Thursday, April 30, 2009


My journal is behind by a number of days. Just so everyone knows, I left Lake Michigan last Monday because of high winds and unsafe conditions. I have no experience on big water and made the decision to go home with the hope of returning when Mark, Dan and Toby get to where I left off. They may want to continue by themselves and if that is the case I'd come back later in May when I was better prepared.

Brief review:

Last Sunday I ran into some fog when I was cutting across a bay on my way to South Haven. It came up quick and I was about a 1/4 mile from shore and I could barely see it. Also, as I concentrated on getting to shore, I did not see a rolling wave come which would have swamped me if it were not for the skirt covering my canoe. I left the lake at that time, called my friend Jim McIntyre who was still in the area and told him I was off the water and biking. We found a motel later in the day and I told him I'd make a decision in the morning on continuing or not.

The decision was made quickly as the following morning there was a strong wind making paddling all but impossible. (Wind got even stronger as the day went on.)

I have no patience in waiting nor did I want to bike portage, so we headed for home.

Today, Thursday, April 30th, Mark called early in the morning and invited me to join them. I quickly called my good friend Jim and told him I was heading back to the water. What a friend! Again, without hesitation, he said he'd take me over. So back to Racine, WI I went. Transferred my gear and canoe to his car and off we went.

As I write this, Thursday evening, Jim and I are in a motel just north of Michigan City. Tomorrow morning I will hook up with Dan, Mark and Toby and continue on to Chicago.
I sincerely am thankful they are allowing me to join them. Hopefully we finish this adventure as we started, all together. Just the way it should be.

I will not be posting entries until we get to Chicago which hopefully is within 3 days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Friday, April 24th

Up very early this morning and on the water well before sun up. Again the water was calm, just a slight breeze from the southeast. A very peaceful paddle all morning.

At about 8:30 I noticed what looked liked a park and figured I must be at Tunnel Park in Holland. I pulled over to shore to check it out. At Tunnel Park there's supposed to be a tunnel through the sand dunes and into the park. I saw no tunnel but decided to check it out anyway and walked up and over the sand dunes. Sure enough it was a park so I decided to get out and pulled my canoe and gear up and over the sand dunes. Once on the other side, I found out it was not Tunnel Park but Kirk Park. This meant I still had about 7 or 8 miles to go to Holland. I needed to get to Holland by 10:00 in order to get back to Eaton Rapids for the luncheon by noon. So I hooked up my bike and started pedaling on a very nice bike trail.

I arrived at Tunnel Park just before 10:00 and my former football player, Pat Paquette, arrived a short time later. We pack everything up and headed for Eaton Rapids.

Pat Paquette is one of the most talented athletes to come out of Superior, WI and that is saying a lot. For I believe Superior still has the most individuals inducted into national hall of fames than any other city. I'm sure that is correct for a town under 50,000 people. Pat played for us in the mid 70's. As a sophomore, he not only started, but was a main factor in us being the number one football team in the state until we stubbed our toe late in the season and lost two games in overtime. That happens in life. Big thing is one must pull themselves up and get after it again, which that team did.

Fortunately over the years I had very talented players and we were very successful. But success to me was what became of those players after football. In most cases they've became very successful young men making significant contributions to the communities they live in. Pat is no exception. He, along with his partner Clair, own Spectators University Bar and Grill in Saugatuck, MI. Pat tells me it's going well. More important was when he told all the ways they give back to the community. (Had a little tear in my eye and a heart full of pride as he spoke.)

We arrived in Eaton Rapids shortly after noon. There must have been 20 plus people at the luncheon including the five paddlers I started with, Toby, Mark, Dan, Charlie and Jon. Great reunion and lots of stories of our journey passed back and forth.

Chuck Ambroy was also there. Chuck and a friend (name I forgot) paddled the first day of this trip from Detroit and has some great pictures I hope to post when I finish. More important, Chuck picked up the tab! Another unbelievable paddle angel! Also there was Jim Woodruff, as stated in earlier journal entries, responsible for starting the Hugh Heward 50 Mile Challenge a few years back. Great to see he and his daughter Karen again. (He continues to call my canoe a junkyard! )

Because it was only about 2:00pm I decided to paddle to Dimondale with Toby, Mark, Dan and Charlie. I've done this section already and could ride over but I'd be there with nothing to do. Joining us for the paddle were Nancy Anderson who met me when she came to Dimondale with the Woodruffs, and shuttled me to Portland a few days ago. (There was one more person, who's name I've forgotten.) Just a nice relaxing paddle, sharing conversation with all.

At Dimondale we were met by other paddlers doing the 50 miler. Turned out to be a great evening meeting new people including Bob Bradford, his wife, son and nephew. Bob saw us off at the start of our journey back in Detroit. What I did not know then was he and his partner, Clark Eid hold the record for paddling the length of the Mississippi in a time of: 18 days 4 hours and 51 minutes. Unbelieveable! Check it out at: He and his wife will be paddling a Kruger Crusier tomorrow. They are good and will be the first Kruger Canoe to arrive in Portland. His son and nephew will be in a racing canoe and most likely will be the the first racing team to arrive in Portland. Very talented family.

