Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Island Time

Author: Ruth

If you have to spend a couple (so far) of days wind bound on an island in Lake Superior, Number 10 Island is a sweet one. There’s a little wooden lighthouse, recently painted in the traditional Canadian colors, white with red trim. The original light is long gone, replaced by a solar powered light clamped to a rail, but folks are doing what they can to preserve the maritime history here.

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The island is one of an archipelago of almost 500 comprising the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Created in 2007, the area encompasses all of the water, shoals and shoreline from Thunder Cape east to Bottle Point. Dumping, mining, and oil and gas exploration are prohibited in the area, making this the largest body of protected fresh water in the world.

 

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“A Paddler’s Guide to the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area,” by Zach Kruzins and Darrell Makin, published in 2012, identifies established campsites, points of interest and launch sites throughout the area. It says of Number 10 Island that “since this site is a highly visited spot by both boaters and paddlers, and there is not privy site as of yet, human waste has become an issue.” I figured that since the book came out someone might have taken the initiative to deal with that issue.

 

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Indeed, just a few meters from the cobble landing are a couple of recently hand painted “Toilet” signs, with arrows pointing beyond the clearing where the lighthouse stands, to the edge of the woods, where there’s a red box with a toilet seat. An outhouse without the house. Usually this type of “facility” is tucked in the woods out of sight. Here, it’s front and center, with a view of the lighthouse, flashing whitecaps, and the mysterious, roadless Black Bay Peninsula in the distance. There’s an Edwards Coffee can next to the box with, I can’t believe it, a roll of toilet paper in it. Not that I need it – I’m packing my own – but it’s comforting to know it’s there, and someone cared to put it there. There’s also a picnic table, and a cozy tent site tucked amongst the spruce trees. Maybe what’s best is what’s not here: mosquitoes, and bears (I think…)

 

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Highlights on my way here included sighting a moose as I rounded the tip of Black Bay Peninsula. It appeared from a clump of trees on a small island to my right, entered the water about 100 yards in front of me, and swam to the mainland. Other critters I’ve seen are a young black bear which Ruth, Matt and I saw along the highway at the start of the trip; a trio of playful otters one foggy afternoon on the water; a bat warming up the toilet seat for me the other morning; a couple of frogs and snakes. Lots of eagles, a cedar waxwing, loons, big robins, a great blue heron, sparrows, and I’ve heard a great many songbirds.

 

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I also spent a couple of days helping four great guys frame a cabin at Moonlight Beach. The owner of the camp, Jim, offered to let me stay on his property while I was waiting to meet Ruth last weekend, and for a change I was able to repay a bit of the kindness I’ve received from people all along the shores I’ve passed. It was great fun pounding nails and trading stories with Bill, the contractor, and his carpenters Veikko and Chris. Go Denmark! Go Finland! Go Canada!

I’m off to the beach again to see if the wind has died down so I can Go Paddle!

 

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Wind Bound

Author: Ruth

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“Say hi to Wilson, Jr.!”

Stephen spent four days on Pie Island trapped by high winds and waves. He couldn’t go far on the beach due to cliffs and the interior of the island was impenetrable bush. He had plenty of time to watch the four lanes of the shipping channel that freighters take into Thunder Bay and plan his strategy for the five mile crossing.

 

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He was able to get some texts through to me.

“Too many mosquitoes to leave tent again. Flies arrived today, too.”

“I have never seen so many mosquitoes!”

“Looks like another day in mosquitoville.”

“Windier today than yesterday…not very promising, though it’s shifted to the northwest. Finally went ‘swimming’ yesterday. Shallow here, so not so cold. Sleeping Giant looks like Buddha.”

 

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“Moved my campsite a quarter mile west, away from beaver dam(n)ed creek. Much better mosquito wise, but we’ll see how long that lasts. Wind and waves still rolling along.”

And yesterday, “Crossing shipping lane now, nothing in sight :)”

 

On the Rez

Author: Stephen

Pulled into the Grand Portage Marina Saturday afternoon, after a day paddling along the rocky coast through an ethereral fog. Beyond a hundred yards, everything was white, so I hugged the shore to keep my bearing. I lost my deck mounted compass a couple of days ago, and am now relying on my handheld, which I have tucked into my mapcase on the deck. 

