Tetons & Yellowstone – Travel Days

In mid April, Janet and I took a week long road trip out to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and The Badlands.  This was about as early in the season as you would want to do this trip – many of the trails were still closed and most still had snow on them, particularly those in the Tetons.  Fortunately there are a lot of trails, so we had plenty of hikes available for our few days in the park.

The trip started out with a bit of excitement when at about 9:30 at night, with Janet asking how the packing was going, I realized that we had planned on going the week before and including Memorial Day and not the week after.  There had originally been talk of doing two weeks, which was then abbreviated.  We had discussed doing before or after and we agreed on before, but I noted after on the calendar.  Oops.

So, I got to Chicago early Saturday morning and we transferred stuff, and headed out later Saturday morning.  The goal for the first day was to make it to Sidney, NB, which we did.  I’ve been through the flat expanse of Nebraska before… it really didn’t *require* a second visit.  There was a Walmart and a Cabela’s just off the freeway in Sidney, so that was convenient for food and last minute supplies.

The only major event, other than logging wildlife along the route, was the discovery that Sierra Trading Post has a brick and mortar store – an outlet in Cheyenne, WY.  Being a connoisseur of great deals on possibly fine stuff, we had to stop.  We both picked up a few apparel items, some bear bells (so they can find us easier), a can of bear spray, and maybe a few other odds and ends that caught our attention.

We probably spent too much time at Sierra Trading Post, but that was OK since the day’s goal was just to get to the Tetons and we didn’t really expect to arrive in time to hike anything.  We saw two moose just off the side of the road on the drive in – sadly they were the only moose sightings of the trip.  We arrived just before sunset, around 8pm, just early enough to pitch the tent before dark.  Many of the camp sites, a good chunk of the loop at the Jenny Lake campground, were still snow-covered.  There were two left when we got there, one had snow on part of the site and one had a snow bank getting into the site.  We chose the one which we could use the Subaru to plow through.

It gets cold in the Tetons in April, be warned.  15 degree down sleeping bags coupled with sleeping pads come in handy.  I suspect it got just below freezing, but we were comfy.

San Francisco Day 4 – Yosemite Valley

We stayed in Yosemite for a second night (probably because I’m cheap and the camping didn’t cost much). Day two, after packing up, we went to find the Cathedral Lakes.  It was about a 45 minute drive to get there, all inside the park, which is of course, huge.  We stopped off at a side-lake on the way, though I can’t remember the name any longer.  And, just now, upon looking up the link, I realize that we completely failed to hike the extra .5 miles to Upper Cathedral Lake… seems like the plural in the hike name would have been a hint.  Oh well, we’ll have to go back.

Lower Cathedral Lake

Between the drive and the hike, this took most of the day.  We got back to the visitor center area just before sunset, shot a few pictures and stopped in the store for souvenirs before heading out.

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San Francisco Day 3 – Yosemite Valley

So, San Francisco Day 3, happened quite a way out of San Francisco in Yosemite Valley.  We drove out to the North, across some other large bridges which are not nearly as famous as the Golden Gate.  We drove the three or four hours out to Yosemite National Park – getting there sometime after they had more or less closed down for the day.  We had reserved a camp site, so we just proceeded there to setup camp for the night.

Half Dome
The view of Half Dome from the valley overlook point.

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West Trip Day 8 & 9 – The Narrows, Zion National Park

Day 8 was The Narrows day 1.  The hike almost ended before it began when we parked in the wrong place and walked up to the wrong bus stop.  The shuttle driver called my phone, but I had turned it off and left it in the car given the expectation that it was going to be useless in the Narrows anyway.  Luckily, he stuck around long enough to find us and we were on our way.   Given that he bothered to wait around for us, and was friendly and informative on our way up to the trail head, I’ll say that this guy was the exception to the previously mentioned rule that the people working at Zion Rock Guides were oafs.  It was about an hour and a half drive through twisty bumpy roads to the entry into the Narrows.  Once we got there, our driver basically pointed us in the general direction we needed to go and said good luck since there wasn’t much more he could do.  We used the bathroom and got ready to head out just as another van, presumably from the other outfitter showed up with eight or so more people.