I also met Brian Weber, his daughter, Marissa and her friend Hannah Grow. Brian is also blogging this trip for Kruger Canoes at: He's a great young man and works a lot with at-risk children. We shared lots of ideas which I hope to follow up on when I finish. His daughter, Marissa and friend Hannah will be the youngest paddlers tomorrow. They have paddled all over the USA for breast cancer, including doing a paddle from Kansas City to St. Louis. You must check out there website at:

I must also mention Pat Harrington and Robin Barfoot were there to help all us paddlers out in any way they could. Pat went beyond the call of duty. He works on bikes and took mine home with him and did a complete service job on it. What did I say about paddle angels, they are unbelievable! Thanks Pat and Robin.

A group of us had a great dinner at Mike', up town. Mike plans to open at 5:00 in the morning so whoever wants can have breakfast before we push off.

Time for bed. More great friends! Just another great day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday April 23

Woke up today still cold but at least it's bright skies. I'm figuring approximately 40/45 miles to Grand Haven and the entry point to Lake Michigan. Also figure it's a 3-Advil day in order to do it.

Took my time today, sort of hoping for the weather to warm up and lay in my tent and didn't get in the water until well after 8:00. No wind at all today and still had excellent current and made great time. I paddled until noon when I saw on river right (this is a new term I've learned on this journey -"river right" or "river left" - I used to call it the left or right side of the river) a sandy beach with a nice grassy knoll above it. I thought "Heck, I haven't taken a real break except for portages. I think I'm going to stop for lunch", which I did. I spent a good 15 - 20 minutes, which is unusual but it felt good.

I continued paddling on to Grand Haven, with the thoughts that I not only need to get to Grand Haven but I need to get as close to Holland as possible. Pat Paquette, who played football for me back in the 70s, now lives in the Holland area and has offered to drive me back to Dimondale tomorrow for the 50 mile Challenge, which is being held on Saturday. This challenge is very important to me, which I will explain in a later post.

I continued on my way and at about 2:00 I thought I was getting real close to Grand Haven, which was hard to believe. I didn't think I could be here this quick. It seemed like I had only 5-6 more miles to go. After looking at my map for a change it turns out that I have more like 14 miles to go because of the twists and turns into Grand Haven.

Eventually I found myself paddling through the channel heading to the lighthouse at the entry to Lake Michigan and officially turned the corner onto Lake Michigan at 5:03.

My thoughts earlier were - will I actually be able to paddle into Lake Michigan? Living near Lake Superior I know how treacherous it can be coming out of a harbor entrance onto a big body of water like Lake Michigan. It doesn't take a lot of wind to make things difficult.

As it turned out, luck was on my side once again for there was barely a walleye chop on the water and I was able to make the entry and turn south toward Chicago with ease.

I spent some time along the city beach next to the entry taking pictures and checking my maps to see how far it was to Holland. I figured it was approximately 20 miles so I should be able to make Holland by noon tomorrow and decided to set up camp when I could find an isolated spot. Just then, Karen (Jim Woodruff's daughter) called. I told her I would be back for the 5:00PM luncheon, pause,,, she said it was at noon! Old age on my part had set in again! After our conversation I figure I must keep paddling, hoping to make at least another 6 to 8 miles.

I finally stopped well after dark, with hope of an early start tomorrow I'd have a chance to make it to Holland by 10:00AM! I believe this is the best mileage day I've had on this trip. Normally I'd feel good about such an effort, but tonight I'm thinking, WHY!

I'm now laying in my sleeping bag, looking at the Big Dipper and feeling good to be this far in 7 days. Chicago should be within reach by mid-week if conditions are anywhere like they are today.

As I gaze at the stars I'm thinking about the many people who've helped me out along the way. Yesterday for example, while portaging in Grand Rapids, two young ladies went out of their way to get me a sandwich. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers called such people Trail Angels. Now I call them Paddle Angels. THANKS TO ALL!

Damn, I'm tired!

Wednesday April 22

I believe this is the coldest night I've spent. I didn't jump in the river this morning. I camped somewhere below Lyons and got started as quickly as possible, if for no other reason than to get warmed up.

Basically today was just a non-eventful day of paddling until I got to Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids is a beautiful city and from the river it looks like a lot of building going on. Hard to believe in these times. I pulled out at Riverside Park and followed the bike trail around the dam in the center of the city. There was a small detour due to road construction in the middle but what a beautiful ride. Grand Rapids is a very pretty city and you could not tell we are in a recession for there's building construction going on everywhere

Just past the dam was an entry point that according to a guy I met is called the kayak slide. Basically it was just a newly built ramp to the water directly below the dam where there were still significant rapids. At first I wasn't sure if I should even enter, but then I said "What the heck". A little tricky getting back in the canoe but this canoe just doesn't tip. Once on my way I just sailed through the rapids with ease.