I spent the previous night at Antonia’s Stop, my final campsite on Minnesota’s Kayak Trail. What a great thing the trail is: Campsites along the Minnesota shore every 15 miles or so, marked by signs visible from the water. The state DNR provides excellent maps, available for free at local outfitters. Launch sites and picnic areas are also identified. Matt and I had tentatively planned to meet at Arlo’s stop, which is close to Antonia’s, but we lost phone contact, and our paths diverged. It was great spending time with him. How can you not love a guy who makes you spruce tip tea?

The marina and campground is owned and managed by the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, “Gichionigamiing” in the Ojibwe language. It is one of six bands comprising the federally recognized Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

As I hadn’t had a day off from paddling for eight days, I decided to take a rest day Sunday. I slept in, then spent time organizing my jumble of food into breakfast, lunch and dinner bags. My solar panel seems seems to be dying after six summers on the lakes, and the marina manager, Ron, let me charge my radio, camera and phone batteries in the office. 

When I returned later to collect them, I ended up spending an hour talking with Ron. He’s a NavaJo, and most of his family is in Arizona.  He hasn’t seen them in nine years, and has watched his neices and nephews grow up via Facebook. One of his little brothers has been in jail for a year, awaiting sentencing for robbery. Unless he informs on the bad guys he’s been hanging with, he faces 40 years in the penitentiary. Ron said another brother is waiting to be sentenced on a drunk driving conviction that involved a head-on collision that killed someone. 

Ron has established a family of his own here, and become a valuable employee of the tribe. He works 10-15 hours a day, seven days a week, either at the marina or at a job just down the road at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, the band’s big money maker. I ate a huge walleye sandwich dinner there. I returned to my tent and slept like a waterlog.

It started to rain in the middle of the night, and when I awoke Monday the prediction was for it to continue all day. I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I finally crawled out of the tent, I set up my camp kitchen under the restroom roof overhang and made breakfast. 

Michelle, whom I met at the marina office the day before, was there cleaning the restrooms and laundry. I thanked her for doing such a good job. She said she works there four hours a day, four days a week. She’s saving money to buy a van. 

“Everybody calls me Tubby,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s been my nickname since I was a little girl and I fell into a wash tub.”  I laughed, and told her my sister put my brother in a dryer when he was little. “You and he would make a great couple,” I told her.

As Wikipedia says, “The Grand Portage National Monument is located on the reservation and managed by the National Park Service. The site includes a reconstructed trading post which is authentic for the 18th century.” Matt told me a couple of times that I should check it out. I popped open my umbrella, my favorite new piece of gear, and stolled through the rain a half mile down the road to the Heritage Center. The center is filled with artifacts and displays depicting the fur trading era, and beautiful examples of Ojibway art and craft. 

Across the road is the trading post. I walked there with one of the site interpreters, a retired teacher dressed in period clothing. This was her first season, and her job was to fill in for the more experienced interpreters when they took breaks, so she was in the process of learning a little bit about everything from wood turning to birchbark canoe construction.  

At 3 pm in the “Great Hall” there was a talk about canoe paddles, which I found fascinating. The park employee giving the presentation was making his first paddle, and was clearly enraptured with his subject. He started his talk with the quote, “We shape out tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” He called the paddle an “international tool.” 

I returned to the campsite, and made dinner under the overhang. Ron came up to use the restroom, and we were talking when his stepson drove up in a van. He was wearing a flat brim hip hop NY ball cap, and had “Family” tattooed in large script on his forearm.  He gave Ron a big hug and told him he’d missed him. He ask Ron when he was getting off work. “In an hour and a half. I’ll see you at home.”

“Good,” his son said, and gave him another deep hug. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, ” Ron said.

