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.
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.
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.
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.
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.