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Grand Marais Kayaking 2012

Here I sit, freshly returned from Grand Marais this year.  Josh and I headed up to do some paddling in the U.P. but we weren’t officially attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Symposium. We did get to hang out with some people though, and as a result may be going up to instruct next year.

We left Thursday late morning and got there in the early evening. It was a bit late to paddle, so we drove down to Sable Falls to wander and shoot some pictures. It turns out, Doug was leading a trip up the West side of Grand Island on Thursday, so we could have joined up with that, had we gotten in Wednesday night.

Sable Falls
Sable Falls, with a stupid fallen birch tree
Sable Falls
The run-out of Sable Falls and the dunes next to it.

Friday, we joined up with Doug who was leading a trip from Whitefish Point to a couple shipwrecks and the shipwreck museum. This was a pretty leisurely trip. After some GPS mishaps, we were able to employ modern technology to download GPS apps on our phones and found one of the two, the Saturn. I sat right on the coordinates of the second wreck but saw nothing. The map said it was in 10 feet of water, but at the given coordinates, it was only about 3 feet deep.

Saturn shipwreck
One decent picture of a portion of the Saturn. Josh went swimming and dove down, so he may have some better ones.
Lighthouse at Whitefish Point
The lighthouse from the water to the north

Since we had driven about two hours to get to the paddle, we also took the time to stop at Tahquamenon Falls on the return trip. It wasn’t really part of the day’s plan, but we were basically there already. The lower falls are the smaller, and there are two sides. Without renting a boat, you can really only get close to the west side.

Miners Castle
Miners Castle from the overlook above. It used to have two turrets, but one collapsed a few years ago.

So, we weren’t officially symposium bound, but it was a fun trip just to go up and do some moderate paddles, hang out with fun people (some of whom were new acquaintances to Josh and me), and have a few beers at the Lake Superior Brewing Company.

As a side note, I see that it’s been more than year since I posted anything here. That’s hardly something we can call a blog. I’ll have to make an archery related post sometime since that’s been my winter spring obsession. I’m not really sure how to turn it into a story though – my hobbies are not necessarily interesting to those who are not me.

Lime Island Kayaking

I’m not sure of the exact date at the moment, but sometime in mid July, Todd and Linda had organized a kayaking trip to Lime Island in the UP / Canada. The plan was to get to the launch around 5:30 on Friday evening and head over to the Island where there were government cabins for camping. On Saturday, we’d paddle around the Island with a stop at St. Joseph Island in Ontario. On Sunday, paddle back and head home.

Janet and I drove up to get to the launch site in Raber, MI at 5:00 Friday afternoon. We got there a bit early – which is odd for us, so we decided to turn around to go back to some rumored general store that had coffee.

We never did find that stupid store… Instead, during a moment of brilliance trying to read a sign behind us, I managed to drive the Subaru into the worlds largest ditch, where it stayed for the next few hours.

We walked back down to the nearest establishment – a bar / restaurant on the corner and called the nearest towing service. While waiting, we got to meet the owner of the property on which my car was now located. She gave Janet a tour of the farm and offered us her four wheeler in case we needed to go anywhere.

The group headed off to the island around 7:00 – 7:30 after Todd helped move our kayaks over to the launch site just in case the Subaru wasn’t driveable. Ends up, the car was fine other than some scratches on the wheels and a bend safety ring on the trailer hitch from the wrecker. Janet and I headed over shortly after 8:00

We got there just a bit before dark, and I insisted on making a fire to cook, because I believe that cooking on a fire is essential for a camping trip.