I continued down through Grand Rapids and about 8:30 made camp somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Good day of paddling but I sure hope it warms up tomorrow. I heard it is supposed to.

Time for bed. With thoughts of making it to Lake Michigan tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday April 21

I woke and saw that it was light out. I thought to myself, "Man, I'm late. I gotta get going!". Then I realized I was in a motel room and didn't need to go anywhere. It was 8:30 and I was still in bed. I must have really needed this rest for normally I'm awake before sun-up.

I took my time getting everything together so it was still cold and raining out. By the way, I forgot to mention yesterday it was cold and rainy most of the trip. For the first time, I used the skirt on my canoe. The skirt is similar to what you see on a kayak. It surrounds my entire body and allows no water to get into the canoe. I felt like a bug snug in a rug. It also keeps my lower body warm and with a rain jacket it's like being in my own little home.

I paddled all the way across the country a couple of years ago and never took the time to see how this works. Now I sure wish I had for it would have kept me from bailing water out of my canoe day after day. Just like me - takes too much time to test things out. Oh well, the world is still spinning.

I was just getting ready to take things down to my canoe when the telephone rings. Chuck Amboy was one of the day paddlers that started out with us from Belle Isle. He and the other day paddlers went as far as the mouth of the Huron River. He called to tell me that he had some good pictures and wondered how he could get them to me. Also that Friday before the 50 Mile Heward Challenge there will be a dinner in Dimondale for the paddlers. He wanted me to know that if there was anything he could do for me, he was willing to help. I really felt this was a nice gesture. Thanks, Chuck. I will see you next Saturday.

Not long after, Mike Leyrer called. He is part of the Kruger Memorial Project and lives in Portland. Wanted to know if there was anything he could do to help me get started this morning. He offered to show me the options to get back in the water and give me a tour of the town of Portland. I took him up on his offer and the two of us took about a half hour just riding around. Very interesting man, and very helpful. The pride and respect he feels for Verlen and the memorial project comes through loud and clear.

Mike brought me back to the motel. He was amazed at how light I was traveling. Actually, I thought I was traveling pretty heavy. He also was very interested in my little 20" bike and my trailer set-up. I told him I was fortunate to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, where you had to go light and this has carried over to everything I have done since. I said the key for going light is never carry anything with you that you do not use every day, other than making sure you are prepared for the elements.

I said my goodbyes to Mike only to see him again at the first dam portage just outside Portland. For all his good intentions to show me the options I had to get in the water, as I rode my bike down the bike trail next to the Grand River, I missed every one of them and ended up on the outskirts of town. Stopping for a minute to figure out where I was, a man came by and asked me if I was looking for the river. I said "I think I missed the landing". He said "Yes, it's back in mid-town". Now knowing I don't turn around, I asked him "How do I get to the dam?" He gave me directions so off I went.

As I was unloading at the dam, Mike pulls up. I told him with all the great instructions you gave me, I still screwed up. He chuckled, helped me unload and I was on my way. He told me that Dan Smith's brother Scott would be down the river at the first bridge I came to and wanted me to say hello when I got there.

Before I left, I asked Mike how long it would take me to get to Scott. He said he wasn't sure but maybe an hour. I got there in just a little over half an hour for the river was fast. Scott was standing on a bank with a trailer filled with canoes and a big smile on his face. I pulled in. We introduced ourselves to each other and I asked if I could take a picture of him next to his canoes. He said yes and if I wanted to, I could come up and see his shop, which was less than a mile away. I jumped at the chance for I was very interested in seeing the step by step process of canoe building.

Scott continues building the most popular designs of the Sawyer Canoe plus his own version of Verlen's canoe. Very impressive. Anyone out there interested in canoeing definitely should look at Scott's website. He has something for everyone.

Scott took me back to the water. I said goodbye and look forward to seeing him again at the 50 mile challenge.

The rest of the day was spent paddling in and out of rain, sleet and snow. It was a lot like being in the Boundary Waters. Cold, miserable and enjoying every minute of it. I ended up somewhere past the dam at Lyons before I made camp. As I tucked in for the night I hoped that tomorrow brought a little bit more warmth and that the rain would be over.

Two and a half days of this is enough. Plus I miss seeing the Big Dipper.

By the way, a couple of times on this journey I've been asked what the Big Dipper represents on my website. Thought I'd take this time to explain. A few things have changed since I wrote the entry below for my Pacific Crest Trail journal back in 2003. My mother has passed away. I have two more grandchildren, Ryah and Avery. And of course, many more friends, including the ones I'm meeting on this journey.

