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.


Blogger Captn O Dark 30 and Super Boo said...

thanks for the update!!

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left a comment at your K&C web article; I hope it gets to you.
I have some good pics of you which you may want for your site, from Belle Isle Beach - you and Jim. How can I get them to you?
Also, you are invited for a free luncheon at The English Inn (which you passed between Eaton Rapids and Dimondale) this Friday. It would be great to have as many there as possible. Charlie was going to spread the word, but you slipped away.
Chuck Amboy (Day 1 in the catamaraned Kruger canoes)

8:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home