On the island there are a set of government owned cabins in which we resided for the weekend. They were minimalist, but nice. I think I even have some pictures of them and the general “camping” landscape, but apparently I did not set them aside to be posted here.

Saturday, as planned, we circumnavigated Lime Island – with a little jaunt over to St. Joseph’s Island in Canada. While on St. Joseph’s we toured the remains of the fort there. Very importantly, they also had Reese’s PB ice cream sandwiches.

Chimney
This was the most prominent remainder of the fort on St. Joseph's, but there was no explanation of what it was for since it was detached from everything else.

Toward the end of the day, most of the group wanted to head back to the cabins to make dinner. I took a small group out to the light house North of Lime Island – which is really a glorified mansion at this point.

Bouy
This buoy marked the East side of the shipping channel. We paddled up this east side and crossed at the buoys.
Lighthouse
The lighthouse itself - like I said, it's now a glorified mansion.

Sunday, we took a hike across the island in the morning, then headed back to the mainland. On the trip back, we got to see a Coast Guard ship in the channel.

Coast Guard
Todd with the Coast Guard in the background.
Kayak group crossing
The group on the return to the mainland
Janet
Janet testing the water temperature.

When we got back, we were “greeted” by the boarder patrol who breezed through to make sure we all looked American. Some of the group gathered at the restaurant/bar, but we opted to head back since it was about a five hour drive to Grand Rapids and another three to Chicago.


Subaru with kayaks
Packed up for the return trip - the side that didn't have mud packed wheels.

North Manitou Kayaking

Last weekend I had a chance to add a new island to the kayaking repertoire. Doug, Callum and I had been to South Manitou a few years back. This time, Todd and Linda were making a quick trip to the North island.

The trip was fist planned a week earlier, but weather wasn’t cooperating. On the second attempt, the weather appeared to be holding, so we headed up to the area on Friday night. Crashed at the farm in Empire, mainly to avoid having to pack up, paddle in the dark then pitch a camp somewhere along the point.

Saturday morning we got up kind of early to head out to the island. Stopped at DH Day, filed a float plan, got car passes and a back country permit. Stopped in Glen Arbor for breakfast and were unpacking at the beach when I had the brilliant idea to lock my keys in the car. Since there were no objections, I went ahead with the plan. That ended up causing about an hour delay in getting on the water.

Conveniently, I’m still within the three year / 36k mile window on the Subaru, so with that I get free roadside assistance. I called Subaru, Subaru found a tow service who they then contracted to come let me back into my car.

Launching

Morning drama aside, we got on the water in what was a beautifully clear day with maybe 10kt winds from the West / Northwest. We cruised three miles out to the point before turning to cross the channel. Finding the point is kind of battle between logic and instinct. Instinctively, every outcropping of land we went around seemed like it might be the proper departure from the mainland. Logically, you just have to keep paddling until the lighthouse and the island are squarely to your side. At that point, unless there is obvious land jutting out in front of you, you’re probably starting to turn and move away from the target.

Also, since I failed to mention, there is a lighthouse in the channel. Island & lighthouse – this was a two-for-one trip.

Mainland Shoreline

This is what much of the mainland shoreline looked like, with Linda for scale.

The crossing itself is about seven miles with the lighthouse roughly in the middle. For the most part, the waves stayed under 1ft. and the wind wasn’t anything to horrible.

Manitou Passage Lighthouse Manitou Passage Lighthouse

Perspective is a neat thing, but don’t let it fool you – those dunes are huge.

Manitou Passage Lighthouse

This is the closest clear shot I have of the lighthouse. It’s not really in the best condition, especially noting the poop covered solar panels on the second level.

Landing on North Manitou

After the initial landing on the island, we paddled up the West coast a ways. There was a very nice campsite up there (as Todd and Linda has speculated) but because of the winds and waves, the water near it was quite churned up. Too bad, because watching the sunset from a tent on a bluff would have been kinda cool. It would have also added three miles to Sunday’s return trip, so given the options, we headed back to the South end of the island.