The Big Dipper is made up of seven stars and each star has its own meaning to me while out on this trail. Starting from the handle the first star represents my wife, LuAnn, and I take a few minutes to remember all that she means to me and what a great person she is in her own right. She’s a very giving person and if you know her, well let's just say you’ve been blessed. Last night I was thinking about the time I came home a little late and figured I better make a big impression. So when I got to the bedroom door I hollered out, “Superman” and did a half turn in the air and landed on the floor rather than the bed! She’d rearranged the furniture! Can’t Win!The second star represents my sons Dean and Eric, and my daughter Heidi. I could not be prouder of them and their significant others. I told them a long time ago that all I wanted them to do is just grow up to be a little better than their father. Well, they’ve out done me 10 fold! The third star represents our grand children Liv and Rory (Dean and Erin), Devin and Drake (Heidi and Nate) and Lily (Heather). If you have grandchildren you know how special they are! The fourth star represents my mother, Ellen and father, Clarence. My mother is 90 years old and hanging in there. Short-term memory is shot but does not have an ache in her body. She lives with my sister, Clarice. My father has passed away, but I think of him often. I just simply owe them everything. The fifth star represents my sisters Clarice, Cheryl, Sonja, and my brother Don. If you’ve followed my journal you know we lost Don when he was sixteen, yet there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not think about him. My sisters are great and I wish we could see each other more than we do. I see Clarice the most and she and her husband, Ron have helped me a lot getting to and from airports on this hike. The sixth star represents all the people back home. I think about the people I grew up with, like Mac and Newt. My high school and college friends like Niles, Umland, Dorn, Leitzke, Casper, Phil, Cal, Warz, Zeke, Russ, and so many others. My high school coach, John Hansen and college coach, Edor Nelson that played such a part in my own coaching philosophy. My friends in Eau Claire, Diz, Tex, Mic, Browny, Daryl and Denny. They too played a big part in my teaching and coaching philosophy. Then there’s Charlie, Jim, Dean, John and Mike who are my hunting partners back home (Better get back, somebody needs to shoot their deer for them!). I’ve been fortunate to have been touched by so many people it’s impossible to mention all of them, specially all the wonderful people in our community of, Superior, Wisconsin. I’m proud to be a SPARTAN! Lastly, I think of my good coaching buddy, Ted. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, running around to coaching clinics together. Ted has brain cancer and he and his family are always in my prayers. I’ll see you when I get home Ted.Finally, the seventh star, which represents all the great people I’ve met on this trail. All are very special in there own right. It’s been an honor to hike and meet so many nice people. Geezer, Cupcake, Yucca, Kimber, Stretch, Walt, Billy Goat, Garlic Man, Frank, Just Jane, Tapeworm, Chuckie V, La De Da, Pel Mel, Birdie, Suge and Grave Digger are just a few that I had the pleasure to hike with. Phil (Donk), Chaz, Commodore, Yogi and Gottago are the five I know the best. I’ll never forget them. Heck, they did a great job taking care of me!!!Then, finally, I look for the first satellite to pass overhead. That satellite represents my son, Ryan, just simply telling me, “Dad everything is okay. I’m in good hands. Just remember and be strengthened by all the good times I had and not be weakened by my going home.”

Monday April 20

It rained most of the night and still is drizzling as I get set to continue on to the Grand River. Sure glad I stopped when I did yesterday for I got my tent set up and everything secure before it really started to come down. Also, it felt good just to relax and reminisce about all that’s transpired since I left Belle Isle in Detroit. Plus, a good night’s sleep is just what the doctor ordered.

Once packed, I started for the Grand River, eager to begin paddling with the current rather than fighting it. It took less than 45 minutes to get to the Grand River landing off Dixon Road. River was flooded. All I saw was what looked like a big pond with trees and deadfalls in a tangled mess. I couldn’t really make out a real river. I pondered whether I should enter here, for if this is what I faced I did not want to get tangled up in trees and deadfalls in the middle of nowhere, which I felt could easily happen with the fast current. (Must be getting old, I’m thinking of safety before I act!) So, I decided to move up to the next portage which I was told from talking to a guy earlier was not far away.

I forgot the name of the landing I put in at, but it looked a whole lot better than the other, although there were still plenty of deadfalls.

It felt good to be back on the river. Current was fast, river was flooded and from the starting point to Eaton Rapids, many times I found myself weaving in and out of trees and deadfalls. At times I felt I missed a turn and was lost in a bayou.

As I paddled into Eaton Rapids I was looking for a take-out spot as I approached a dam I needed to portage around. I passed a boat landing back aways, but figured there had to be one closer to the dam. I was wrong. All I found were homes and private property. I was thinking to myself, shucks, I have to turn around and go back. Nothing bothers me more than backtracking. Just then I spotted a man cleaning up his yard on the other side of the river not far from the dam. I thought, heck it’s worth a try, maybe he’ll let me cross his property.

Darren Tanner, a young man who’d just bought the home and property was more than happy to allow me to portage across his land once he heard what I was doing. As many have in the past, he seemed bewildered as I put my bike portaging system together and told some of my story.
Thanks, Darren.

