Legal Spouses on a Twilight Paddle

Huron River, Gallup Park

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26 June 2015

Ellen and I have been together for 15 years. In that time, we have never lived in a state that allowed same-sex marriage for more than a weekend, and, over the years, for one reason or another, we found it necessary to take several different measures to achieve a status that approximated legal marriage–we declared domestic partnership when one of us needed to be covered by the other’s insurance; we saw a lawyer to make up wills and give one another power of attorney for medical incidents; we visited Canada and got married there when doing so would afford us federal recognition in the U.S.

But this twilight paddle, our 114th paddle according to the record kept on this blog, was the first paddle we took as legal spouses in the state of Michigan. You know what? It was totally normal.

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Meloo Kuin Miehet

Huron River, Portage Lake to Delhi Metropark

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22 June 2015

That title means “paddling like men” in Finnish, and that translation is thanks to our friend Mika, Finnish national, my climbing partner, and all-around good guy. Ellen and I brought him along for this 11 mile paddle, and when we realized that we had paddled half our trip distance in a little over an hour, Mika told us how our progress would have been described in Finland in the olden days.

We were moving fast because the Midwest is threatened with strong storms today–to be honest, I have never paddled so fast in my entire life. We covered 11 miles in 2 hours 10 minutes. For God’s sake, we were paddling at a pace of under 12 minutes a mile!  I don’t run that fast! (To be fair, I don’t run fast at all, but still….)  We held an average speed of over 5 mph, but we had a top speed of nearly 8.5 mph.

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We did beat the weather, easily and by a long shot. But because we were paddling like men, we didn’t have time to take many pictures. We did see turtles ahoy–so, so many turtles!–herons, an osprey, and a little baby bird which was more adorable than you would think possible because it had a red mohawk. Ellen actually did manage to get this picture of this bird while she was going 75 mph down the river.

And on this trip, we paddled 1.5 miles of the Huron we had never been on before–the little stretch between Portage Lake and Hudson Mills Metropark.  This also meant we ran the rapids at Husdon Mills–new whitewater for us, and pulled off without incident.  That’s a nice way to mark the fact that this was our 75th paddle on the lovely Huron River, and it was also our Solstice Trip, taken one day late so we could bring Mika along with us.

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Standing Up

Vandercook Lake

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16 June 2015

For this paddle, Ellen and I paid a visit to our friend Kathy at Quiet World Sports in Jackson. From her spot on Vandercook Lake, we set out on a couple of outstanding paddle boards we rented from her and did a stretch of the lake and some backwaters, too. Recent beyond-belief-style rains meant that a few docks on the lake were under water and the lake itself, when it gave way to little connector waterways like the one Ellen’s paddling through in the photo above, pushed with the current of the Grand River of which it’s a part.

I’ve only been on a paddle board twice now, but in my experience, if you are on one and anywhere near other human beings, every single one of them will ask you, “how hard is that?” It’s not as hard as it looks; once you get your paddle legs, even if motor boats make a little wake, it’s easy to stay upright–we haven’t ever fallen off.

 

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Half Paddle, Half Sail

Huron River, Argo Park to Gallup Park

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10 June 2015

Ellen and I waited out the threat of some morning showers and took this paddle right around noon, when Ann Arbor was visited by gale-force winds gusting up to 18 mph.  The good news is that the wind was at our backs the whole trip, so between that and the high water, we positively zipped along.

The only animals we saw on the river were waterfowl and could fly, so they were ok with the wind, too.  We added a new bird to our collection this paddle, the lovely snow goose.  It was hanging out with a batch of Canada geese and initially looked like an undersized swan.

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By the time we got to Gallup Park the winds had quieted a bit and it turned hotter than it’s been so far this year. Pulling up to the boat launch, we admired this cool new canoe sculpture featured there.  All in all, a great paddle.

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Fast, High, and Deserted

Huron River, Lower Huron Metropark to Willow Metropark

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3 June 2015

After approximately 700 days of rain, the weather finally turned around and provided a nice day for Ellen and me to do this paddle of 10 1/2 miles.  I had watched the Huron River flow meter decrease over a number of days by 500 cfs–that’s a lot for this river! When we got on it yesterday, the river was reading about 1000 cfs–still pretty high.

