Bob Bradford when I learned he was using the same canoe he and his partner used in setting the record for paddling the length of the Mississippi. Janet, Bob's wife, an awesome paddler in her own right, would paddle with him on this challenge. His son, Mike and nephew paddled one of, if not the fastest, racing canoes in the challenge. There were so many others. Nancy Anderson comes to mind. She seems to be everywhere helping in any way she can. Scott Smith, one of Dan's brothers comes to mind. What a great day I had visiting with him and seeing his Superior Canoe Shop.
For me, the 50-Mile Challenge was the number one highlight. For this was what the journey was all about - raising awareness and a few dollars for the Verlen Kruger Memorial. These group of people have worked hard at this project. Basically collecting a nickel at a time. No big sponsor, no big grants, no big money from the town treasury, just great people honoring a man that's meant so much to them. I never got to meet Verlen, but I feel I know him well. Anyone that enjoys the outdoors and dreams can truly appreciate a person like Verlen Kruger who lived his dream to the fullest. So I hope my little journal and blog may help in seeing the dream of Verlen's friends come true in the near future. Some out there may also like to see it come true, if so I hope you take the time to look at the Verlen Kruger Memorial website http://www.verlenkrugermemorial.org/
and possibly buy a brick.
You can go directly to the brick order form here: www.verlenkrugermemorial.org/id27.html
We are now very close to the end of this adventure and I'd like to comment on the three men that allowed me to finish this trip with them.
Toby Nipper is 58 years old from Florida. He's only been paddling for two years. Back then he entered a canoe race on the gulf of Florida and promised himself if he finished the race he'd never go back to work. He finished and he's not been back to work since. In fact in a few days he will be off on another trip. By the way, he will give anyone a run for their money in a canoe. I believe we've become pretty good friends in the last few days and I hope to paddle with him again. Maybe some day in the Boundary Waters with a couple of my outlaw friends!
Mark Predwojewski is 39 years old from Irons, MI. As mentioneded before Mark has taken over Verlen's canoe business and is the person I bought my Kruger canoe from. He reminds me a lot of my son Eric. Eric is a talented artist who is very particular in what he does. Mark's craftmanship is very much the same. He also has a little of our son Dean in him. Dean is easy- going, nothing bothers him and that has been true with Mark. How he's put up with these three old men is beyond me. But, he's done an outstanding job babysitting us! Just a class act and world class paddler.
Dan Smith is also 58 years old from Portland, MI. The past three days he's shared a number of good times he and Verlen have had over the years. One being canoeing the Yukon River. I've come to believe no one misses Verlen more than Dan. Dan's a driving force behind the memorial and he will see it through. No one more than Dan wants to paddle the Grand River and look over and see the watchful eyes of Verlen. Dan, I know your efforts are sincerely appreciated by all.
Then there's Jim "The Topologist" Woodruff. If you have not read Jim's blog you are really missing something. He's a special man with a gift for writing, although his daughter and son must censor his pen once in awhile. Click on the following: http://www.thetopologist.blogspot.com/
It's a must read.
We've arrived. No fanfare other than Mike Smith and his girlfriend here to greet us. Mike will be shuttling Toby, Dan and Mark back to Michigan. My friend Jim McIntyre will be here soon to take me home. Can not thank Jim enough. He's been a trooper once again.
Before everyone packs up we will paddle a mile to the Chicago River. Dan, Mark, Toby, Mike Smith and his girlfriend will paddle down the river for a mile or two. I will not, for Jim will be here soon and I do not want him waiting around for another 2 or 3 hours. So I said my goodbyes to some very special friends and headed home.
Mr. Topoligist my friend, your "cat herding" is complete. Job well done!The 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge Paddlers
Cat Herder Jim Woodruff Sr. A Very Special Friend!