Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 5


Northeast Harbor

Saturday was supposed to be our third kayaking day and we headed off toward Somes Sound in the morning.

The automotive gods had a different idea. I had replaced all the Subaru brakes just before the trip and they were still wearing in just a bit, but we started to hear some scraping from the right side of the car. A mile or so later, things started to feel a bit rough and I pulled over to the side of the road. It had seemed that the sound was coming from the front so I checked there first and everything seemed fine. The rear wheel, however, was a different story. Two of the lug nuts had blown off, shearing the studs with them and the other three were loose. We caught them just in time – I’m still not sure how we managed to get 1500 miles through Canada before having issues. I tightened the remaining three and we made our way to the nearest auto store (a NAPA about 8 miles away) for some emergency repairs in their parking lot. Fortunately, I had a small set of tools with us and NAPA had the necessary parts to complete a fix: three studs, three lug nuts and one hacksaw (because I goofed seating one of the studs). A few hours later we were back in business, but plans for the day were slightly delayed.

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Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 4



After two days of kayaking we decided to do a bit of hiking. We went back to the Park Loop and found our way to the Precipice Trail. This was reportedly the most strenuous climb and involved a lot of scrambling and a good number of ladders and ledges. I’m not much for heights, but I like the climbing part so I figured I’d see how far I got before deciding we needed to turn back. We ended up making it to the top – nothing quite so bad as the walking along a ridge style of Angel’s Landing. We descended via the Orange & Black Trail which was the recommended route to avoid a lot of crossing paths and having to navigate around hikers coming up.

Overall the trail wasn’t too bad, but to my entertainment, we crossed paths a few times with a couple who apparently were not in agreement about either how far the hike was going to be or how concerned one of them was about the climbing.  There were several stages of a somewhat stressful debate observed over the course of the hike.

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Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 3



Having scoped out Bar Harbor (8) before, we had an idea of where to park and where to get on the water. We drove down in the morning a bit before high tide and put the kayaks in the water. We had looked up some of the kayak tour routes earlier and somewhat followed one of the paths around Bar Island and near two Porcupine islands. The most common attraction on this paddle was the abundance of buoys connected to lobster traps.

The surprise sighting of the day was a pod of harbor porpoises. We knew they were something to keep any eye out for, but didn’t really expect to have any sightings. We were just over half way to Burnt Porcupine Island having slowed a bit to give a lobster boat some room when a pod of harbor porpoises started surfacing near us. Over the next 10-20 minutes we probably saw and heard a few dozen porpoises surfacing around us. They were mostly pretty quick just coming up to breathe and submerging again, but they did seem to be curious about us and cruising around the area. Janet was able to capture one on video (it’s small, roughly mid screen, right at the end) over her shoulder and got a few pictures, I didn’t have the waterproof camera and was less willing to take chances with my phone on the water. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 2



With a little planning the night before, we decided to go to the Pretty Marsh area of the island and paddle up the West side. I think we combined two different versions of directions and ended up targeting a launch somewhat North of the marsh itself (10). This lead to some confusion early on as we didn’t seem to be ‘leaving’ the harbor where we expected to start, but instead were just heading up the cost. Fortunately, this wasn’t a navigation test – we were just going to paddle up the coast a bit and then return. Also, there may have been some help from a phone GPS in determining what we were actually doing. Continue reading

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.

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.

This buoy marked the East side of the shipping channel. We paddled up this east side and crossed at the buoys.
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 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 GPS Track

GPS tracklog overlay.

The above was made at GPS Visualizer. It makes some very nice plots, and has a lot of configuration options. The only downside is that because it’s all done through a web interface, there’s a lot of slow iterations to find the settings that work. In that sense, it would be nice to have a piece of software which would go grab the maps and allow more real time tweaking of all the input parameters.

Lest you not be bothered to note the key, the track is colorized by heading (read / pink heading North, green heading South). I had colorized it by speed, but we cruised right between 3 and 3.5mph for almost the entire time we were moving, so that didn’t show much. You can see in the middle that we passed on the upwind side of the lighthouse each time.

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.


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.

Mini Trip, No Pictures

Every other Wednesday throughout the summer a group called GRASP – Grand Rapids Area Sport Paddlers – “organizes” an evening paddle. Yesterday was the first time that the opportunity and motivation coincided and I decided to attend one. Josh, Megan and Claudia were also there, so we had our own mini-contingency of paddlers within the larger group.

The official paddle started at M21 and the Grand River and went to Knapp and the Grand River from 7:00 until whenever people got done. My unofficial portion started at Knapp and the Grand at 5:30 and went up stream to the M21 crossing. It was probably the most athletic paddle I’ve ever done, and it didn’t help that it was 85 degrees out.

On with my actual notes of the paddle. I’m guessing the Grand River has about 1mph current. This 1mph current carries the water through piles of farmland, so by the time it’s flowing past Ada it’s kind of pretty disgusting. It wasn’t quite so bad at the Knapp crossing, so I avoided a bit of the nast by not putting in at M21.

As for the paddle itself – there’s a lot of variety in the boats that people show up in. In sea kayaks we were definitely among the fastest of the group. I think I hit the landing third after having looped behind everyone else at the launch and paddling with minimal effort the entire way down stream. Without the paddle up stream, the excursion would have been more of a float than a paddle.

Moral of the story – I probably won’t bother going back to the Grand. The upper Thornapple is cleaner, has a nicer launch and almost as convenient when coming from work.