IMG_2949IMG_2947IMG_2948The river definitely felt like it was in “flush” mode–it was seriously clipping along, for real, and at the tight turns that are plentiful on this stretch of river, the current had built up wide whirlpools swirling with dandelion cotton that made half-hearted efforts to drag you their way.  On the straightaway, the current’s efforts were considerably less half-hearted, and you did well to look sharp to the river. While the river was certainly still swollen, you could see evidence on the foliage along the bank that very recently, the water had been at least two feet higher.

But there still weren’t many places in the river–exposed rocks or logs and such–for animals to sun themselves, which meant if we saw turtles, they were mostly on the river banks, and the only herons we saw were on the wing.  We saw not much other wildlife except like a thousand orioles; the river was lousy with orioles for some reason. (Ellen: “What does an oriole sound like?” Me: “Cal Ripken.” <click here>) No geese or ducks, not even a sighting of the Muscovy duck, beloved to us, that keeps watch over this piece of the river. We figure all the animals must have been washed down to the dam and are going to work their way back up when the water calms down.

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A String of Good Luck, Until It Wasn’t

Huron River, Delhi Metropark to Obama Bridge

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30 May 2015

Ellen and I set out with the direct goal of squeezing this quick paddle in before a long day of rain started. As we drove out to the river under sunny skies, I said, “you know, I don’t think it’ll start raining ‘til we’re back home.” Minutes later, we very nearly hit a deer—like we came within five feet of it. Luckily Ellen saw it and braked hard, and the deer saw us and swerved hard back into the forest. That was the first bit of good luck.

Then, Ellen was driving to our take-out point (she drops me off at the put-in with the boats, then drives out to the take-out point, leaves the car there, and bikes back to me), she saw a cyclist fall off Huron River Drive into the river. This isn’t as nuts as it sounds—this road runs, in some spots, literally a couple feet from the river. Ellen, who got out to lend a hand and direct traffic, said the whole thing was very dramatic—the cyclist clawed her way up the steepish bank with seaweed sticking out of her bike helmet, and she had to fish her bike out of the river—but the cyclist was fine, even rode away from the accident.

So, hearing the long version of this as we paddled, I was near the long, overhanging branch of a tree on the bank when a giant “PLOP” sounded next to me in the river, and I looked over to see a chipmunk paddling hell for leather towards the bank. The poor thing had fallen out of a tree—and narrowly missed falling onto me or into my boat, which wouldn’t have been fun. This is when it hit me—we had all kinds of good luck around us!

When, a little later in the paddle, I turned around to see dark, ominous clouds coming at us out of the west, I thought, “do your best, Ma Nature—we have luck on our side today!” But we didn’t—we got totally soaked to the bone in a pretty serious downpour the last 500 yards or so of our paddle. Then we loaded the boats back onto the car in the same rain. As soon as we got in the car? Sun came out again.

But it was a fun trip all the same! We saw an osprey on the wing, herons aplenty, turtles, a wild turkey, a fawn with an apparent allergy problem (repeated sneezing on the bank), and the mama deer apparently sticking her tongue out at us. Maybe that deer tongue was a curse, and that was when our luck ran out.

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Red Rover

Huron River, Hudson Mills to Dexter Metropark

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22 May 2015

After days of tropical weather in Michigan, a cold front blew through earlier this week and brought us something more like Midwestern spring weather. It was in the glory of that brisk air and bright sunshine that Ellen and I made this paddle of about 6 miles. The weather wasn’t the only thing that was spring-like–I wish I had perfected my scratch ‘n’ sniff blog technology because the air was alive with honeysuckle, lilac, and a million other flowery scents.  It was like walking though the perfume section of a department store, only no salesladies.

But don’t let that make you think we were alone on the river–we saw a few more paddlers, and a glut of wildlife.  Aside from the usual suspects, we spied all the animals captured on film by Ellen below (snapping turtles GALORE) and some who wouldn’t pose for us, including a million tadpoles and a deer.

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If you have read this far, one reason why might be because you wonder what my title is all about.  We miss our paddling buddy Doug, who is out of town, and are trying to call him home with our title.

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