Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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.


Blogger K.C.A. said...

great post!!

7:08 PM  
Blogger Karen Stock said...

What serendipity to meet you as we did. We are so looking forward to seeing you again Saturday and to continued crossing of paths in the future!

7:21 PM  
Blogger Keith Drury said...

Watching your progress regularly.
Coach #2

3:14 PM  

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