After the van left, Ron was quiet for a moment, then told me his son had just returned from a memorial for two of his cousins, who died a couple of weeks ago. The pair had spent the day at a powwow, and went out drinking with friends in the evening. Five of them got in two cars for a race. They didn’t know the road they were speeding on ended at a lake. Both cars when in. The cousins were in the front seat of one car. A girl in the back escaped, they didn’t. The kids in the other car managed to get out, and tried to dive down and rescue the cousins. It was too dark, and too deep. 

Ron said the boys’ mom was very strong at the memorial service, and focussed on sending a message to the youth.

“This has to stop here,” she said. “No more.”

I’m sitting at the casino now, typing in the hallway between the gaming room and the restaurant, at a little table flecked with cigarette burns. A couple just walked by. The man suddenly took the woman’s hand.
 “You’re holding my hand,” she said, beaming. “How sweet.”

  “I missed you,” he said. “Really bad.” 

Your papers, please?

Author: Stephen

Pushed off from the Tettegouche State Park kayak camping site July 4, where I started last summer’s trip, headed north this time around. Ruth drove me from Petoskey a few days earlier, and after a night at motel in Ashland, Wisc., one of the myriad funky motels that hug the Great Lakes coast, we arrived at an Air B&B in Grand Marais. We were joined there by friend Matt Pierle, who kindly took a break from living out of his Toyota Prius. I got right to work finalizing my packing, which meant fiilling every square inch of the living room with gear and food. We also brought Ruth’s Kruger canoe, and she and Matt took turns paddling around the Grand Marais harbor, which is lovely. The town was filled with visitors for the holiday, and Matt, who spent time here last fall, introduced us to some of the local folks and establishments, including the North House Folk School, where you can learn to build everything wooden, from spoons to schooners.

 

Filling boats with gear.

Filling boats with gear.

Matt, ever questing, joined me for my first day of paddling. Highlights included being dive bombed by an angry gull; Matt dragging his canoe up a cobblestone beach, heading up shore for a break, and the canoe zooming down the cobbles and back into the lake; and getting pulled over by a couple of Minnesota Conservation officers, who gave us two weeks to buy licenses for our canoes. Non-motorized canoes don’t need to be registered in Michigan, but every other official I’ve encountered around the lakes has let me slide. Not these two. They let me take their photo, though. Which they have to do, of course, as they are public officials on public property.

 

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Matt and I ended up paddling about nine miles into a light wind, landing at Fenstad’s Resort, a postcard-perfect cluster of small varnished log cabins set on a sweet little cove. I called the office, and the man who answered (one of a few Mr. Fenstads, I learned later) gave me permission to leave my canoe in their little marina. Minnesota nice? You betcha.

 

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Back at the B&B later that night, Matt announced that, despite our offer to loan him Ruth’s canoe and paddle, he wasn’t in the position to buy the $3 million dollars worth of additional gear he’d need to join me for the push around the north shore. Even if he sold his mountain bike and extensive collection of craft brewery coasters.

 

Bon voyage breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Marais.

Bon voyage breakfast at the Blue Water Cafe in Grand Marais.

So the next day, I bid Ruth farewell for three weeks or so, and pushed off from Fenstad’s alone, boat loaded to the gills. I paddled about nine miles, into the wind again, passing beautiful smooth cliffs and wave-carved caves. Minnesota is unique among Great Lakes states and Ontario in that it has a designated kayak/canoe trail, with signed campsites along the shore. I found the Last Creek site, pulled Seaweed into a protected pool, emptied her of her living-room load of gear, and dragged her up the the big rocks to a safe spot above the waves for the night. The forecast was for lots of rain that night, continuing into the next day, so I anticipated a rain day.

Matt was still in the area, and had offered to provide support, so I gave him a call to see if he’d give me a ride back to Grand Marais so I could buy a boat license. He said yes, and ended up driving to Last Creek to camp with me that night. Michigan nice, eh?

So, papers in order, I’m at the Grand Marais library with Matt, typing away on my phone, which is bluetooth connected to a lightweight keyboard I bring along. (And I wonder why there’s no room to sit in Seaweed…) The old guy who took my chair when I got up to use the restroom mumbled “all these gadgets today” when I returned. He said when he was a boy the latest gadget was a crystal radio set, which he operated with a “cat whisker,”  no batteries required. I told him we don’t use cat whiskers anymore, they’ve been replaced with mouses.

