Stephen Brede is half a lake from completing his goal of circumnavigating all of the Great Lakes in his canoe.
Brede returned Sunday, Sept. 7, to his Petoskey home from a trip paddling around the south shore of Lake Superior, which he started July 7, in Silver Bay, Minn. He finished at Brimley State Park in the eastern Upper Peninsula, near the St. Marys River. Over previous summers he has paddled around lakes Huron (2009), Michigan (2010), Erie (2012) and Ontario (2013).
“I expected it to be beautiful, but it exceeded my expectations,” Brede said. “Beautiful beaches, beautiful cliffs, beautiful water, beautiful people. Traveling on a liquid vastness in a little spaceship under my own power, daily encountering interesting creatures, was awesome and humbling.”
Brede paddled about 570 miles on Superior. Most nights he camped on the beach or in the woods along the shore. He also was invited to spend a few nights in sailboats in marinas in Cornucopia, Wisc., and Ontonogon. He stayed with friends in cottages in Big Bay and near Grand Marais.
“The timing of staying indoors synched almost perfectly with the arrival of some big storms,” he said. “I was again blessed with amazing kindness from strangers.”
Several of his friends from Petoskey made the drive north, and met him at some of the state and national campgrounds along the lake. His wife, Ruth, made several trips.
“There were stretches where I didn’t see anyone for two or three days, interspersed with dinners around picnic tables with old and new friends. Instant pasta and green tea one night, grilled trout and fresh mixed greens the next.”
Brede said the wind and waves were similar to those he encountered on lakes Michigan and Huron. The water temperature was much colder, though. At his start in Minnesota, the water was 40 degrees.
“I waded in, and my ankles felt like they had been stabbed. As I moved along the Wisconsin and Michigan coasts, it gradually warmed to about 60 degrees. I had to be pretty hot and dirty before I’d dive in.”
“The water is so much clearer than I’ve seen in any of the other lakes. But, as I neared Duluth and Marquette, the quality went down. There is an inverse relationship between human population density and water clarity.”
“As precious as water is to our survival, why do we continue to allow sewage and fertilizers and road runoff to be dumped into them? Why are we risking disaster by allowing underwater oil lines, nuclear waste along the shore, and mining operations on tributary rivers? The answer that comes to me is something my grandfather used to say, ‘Makes more dollars than sense.’