Paddling Snake

It rained overnight and this guy took shelter under my kayak. And then I chased it down for a picture.

We didn’t waste much time in the morning, because the best weather was slated to be early on in the day. It was overcast and raining in places – we got to see South Manitou consumed by rainclouds while on our return trip. The weather held well enough, and we only got sprinkled on briefly.

Return Trip Clouds

These clouds looked more concerning than they really were – there was no lightning. I found it neat how you could see how they were sitting on a pocket of lower air.

Dune Trail

Back on the mainland – I think this was the tallest and it was definitely the steepest bluff we saw. Obviously some daring people have climbed it.

Sugarloaf Mountain

As we were getting back to the launch site I grabbed this picture of Sugarloaf. Too bad they’re no longer open for skiing.

Slippery Rock Creek

The weekend of June 10th and 11th, Jeff, Oren and I loaded into Oren’s Range Rover and headed down to Slippery Rock PA for some white water action.  We were joined there by Todd, Linda, Kathleen and Denis.

The weather upon arrival was a heavy rain, which was a joy to set up tents in.  It also meant that most of my travel clothes was damp.  Jeff borrowed a tent from Doug, which developed something of a standing puddle.  I did get some rain in my tent, but not enough to get me wet.  It did however make me appreciate a fast pitching tent and a sleeping pad, which kept me out of the little bit of water that did enter.

On Saturday, the rain had cleared and the weather was quite nice.  We put in at about 11 and ran the full length of Slippery Rock Creek.  Slippery Rock has three general sections, the upper which is a stretch of fairly active class 2 whitewater;  the mad mile – which is a mile long section of pretty much straight class 3; and the lower, which is a less active stretch of class 2.

The upper and lower were of course all fine and good.  The middle as usual for me ended up a little dicey.  I don’t know the names of all the rapids, but I know we made it through runway and airport just fine.  I got tangled up in triple-drop (similar to last year), and ended up swimming briefly.  Oren and Todd helped unpin then rescue my boat and I got back on the water.  I probably shouldn’t have… I was still far too tense for the swim to handle much and as a result, swam again almost immediately.  At that point, I called it good and hiked the little remaining distance to the end of that section.

Oren did loan me his camera and I got to take some nice pictures of the rest of the group.  I should also mention that Kathleen had a very nice – although unintentional – stunt at airport.  It’s basically a big wave in the middle of the river, and when she went to punch through, didn’t have enough speed and got sucked back in.  Her stern got pulled under, pu

That night was nicer – no rain.  We went into Slippery Rock for some food and beers.  Jeff elaborated a bit to me on the joys of flirting, a concept which is completely lost on me.

Sunday, we split into two groups.  The guys did the upper and mile again and Kathleen and Linda did the lower.  It complexified shuttling a bit, but otherwise was a solid plan.

Again, the upper was fine, but I got flipped at triple-drop.  This time, I have a better recollection of what led up to the events.  I started far too low exiting an eddy and thus was not set up for catching the next one in sequence.  I hit the very bottom of the eddy and got flipped.  Rolled, stayed up, but was getting driven into a mid-river rock.  When I hit that, I got dumped again, but I was pretty much bailing before getting all the way over.  With my position and the rock, an attempt at a roll would have simply left my boat pinned with me upside down underneath.  As it happened, the boat and I were momentarily pinned, but I was able to shove of and swim downstream.  Afterward Todd confirmed that my intuition was right and that would have been a very bad place to attempt rolling.

Todd encouraged me to get back in at that point, but given the events of the previous day and my knowing that I would take at least half an hour to unwind and be relaxed enough to paddle again, I opted to walk out the rest of the rapids.  The taking half an hour to get relaxed enough to paddle again concerns me some because it really has the potential to cause problems in a non-walkable situation and also in sea kayaking.  Of course, half an hour is only an estimate on my part.