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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.’

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Hanging Around

Author: Stephen

Laying in the hammock under a mid afternoon rain, almost wishing I had pushed off this morning. The weather forecast called for a lot more than this.
Yesterday was my first day on the water in two and a half days, and prior to that I’d only paddled about 25 miles in a week, having spent a few days camping with friends at Pictured Rocks, and a couple of nights at the beautiful lakeside cabin of friends Pat and Quint.
My friends Karen and Perry were staying at their favorite state forest campground, which I won’t name as I don’t want to wreck it for them. The forecast then was similar to today’s, so I took refuge at their site. They have a little “Cozy Traveller” trailer, and I pitched my hammock nearby, between a couple of tall pines. It was the best hanging yet. Perfect height to sit, pull off my boots, and swing into horizontal. Foot end just enough higher than head end so I didn’t slide down. Other trees conveniently located to tie off the tarp corners, and a taut pitch angled just right so rain wouldn’t pool. And rain it did. Bobcats and coyotes, thunder and lightening. Laying in the hammock the night of the storm, before the rain came, it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Eyes open or closed, the view was the same.
When I wasn’t laying around, I was either eating grilled trout or French toast or summer squash and corn that Karen had cooked up. Or drinking wine from a bottle one of their high end friends had given them.
I jumped into the lake once. The water temp was about 62, and the air about 63. It was exquisite. I was a bit bummed, though, because my little bottle of Campsuds went missing. Must have floated out of my shorts’ pocket when I was rinsing off. Perry and I looked along the water’s edge and beach, but couldn’t spot it. I hate it when a bit of kit goes missing.
Afterwards a beach walker stopped to chat. She was wearing a short turquoise blue shift, a small cloth pack on her back, and her thick white hair in a long braid. She had seen Seaweed, and the the names of the lakes stenciled on the hull.
“You’re on quite a journey, aren’t you?” she said.
“Yes. Trying to get around all the Great Lakes. Are you a paddler?”
“No,” she said, “I sail with friends, mostly around the Apostles. I was hoping to be in the North Channel of Lake Huron on a trip now, but I got sick.”
It crossed my mind to ask if she was friends with Roy and Jeremy, two guys on a sailboat in the Apostles I talked with about a month ago. I was crossing from Madeline Island to Long Island, and they were floating offshore of the old lighthouse, deciding whether to land and brave the flies for which Long Island is infamous. Their boat, Sea Jay, was a wooden beauty. The thought passed, though, and she asked me which places around the lakes I found the most beautiful.
“Right here is one of them,” I said.
I asked her if I could take her photo, and she said yes. Then I had her write her name in the little yellow waterproof notebook my coworkers gave me when I left Harbor House Publishers.
“Hey, these are my sailing buddies!”
She was pointing in the book at Roy and Jeremy’s names. I had taken their photos, too.
Big lake, small world.
She said her name is “Tibby”. I got the spelling, “Tibi”, when I looked in my notebook. Her last name is “Light”.
I like it. Makes me wish I’d followed through years ago and changed my last name to “Sky”.
Tibi stopped by our site the evening of my second day at Campground X. We learned she was a couple of weeks from finishing a program that would qualify her to be an occupational therapist. Perry said he’d seen a few of them over his lifetime with scoliosis, and they discussed how he copes with chronic pain. Beer and University of Michigan football have been the best remedy so far.
Just after Tibi headed off down the dirt road to her camp, I asked Karen and Perry if it would be all right to invite her to dinner. They said sure, and I took off down the road after her. She’s a fast walker, and it took a few minutes to catch her.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “Will there be enough for all of you?”
I assured her we had plenty, and she gratefully accepted. Something was wrong with her stove, and she hadn’t been able to cook all weekend. We walked to her site so she could zip up her tent and put some things in her car.
“Do you need any shampoo?” she asked. “I was looking for rocks this afternoon about a mile up the beach and found a bottle.”
On the corner of her picnic table was my little bottle of green Campsuds, “shampoo”, in Ruth’s handwriting, in marker on the side.
Big Lake, magical world.