It was getting close to 2:00 as I re-entered the water and head to Dimondale. It’s at Dimondale I’m leaving the water and moving up to Portland, MI. Dimondale is the starting point for the 50 mile Hugh Heward Challenge which is being held next Saturday, the 25th of April. My plan is to come back to do this then, for this is the big event for the Kruger Memorial Project and I do not want to miss it. So, I will continue on from Portland and return in the afternoon on the 24th to Dimondale.

Karen Stock, the daughter of Jim Woodruff who’s tracking and blogging this event for the Kruger Memorial Project has arranged for her brother to meet me at Dimondale and shuttle me to Portland. I made phone contact with Karen as I left Eaton Rapids and she told me her brother would be there. She said that she and her Dad will be coming down also to meet me and hoped I’d join them for dinner once we got back to Portland.

The trip from Eaton Rapids to Dimondale was much the same as the previous - in and out of deadfalls and twice portaging around river logjams.

I arrived at Dimondale around 5:00 and called Karen and found out they were only a couple of minutes away.

The first day’s journey on the Grand River is over, but the day’s adventure is not.

As I paddled over to the park in Dimondale, I saw a couple of cars pull up. Two ladies and an elderly man (sorry, Jim) were coming toward me waving and telling me to wave back as they took pictures. When I reached the shore, Karen was there with her dad, and said, “This guy has been waiting to meet you.” The man said, “Glad to meet you. My name is Jim Woodruff. I’m the topologist for this adventure". I said, “Hi, I’m Larry Hoff. They call me Coach.” Jim said something like, “Get out of water for gosh sakes. You’re in Michigan. Put some boots on!” I only have sandals with me and was standing in about a foot of water. I told him I was from Superior, WI and this was like mid-summer. That set the tone for the evening.

Jim Woodruff is 87 years old and a long time friend of Verlen Kruger. I’ve mentioned in an earlier posting that he’s the originator of the Heward Challenge and has done a tremendous amount of research on Heward’s voyage across Michigan to Chicago. For the Kruger Memorial Project, Jim is also tracking and updating the progress of the Intrepid 4: Dan, Mark, Charlie, Toby and also Jon Holm the young man I paddled with when we started out. What is also unique is that in his blog, Jim correlates the original Heward journey timeline with the current progress of the paddlers behind me.

Note: You can read about everyone’s progress on Jim’s blog at

You can also find information on the trip on the Kruger Canoes blog at

I encourage you to check both websites as they have lots of pictures, slideshows and good accounts of the paddling.

Soon Jim Woodruff Jr. showed up and we quickly packed my gear in the cars and loaded my canoe on Jim Jr.’s car and off we went to Portland, MI.

I rode with Nancy Anderson, who a very avid canoeist and outdoors person. She was visiting Jim this day and decided to come along. Very nice person and did Jim’s transcribing for his Hugh Heward book. We had a very nice conversation as we rode back to Portland. At Portland we made a quick stop at Jim’s home along the Grand River. Jim took me inside and showed me his office where he does all his writing. Very impressive. He also took me out on his deck, pointed to a telephone pole in line with a big fir tree crossing the Grand River and pointed to a bluff on the other side. He said “That is where Verlen is buried.” You could see the pride in his eyes for the man he loved so dearly.

We then drove on to Portland with a quick stop at the Best Western so I could get a room for the evening and then drove to a local restaurant for dinner. What a beautiful evening! Story after story. Jim telling his, I telling a few of mine, learning that Jim Jr. does a lot of biking and did a big trip in Europe not too long ago. Karen was a woman in her fifties but you couldn’t tell it. She’d gone out of her way to see that I got from Portland to here. I cannot express how grateful I am.

As the evening went on it became quite clear that Karen and Jim are very proud of their father and rightfully so. I know Karen is also going to post some pictures and comments about this evening on Jim’s blog, so if interested you might check out his website. Thanks for a great evening, Jim, Jim Jr., Karen and Nancy. Looking forward to seeing you again this coming weekend.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 19 Sunday

After studying my map last evening I see the best way for me to get to the Grand River is to bike portage by taking the Island Lake Road to Hwy 52, then Territorial Road to the Grand River. So I packed up and proceeded on my way to Dexter, stopping only long enough for a journal entry and continued on my way on Island Lake Road. Island Lake Road started out as a paved road but quickly turned into a gravel road.

Side Note: The best way to explain what it's like to pull a canoe by bike is this. First of all, my bike is a Dahon with 20" wheels and naturally folds up. My bike trailer is basically a T of pipes with 16" wheels. The middle of the canoe sits over the wheels and the front of the canoe ties to the extended pipe that attaches to the bike. There is a V attachment that goes around the pipe that the front of the canoe rests in and allows me to attach it to the trailer. One slight problem I forgot to mention earlier is that on my first portage I could not find the V attachment. Must have left it in Jim's car or back at Belle Isle. At the time I felt I was in deep trouble for I couldn't figure out how I could keep the canoe attached to the trailer. But with the habit of losing things and re-adjusting for many years, I figured out if I take my tiedown strap, wrap it around the pipe and then around the stern of the canoe and cinch it down tight I can create my own V attachment to secure the canoe to the trailer frame. It is working well. If I do say so myself, that's pretty good thinking for a full-blooded Norwegian.

