Birthday Paddle

 Huron River, Hudson Mills to Dexter Metropark
19 February 2017
         Mother Nature really turned it out for my birthday, giving me two days of glorious, sunny weather in the 60s.  Ellen and I took the hint and inaugurated the paddling year with this 6-mile trip.  It was wonderful!  Except for the glorious weather, there were no signs of spring yet; trees and plants were winter brown or gray. But Nature’s winter outfit is lovely in its own right, and it uses a palette that appeals to the heart of this lifetime Midwesterner.
         We shared the river with far more many boats than usual–everyone wanted to get a piece of the weather–but very few animals. We saw a couple big fish darting around the crystal clear river beneath us, a ton of oriole nests (no orioles), and  a handful of geese, but not much else, except a deer swimming across the river right in front of us! Yeah, that sort of made everyone else’s absence seem excusable.
         This was also the first time I’ve been able to paddle on my birthday in my home state, a nice treat.
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November Treat

Huron River, Lower Huron Metropark to Willow Metropark


18 November 2016

Ellen and I and our paddling buddy Doug had actually planned a shorter trip for yesterday, but it was 70–70 degrees! in Michigan, in November!–so we took the treat Mother Nature was giving us and instead did this 10 1/2 mile paddle on our local river.  What a lovely day it was!  It was consistently sunny and warm, and though there was a pretty stiff breeze, it wasn’t unpleasant; sometimes it would push us along, other times it would shake loose a mess of leaves from the tree, and I would feel like I was in the leaf equivalent of a snow globe.  The river was low, so we didn’t have much help from the current, but we didn’t mind–it just gave us more time to soak in the beauty.  We were more or less alone on the river–we saw just one other other boat, and not much wildlife to speak of, save for a lone blue heron, a very alarmed kingfisher, and some woodpeckers.

We did have a sort of epic takeout situation that required us to use every bit of agility each of us had, so I told myself I’d put a note here: next time we do this paddle, use the Big Bend takeout!  Mostly because there’s an actual takeout spot there

Have a look at what the  weather has in store for us today, below.  Glad we got out yesterday.


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All the Gear Got Wet

Grand River, Culver Road to Reed Road


15 October 2016

This was our put-in--look at that water clip along!

This was our put-in–look at that water clip along!

Yesterday was a lovely, crisp fall morning, and Ellen and I headed over to Jackson to paddle with our pal Kat, who spends her summers running her outstanding business Quiet World Sports. We don’t get to paddle with Kat enough, and you can tell because our paddling gear is still in decent shape. The only time it really gets used rigorously is when we go paddling with Kat.

This is a good thing—Kat’s a paddler’s paddler. When we paddle with her, we paddle water that only infrequently sees boat traffic. We bushwhack (see evidence in the slideshow below), getting bark in our hair, spiders on our necks, and bushels of twigs and leaves in our boats. We do seal launches, scooting our boats bow-first into the water and hoping not to tip. We use all the paddling strokes we know in her hairpin-curvy part of the river, which is close to the headwaters and has amazing flow. We get out of our boats into knee-high water to climb over downed trees and drag our boats over them behind us, avoiding poison ivy vines as thick as my wrist. We discover beaver dams and shoot the mini-rapids they create. In other words, SUPER FUN. And not our standard fare, so a treat!

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Our trip was a little over 6 miles, and we saw no other paddlers. But we did see approximately five thousand ducks, usually in packs of ten, and usually startled out of their minds by us; about the same amount of giant, giant carp, which also bolted upon our arrival in their part of the river; one fleeing heron; and one very cold-looking turtle huddled in some grass on a bank.

Oh, also, getting back into my boat at one of the places we had to climb over a log, I fell over and out of my boat, sort of half of an eskimo roll. It wasn’t pleasant, and when it happened, I lost my favorite hoodie to the river, but I dried fast. I think I’ll consider that hoodie less a loss than an offering.

P.S. So rarely do I get to use the “scary statues” tag on this blog, I gotta throw in this deeply unsettling fireplug that guards over the spot where we put our boats in.


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Morning Mist

Huron River, Argo Park to Gallup Park


2 October 2016

Ellen and I snuck out early this morning for a quick paddle through town, and what a treat it was.  Fall is just starting to show in the leaves, and the cool morning air made the river give up a little steam that hung in the morning sun.  After days and days of rain, the river was high–so high, its banks weren’t visible in most places, and we clipped along with the fast current pushing us. We were the only boats out that early, though we saw many herons taking their morning wades (Ellen saw one catch its breakfast) and two deer frolicking in someone’s backyard.  Last forever, fall.  Please!

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Fall Color Preview

Huron River, Island Lake State Park to Placeway Picnic Area


11 September 2016

After months of offensive, record-breaking heat, and then a week of back-to-school with slightly lower but still really, OMG, are you kidding me heat, it’s starting to feel like we’ve taken a turn towards fall.  Look at the colors in the photo above!  More to come.

Ellen and I made this paddle of a little over 5 miles early this morning, and we were off the river before it even hit 70 (not that it’s getting much over 70 out today). We were the only paddlers on this stretch of the river, but we saw a variety of water birds looking for breakfast like this handsome egret here.


And through the crystal-clear water, we spied a whole bunch of turtles swimming along the river bed, because the river was so much warmer than the air this morning.   Fall’s coming!

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For the Birds

Huron River, around the Obama and Foster Bridges


14 August 2016

Let me not mince my words, readers: in a summer already oppressively hot, this past week has been over-the-top, ridiculously hot with a side of extreme humidity.  We finally did get some rain–about 1/2 inch fell over the course of two days, according to our backyard rain gauge–but it’s not really been enough to offset the months of so little rain that have depleted the river.

But Ellen and I really miss the river this summer, which has been too hot and too dry to allow much paddling. So when we saw it got a little boost from the rain, we made it a point to get out before Mother Nature turned up the gas on the temps for the day.  The cloud show was beautiful, as you can see above, and the river flora was decked out with a lovely peachy-pinky flower we don’t remember seeing before.  And we were out there with a nice assortment of birds, which Ellen got nice pics of: a family of swans, a green heron, and an egret.

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Huron River, around the Obama and Foster Bridges


1 July 2016

Friends, it has been a bad year for paddling in southeast Michigan. We’ve had such wicked hot spells that parts of my grass are burned–they crunch when I walk on them.  And rain? We’ve had virtually none for a month, likely a little longer.

Even in these circumstances, the river trickles along, but it really is just a trickle; before we went out for this evening paddle last night, I checked the online river gauge.  It read 110 CFS.  Now, likely, you’re asking, “what the heck is a CFS?” That’s cubic feet per second, which is the unit of measurement the USGS uses to monitor river flow.  Still, you’re probably thinking, “well, what the heck do know about what the normal flow rate is for the Huron River?” Let me break it down for you: typically, in July, the river is at three or four times that, and even then, the river seems low.  In May of this year, the river was at 1000, and it has gone steadily down since then. Even 1000 isn’t crazy fast; one particularly wet spring a couple years ago, Ellen and I waited for the river to calm down to 1500 CFS before we would get on it. So, 110? That’s seriously low.  I think have more water pressure than the river does right now.

So we haven’t been paddling a lot in so far this summer, and here’s hoping for some rain soon.  But sometimes a low river is a still river, and a river is always good.  Last night during our sunset paddle, the river reflected back the adjacent forest with amazing clarity–would you even know it was a reflection without the ripples caused by my oarstroke?

Even the low river is a good river; but let’s be honest:  we really need some rain.

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