Wind Break

Author: Ruth

Anyone following Stephen’s paddle along the south shore of Lake Superior has noticed how little progress he’s made in the past couple of weeks. I can give you the answer in one word, weather. He enjoyed remarkably good weather overall in July and the first part of August, now a succession of storms and wind has kept him beach bound on the west shoulder of the peninsula that becomes Whitefish Point. Some friends from Petoskey, Perry and Karen Clark met him at Lake Superior State Forest Campground last week, so he had company and great food for a few days. This area is mostly free from roads, towns and cell phone towers, so we may not hear from him until he rounds the point into Whitefish Bay.  So close…

In the Pictured Rocks when we were together last, I took some pictures of his daily transition from walker to paddler.

 

Exchanging leather boots for neoprene Chotas. Bags on the beach will be stuffed into the bow and stern.

 

Exchanging his leather boots for the neoprene Chotas. The bags on the beach will be stuffed into the bow and stern. Denise came down from our shared campsite to watch him take off.

 

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Cockpit cover is on and the last items are being placed. Food and water within reach, maps, compass, camera in waterproof case, (that’s the tan box behind him on the sand.)

 

 

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And binoculars, Spot satellite tracker and emergency locator beacon, carbon fiber paddle, and carabiners of course.

 

Planning where to meet at the end of the day's paddle, a rare pleasure for us both.

 

Planning where to meet at the end the day’s paddle, a rare pleasure for us both.

 

Shoving off and swinging in, reminded me of a cowboy mounting his horse. (This picture was taken on Munising Bay.)

 

Shoving off the beach and swinging into his seat, like a cowboy mounting his horse. (This shot was taken earlier in the week in Munising Bay.)

 

Ready for action!

Ready to paddle.

 

 

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Washburn Iron Works mural near Apostle Islands.

Fantastic Washburn Iron Works mural on the Bayfield Peninsula near the Apostle Islands. (We were walking around waiting for Stephen’s clothes to dry…yes, he does laundry when he can!)

 

Stephen camped on this island just outside Marquette Harbor.

Stephen camped on Partridge Island just outside Marquette Harbor in this lovely sheltered cove.

 

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, an active light constructed in 1852.

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, constructed in 1852 and in service ever since.

 

Lit in 1868, Grand Island East Channel Light was removed from service around 1908.

Lit in 1868, Grand Island East Channel Light was removed from service around 1908. (Note the local red sandstone used in the base.)

 

A day off for Stephen at the historic Coast Guard station at Sand Point. The track was for launching a 36' unsinkable lifeboat.

A day off  (bad weather) for Stephen at the historic Coast Guard station on Sand Point. The track was for launching a 36′ unsinkable lifeboat.

 

Mike Brey, a commercial fisherman out of Munising, sorting his catch out on Munising Bay on a foggy day.

While paddling away from shore, Stephen met Mike Brey, a commercial fisherman out of Munising, sorting his catch on a foggy day.

 

Small waterfall in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Small waterfall in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

 

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Water seeps through the sandstone and paints the cliffs with the minerals in the rock.

Water seeps through the sandstone and paints the cliffs with minerals from the rock: calcium, manganese, copper, and iron.

 

And then the wave smoothed pebbles on the beach...

And there are millions of wave smoothed pebbles on the beach…

 

...and colorful lichens.

…and colorful lichens, it’s an artist’s paradise.

 

Spray Falls

Spray Falls

 

Meeting Stephen on 12 Mile Beach in the nat'l lakeshore. We met our friends Denise Marecki, Matt Pierle, Susan and Sam Sharpe for a wonderful weekend.

Meeting Stephen on 12 Mile Beach in the Nat’l Lakeshore. We converged with friends from home Denise Marecki, Matt Pierle, Susan and Sam Sharpe for a wonderful weekend of laughter, campfires, stars, swimming and sand.