Anyway, to give you an idea of what it's like to pull a canoe, it's like having two of your grandchildren sitting in a wagon - both maybe a few pounds overweight - and you are pulling them on this little 20" folding bike through a yard where the grass hasn't been cut for a month. In other words, it's a little bit like paddling upstream but only using your legs. Although I can keep up about a 7-10 mph pace.

As I continued on my way, it felt good to be doing something beside paddling. Also I see this state from a different view other than the river. It's very pretty. Very much like my home state of Wisconsin. Lots of farms, rolling hills, and forests. I saw numerous deer and wild turkeys as I pedaled. Around 3:00 in the afternoon it started to rain. I wasn't that far now from the Grand River and decided rather than get real wet I will look for a place to camp. Not much farther down the road, I found what looked like an old abandoned railroad trail. I worked my way down the trail until I was out of sight and set up camp. Snug in my tent with the rain now starting to pick up, it actually felt good to be taking what I call my first real break.

Normally it's tough for me to stop before dark but today my body tells me I need the rest. I sure hope the others are OK.

April 18 Saturday

Falling asleep last night, I ached so much I wondered if I could really complete this trip. Then this morning I woke up feeling great. Took my dip in the river and got ready to go. Last night when I camped I wasn't sure exactly where I was. After looking at the map Dan gave me I believe I'm somewhere close to the Lower Huron Metropark.

As I paddled, I soon came upon a pullout for the French Landing portage, the dam between the Lower Huron and Belleville Lake. Again I'm not sure I came out at the right spot. This was a little bit of a trek to get around this dam and I'm thinking of the guys behind me who will have to pull their canoes and gear this far without the bike system I have.

Now that I'm on Belleville Lake, the river will be dammed up a lot between here and Ann Arbor so I will be getting out numerous times. The good news is the series of lakes have little current in them so the paddling will be much easier. So I'm figuring today's paddle will be much easier. As I continued to cross Belleville Lake, I was amazed at how beautiful the homes were on both sides. This continued all the way along.

I paddled across Belleville Lake with ease but once the lake narrowed back to a river the current became a little stronger as I approached Ford Dam and then Ford Lake, both named for President Ford who was from Grand Rapids, MI. This portage was relatively easy - out of a beautiful hydro park, over a highway and right down to Ford Lake.

Back on the water again, Ford Lake was another beautiful paddle. At the far end I took a picture of a real beautiful golf course which reminded me that our course back home opened up last Friday which means my golfing buddies are getting a head start on me. I'm sure because of that they will give me a few strokes per nine when I get back.

I went underneath the I-94 bridge and now I'm starting to get back into the river and the current is picking up. I passed under Congress Bridge with a number of people on top fishing with lines in the water. They couldn't tell I was coming through so I was careful not to hit any of the lines which accomplished. Once getting past the bridge, I looked back to see if I had snagged a line and the canoe went sideways. I'd just hit a small rapids and had to move quickly to get my canoe under control.

As I proceeded upstream, the current got stronger and stronger and of course I'm getting slower. At one point a fisherman on the bank hollared at me - "It looks like you're going backwards". I took a quick glance at the bank and realized I surely wasn't going forwards even though I was paddling as hard as I could. I still was a little ways from Peninsular Dam portage but found a little spot on the left where I could maneuver over and pull out.

Once on land I was in somewhat of a woods but I could see an opening above which turned out to be a little park. So I loaded everything onto my bike trailer and pulled everything up to the park. Looking at my map, I saw I was close to Huron River Drive in Ypsilanti so I knew I was able to bike to the next portage. As I'm biking down Huron Drive, I did not see the dam right away until I got past it. I looked down and saw no portage so I thought it must be ahead a little bit so I kept riding.

Soon I came to another dam but the river was a ways away and again I did not see any portage so I continued down Huron Drive. Soon I came to a third dam. Did not see the portage so the decision was made to continue as I was now at the outskirts of Ann Arbor.

Ended up pedaling through Ann Arbor until I got to the far end of Ann Arbor and Barton Pond. Here I was able to get back in and paddle for the rest of the afternoon until I got to a bridge where Barton Pond again became the river. At this point it was like when I had to get out earlier at Ypsilanti. There was no way I could make any progress. There was a small canoe landing here so I pulled in and checked my maps and realized I'm back near Huron River Drive and that the road followed the river all the way to Dexter. It was getting late so I felt it was a good time to get out and follow Huron River Drive to find a good place to camp for the night.

As I'm peddling down Huron River Drive I notice the current is very swift and lots of deadfall in the water. From here it looks like it's almost impossible to paddle so I kept going until I found a little cornfield in a place I figured I could tuck in without disturbing anyone for the evening.