 

From 12 Mile Beach, Stephen paddled east to Grand Marais and more friends, Pat and Quent Kuebler,

From gorgeous 12 Mile Beach, Stephen paddled east to Grand Marais and met more friends, Pat and Quent Kuebler. While he waited a few days for the wind to die down, they shared homemade apple wine, blueberry pie and the warm hospitality that keeps him going strong. Thank you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bay Getaway

Author: Stephen

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It’s Monday, and I’ve been sitting all day on a wood framed green plaid couch, looking out a sliding glass door at Superior roiling into wavy whitecaps. As the wind has shifted from northwest to north to northeast, the waves have slowly grown larger and larger. The weather report last night predicted that today had a pretty good chance of rain, with waves to two feet. Which is why I’m on a couch instead of in the canoe. It said the chance of rain would increase tonight, and that tomorrow winds would rise to 25 mph, with waves building to eight feet. Which will mean more couch time, and reciting my mantra, “It’s better to be on land wishing you were at sea than on the sea wishing you were on land.”

 

Kristi and Bill

I’m in a cozy little cabin overlooking Big Bay. It’s the home of Bill Kinjorski and Kristi Mills, and their son Thomas. I met them through my friend Timmo Skallerup, whose family owns the cabin. Bill and Kristi own Big Bay Outfitters, a wonderful shop in what used to be the village firehouse, township hall and jail. The village’s colorful history includes being the site of the shooting that inspired the book and movie “Anatomy of a Murder.”

 

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I paddled into Big Bay on a sunny, calm Friday afternoon, passing on the way the tree covered red sandstone cliffs and white beaches of the Huron Mountain Club. As I rounded Salmon Trout Point into Big Bay, four peregrine falcons started kack-kacking, and swooped over me. They zoomed far out over the lake, chased each other a bit, then zoomed back to their perches atop trees high on the cliff. The fastest bird on record when diving, peregrines have been clocked at 175 mph.

 

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Once in the bay I called Bill, and he directed me to a spot on the beach with a couple of kayaks and an aluminum canoe. The cabin, “Dunwerken,” was set back about 50 from water’s edge. Bill welcomed me at the beach, we talked a bit about my canoe and a place for me pitch my tent, and then he had to leave to shuttle some paddlers who had rented some of his kayaks.
I unloaded my gear, and was walking the mile or so into town when Bill and Kristi met me a short distance from their cabin. Bill was giving Kristi a lift home, and after he dropped her off on his way back he picked me up. I hung around the shop while I waited for my sister Pamela and my brother-in-law Dave to arrive from Madison, Wisc.

Big Bay comprises just a couple of churches, an inn, gas station/convenience store, bar, K-8 school, and Big Bay Outfitters. Bill stopped at the convenience store to buy us a couple of pasties, just out of the oven and about the size of the size of footballs. People were waiting at the shop when we arrived, and Bill was suddenly busy packaging worms, showing knives, and telling the “Anatomy” story about the visiting soldier who shot the local tavern owner. I retreated to the back of the shop, next to the old jail cell, and chewed into my pastie. A few minutes later, Bill came back with a tall, talkative guy, who was carrying a 60-inch bent shaft canoe paddle with a massive blade. “Paul, I want you to meet Stephen,” Bill said. “He’s paddling a Kruger canoe around the south shore.” Paul, retired military, knew all about Kruger, and his paddle was one designed by Kruger and made in Oscoda. Paul wanted to trade it for one in the shop. He knew Bill likes having unusual stuff in the shop, especially if it has an interesting history. Paul asked me all about my trip, my canoe, and the gear I’ve been using. He asked me what I had for a horn, and I told him a whistle. I said I’d used it recently to warn off a motorboat, and it wasn’t as loud as I would have liked. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I’ve got a small canister fog horn I don’t need. You can have it. I’ll drop it off here and Bill can bring it to you.”

 

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Ruth and the Kruger paddle in Big Bay Outfitters.