It was now about 8:00 and time to quit to figure out my next day's strategy. As I lay in my tent, I kept thinking about the people behind me. How difficult this is going to be for them. I've got a feeling they are going to be doing a lot of walking, pullling their canoes and gear behind them through this entire section. My hat goes off to them for I do not know them well but I've got a good feeling they will not give up.

For me, I have no clue what I am going to be doing for I no longer have any maps other than a road map. I know that we are to continue to Portage Lake which is about eighteen miles from Dexter, just ahead of me. From there I thought there were supposed to be small rivers that we would follow and a short road portage as we worked our way to the Grand River. For the life of me, as I study my map, I can't figure out how that will happen.

Well, time for bed. I'll figure it out in the morning.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 17th - Official Start Time 9:00AM Eastern Time

Jim and I were up at 5:30 and as always I was rarin' to go. We met the same crew from last night for breakfast at 6:30 and then proceeded to caravan four vehicles to Belle Isle, our starting point, where we will meet the rest of the paddling crew.

We arrived at about 8:00 and most of the rest of the paddlers were there waiting for us. After quick greetings everyone scurried to unload and get ready for the push-off. Following pictures, we were on the water officially at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time. The group included Mark Prezdwojeski, Dan Smith, Charlie Parmalee, Toby Nipper, Ron Dean, Bryan Taylor, Chuck Amboy, Jon Holm and me.

After more pictures were taken from the shore, we eventually headed down the Detroit River close to 9:30. As we headed out Dan and Mark were side by side just in front of the rest of us. I was thinking "Just the way it should be." Dan heads up the Kruger Memorial Park and Mark, once Verlen's apprentice, now owns and continues to build Kruger Canoes. All but two of us are paddling Krugers. The other two are in kayaks.

Before long I found myself paddling next to Jon Holm, in one of the kayaks, who is from Lowell, MI and owns an outdoor sporting goods business. For most of the morning we paddled side by side sharing stories. He is in his early forties and shares many qualities that I see in my own children. As we paddled, I asked many questions about the area and it basically boiled down to that we are seeing the Detroit River from its best view. Paddling the Detroit River reminded me a lot of paddling the Ohio. Very similar, especially around the Cincinnatti area, with cities on both sides of the river. In this case, Detroit on the U.S. side and Windsor on the Canadian side.

About an hour into our paddle, Jon and I were now out in front and I asked if he could see how close the others were. He looked back and said they were not very close. Jon had similar plans as I. The main group of Mark, Dan, Charlie and Toby are planning to take three weeks to do this trip. Jon was thinking more like myself - twelve to fifteen days. So we discussed possibly staying together for the trip. I just smiled, for it seemed like he was paddling very smoothly and I not quite but close to being at my maximum comfort paddling stroke. In other words I had about half a gear left and Jon looked like he had a couple of gears to go.

Late in the morning we came to a small island where we had a choice of going around it from either direction. I decided to go to the right, Jon decided to go on the left side of it, where he had plans to stop at a little park at the far end. I told him "You will probably get there before me but I might not be ready to stop yet. I'm sure you will catch me somewhere down the river." Of course, once he went his way and I went mine, the competitive juices kicked in and I picked up my stroke, hoping to at least be close to meeting him at the other end.

To my surprise at the far end of the island I could not see Jon yet so I anticipated my way was much shorter and continued on. With all the fishing boats around I assured myself that Jon would not be in any danger. Lake Erie is a tremendous walleye resource and this is spawning season for walleyes and there are fishing boats in the Detroit River by the hundreds. I'm been finding myself weaving in and out of them all morning.

So I continued on my way expecting to see Jon sometime in the afternoon. I continued to paddle and around 2:30 p.m. I started looking for the mouth of the Huron River. I made a couple of wrong turns. I asked bank fishermen a couple of times if they knew where the river was but no-one spoke English. For a minute I thought I might have gone a little bit too far. I did finally find the mouth at around 3:15.

For the last hour or so I was out of the Detroit River and on the shore of Lake Erie and the waves were picking up. Now that I'm on the Huron the water is much calmer and not much current. I expected more. This changed quickly. Just as I paddled under the I-85 bridge the river narrowed and the current really picked up. Before, I was thinking I was easily going to make my day's destination to Willow Metropark but now I wasn't sure.

At about 6:30 p.m. I was getting close to my first portage at Flat Rock Dam but at the same time I was paddling less than a mile an hour it seemed. I hadn't been out of the canoe yet today when I decided to pull into a little opening next to a church. There a gentleman and a lady helped me get my gear out of the water so I could get to the other side of the dam. I really appreciated the help. For some reason my body wasn't responding to nine and a half straight hours of paddling.

Once on the other side of the dam I decided to continue bike portaging because it was getting late and my body needed the break and peddling felt good.

Well,,,I was biking further than I was expecting to and finally found the place where I could get back in the water over a bank. Once on the river it was now dark, close to 9:00 and I found a mudflat on the right side of the river where I pulled in for the night. I stretched out a tarp for my sleeping bag and lay there thinking about the day.

I had done way more than I expected. I'm now thinking I'm not going to see the rest of the group until we hook up for the 50-Mile Challenge from Dimondale to Portland on April 25. This has been an annual challenge in memory of Verlen, and Dan and Mark's plans are to be at Dimondale on the 24th. My plans were and are to skip this part when I get to Dimondale and continue on till the 24th, when I come back to canoe the challenge with the group.

I realize this river is going to be tougher than I expected with the current. I have my bike portaging system. Everyone else only has portaging wheels which means they will be walking around dams and any water that could be too hard to paddle. Now I understand why Mark and Dan planned for three weeks rather than the two I felt it would take. One good thing is before I left Belle Isle, Dan gave me a very good detailed map of the Huron River showing portages, dangerous water, etc. All I had was a road map. Needless to say this was not going to help me much.

Time for bed. I'm whipped.

Note: I was finally able to write this three days into the journey at Dexter. Hopefully once I get to Portland, MI in two days, I will have another chance to update. All is going well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 16, 2009 Evening Before The Start of the Challenge

Jim and I arrived in Detroit, actually St. Clair Shore, where we met the others who plan to do this challenge for dinner.

Dan Smith is from Portland, MI and was a very close friend of Verlin Kruger and the person who's heading up the Verlin Kruger Memorial Park. I met Dan the year before I started my Atlantic to Pacific trek. On a football clinic trip the spring of 2005 I stopped to see Dan and get info on the Kruger Canoe. He was very helpful and shared numerous stories about canoeing and Verlin Kruger.

Mark Prezdwojewski was also there. He was Verlen Kruger's apprentice for many years and upon his death took over and continues to build the Kruger Canoe. I actually bought number 213 from him in 2005. Great young man and a very accomplished paddler. From what I heard and seen he's doing an excellent job in carrying on the canoe legacy of Verlin.

The rest at dinner were Charlie Parmalee who did this challenge last year and Toby Nipper, who came all the way from Florida to do the challenge. Others not doing the challenge were Bob Bradford, Mel Herrera and Gloria Kelly. Mel bought dinner for everyone. Thanks Mel.

All except Jim and I were camping out at Mel and Gloria's home. By Jim's request our camping spot was the Red Roof Inn.

As you can imagine there was a lot of excitement and lot of stories. I sat back and listened, thinking this Kruger guy had to be a special person to have these friends come together and there will be more as we go on this journey and paddle 400 and some miles in his memory. For now I'm the outsider, but hopefully tomorrow I will start to earn their friendship too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Background for "Hugh Heward Challenge" Paddle

The trip was starting out just a little too smoothly for my liking. I'd already had my gear put together two days in advance rather than an hour before leaving and most of the honey-do list was done. Just didn't feel right being so prepared. Anyway, at 9:00 AM, after saying my goodbyes, I headed down the driveway only to turn around about a mile down the road and head back to the house. Half hour later, after searching all over the house, my mother-in-law who's 94, found my glasses and I started out again! Thanks Glenys! Things were getting back to normal real quick.

First stop, bank in Solon Springs for some cash. Quickly done and I was off again only to stop for gas in Minong and realize I left my credit card in the ATM back in Solon. A mad dash back! No credit card in machine. Went into the bank with the hope it was turned in. Found out something I never knew before - that if you do not take your credit card from an ATM the machine will either pull it back in to store it or shred it. Fortunately, in banks it is stored. Thank you very much!

So, now that I've forgotten a couple of things already, things really are back to normal and I feel a lot better. Hopefully when I get to Detroit I still have my canoe and paddles!

The rest of the trip to Racine, WI where I'm meeting my friend, Jim McIntyre who's taking me to Detroit, went smoothly. I even made a couple of bucks at the casino near Black River Falls, WI!

Tomorrow, Thursday, Jim and I will head to Detroit where I will hook up with 7 others who plan to do this challenge starting on Friday at 8:30 in the morning. The challenge is actually a fundraiser for The Verlen Kruger Memorial which is being built in Portland, Michigan along the Grand River, which is one of the rivers we will be paddling. Verlen is considered the guru when it comes to long distance paddling. It is a Kruger canoe which he designed that I used to paddle from the Atlantic to the Pacific and will be using on this trip.

When I was doing research for what type of canoe to use on my cross country trip, a friend told me about Verlen Kruger and his adventures and canoe designs. The day I called I found out he'd passed away the night before. Bad timing, but I was intrigued and continued to learn as much as I could about this man and his adventures. Needless to say it's an amazing story and suggest you take a look at:

So, it is in honor and memory of Verlen that I decided to participate in "The Hugh Heward Challenge" in the hope I can be of some help in drawing awareness to the project so the many friends of Verlen's will in the near future see the memorial become a reality.

The following is the memorial park website:

Hopefully this will give all that follow my journey a good background.

Note: I will attempt to post journal entries as often as possible and hope to post the first day's paddle this coming Saturday or Sunday.