Pamela and Dave arrived after a bit. The short cut they took from L’Anse turned into rutted gravel road, and the last 30 miles had taken them an hour and a half, which is lightening speed to me, but pretty slow by their standards.
As we were discussing camping possibilities, Kristi came forward and offered to let us use the cabin at their camp. “It’s for sale, but no one’s
using it,” she said. “There’s no water or electricity, but there’s an outhouse. It’s on a pretty little lake about a mile and a half from here. You’re welcome to stay there.”
We said it sounded perfect and, after following her directions, discovered it was. Set up on a birch tree and fern filled hill, the small wood cabin overlooked a sparkling little lake, which the three of us scrambled down to for a swim. Pam and Dave jumped in naked, but I was the shy one, and left my pants on, as there were some other cabins across the lake. Dave said they’d never notice, as “lots of people have flesh colored bathing suits.”

 

Black rocks, turquoise water.

Black rocks, turquoise water.

 

The next day the three of us took a hike to an outcrop on the bay known as “Black Rock.” We drove a mile or so out of town, and walked a half mile under a leafy canopy of tall birch, white pine and hardwoods. The woods suddenly ended at a steep cliff, from which descended a narrow trail. There were small trees and rocks to grab on the way down. Soon we were on the Black Rock, an upheaval of basalt, the original kind of rock on the planet, brought to the surface by an ancient volcano. The rocks were warm from the sun, and were perfect launch sites for jumping into the turquoise water. All three of us wore our flesh colored suits this time, which caught the attention of some people in a motor boat, who swerved near and tooted their horn.

 

biglake

 

Ruth arrived later that day, and we spent another night at the cabin. In the morning, we drove to Marquette. We found a funky motel, and then drove about four miles north of town to Sugar Loaf Mountain. It’s about a 20 minute, steep climb to the top, where it opens up to stunning views of the lake and surrounding hills and forests. I looked down at the islands and peninsulas off of Marquette. There were a couple of kayaks off in the distance, and seeing how small they were made me queasy.

 

sugarloaf

Ruth, Dave and Pamela on Sugar Loaf Mountain

 

Back in town, we gawked at the massive old sandstone buildings downtown, then ate dinner at The Vierling, an historic saloon for men, with adjacent “sipping room” for ladies.

 

cityhall

 

My family left me on Sunday, and I set up my tent in the woods behind Dunwerken. The wind off the lake was building, and I wanted some distance and trees between me and the shore. The weather report was predicting waves as high as eight feet, though I don’t believe they got that big. They did get big enough to wash away a big section of the beach in front of the cottage, transforming a gentle slope to the beach into a four foot drop off. I had no desire to venture into the water, but Bill and Thomas couldn’t resist the pull, and spent a half hour diving into the surf. The lake quieted down a bit overnight, but by mid morning the waves had picked up steam again.

Bill and Kristi and Thomas have been so kind to me, feeding me, and letting me hang around the house reading from their library of great fiction and huge selection of books about canoeing. Today Kristi and Thomas took me on a hike up to the top of Pine Mountain, a 40-acre parcel her father bought the minute he saw it. On the way up we picked thimble berries and raspberries and blackberries. From the summit were amazing views of the Huron Mountains to the west, Superior to the north, and my water route to the east. A pair of juvenile red-tailed hawks hovered on an updraft about 30 feet above us.
The lake is finally calming down tonight, and it looks like I’ll be able to return to my water voyage tomorrow. The only delay I foresee now is waiting for a thimble berry scone to come out of the oven.

redrockwaterfall

Waterfalls emerge from the red rock walls of the Keewanaw waterway.

 

Stephen is past the halfway point of this summer’s expedition, the southern shore of Lake Superior. Three hundred and fifty six miles and one month lie behind him; at least two hundred and fifty miles to come.

 

View from the campsite on Sleeping Bay, the western shore of the Keewanau Peninsula.

View from the campsite on Sleeping Bay, the western shore of the Keewanaw Peninsula.

 

There is a convergence at Big Bay this weekend, about thirty miles north of Marquette, Michigan. Stephen’s sister Pamela and brother-in-law Dave have arrived from Madison, Wisconsin. I will drive north from Petoskey after work tomorrow. We are meeting our favorite paddler to share stories and gather photos, to ply him with food and love.