Nature’s First Green: Still Mostly Brown

Huron River, Argo Park to Gallup Park

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27 April 2016

At long last, after a winter that wasn’t so harsh weather-wise but that came with its own special trials for our house, Ellen and I finally got out for our first paddle of the year. Spring has sprung all over Ann Arbor, making it hard to do something as simple as walk down a sidewalk without wanting to quote the start of Robert Frost’s great springtime poem: “Nature’s first green is gold.” On the river, though, as my title suggests, we’re mostly still waiting for the green, a fact most evident if you compare the photo above to the one in the post immediately previous, taken on Christmas Day: except for some baby leaves on the lower trees, they’re pretty similar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, nature was mostly brown based on what we could see from our boats, but there were places where it was, though still not green, surprisingly hot pink.

As awesome a concept as nature sporting punk colors is, I’d just like to say: come on, spring! Shake a leg!

We’re weren’t the only paddlers on our stretch of the river, but our company was scant–only three other boats.  But we had tons of excellent sightings, starting with one before we even got on the river, when Ellen spied most excellent pet-sitter Sue negotiating rush hour traffic near our put-in spot! Then we saw the menagerie of animals Ellen caught on film below, including a duck trying to blend into the landscape and a righteous mink action shot.

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A Merry Paddle

Huron River, Argo Park to Gallup Park

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25 December 2015

Late December in Michigan, sunny, 48 degrees, and no wind to speak of? Heck yes we’re merry!  We did this short, in-town paddle and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather immensely.  And we weren’t the only ones with the idea to get outside today; the path along the river was chock-full of runners, bikers, dog-walkers, and, remarkably, a cat-walker.  We even saw another paddler on the river!

We are leaving the boat racks on the car, just in case the nice weather holds. . . .

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Paddle Eve

Huron River, between the train bridges around Honey Creek

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24 December 2015

It got up to a sunny 46 degrees today in our corner of Michigan, and yeah, okay, sure, the wind was gusting up to 10 mph, but so what?  It was sunny and nearly 50! We found our way to the river for a quick paddle.

Though there were a ton of cyclists on Huron River Drive, we were the only humans on the river, though we had the excellent company of a beaver, a soaring bald eagle, and a viaduct monster–and Ellen managed to get photos of all of them!

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The weather forecast promises highs in the upper 40s again tomorrow, more sun, and light, variable winds–so we look forward to the holiday that will follow Paddle Eve for us–Paddle Day!

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Finding the Edge

Huron River, Island Lake State Park to Placeway Picnic Area

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29 November 2015

Ellen and I and our paddling pal Doug thought that, if the temperature were above 40 after Thanksgiving, we’d squeeze in this short paddle of just over 5 miles on a scenic, meandering part of the Huron River. It’s a treat to paddle in November in Michigan, and really, 40 isn’t so cold, is it?

IMG_3504The weather forecast for today promised temperatures just over 40, so we made our plans. Let me emphatically tell you it was not over 40. As we headed out to the river around 1 p.m., all temperature gauges read 37 or so, and it got colder as we paddled. Consistently, there was frost on the river grass, and ice was forming on the more still edges of the river. Intrigued, Doug decided to use his kayak as an ice ram.  It’s not everyone who has rammed river ice with a kayak, but Doug has–and Ellen and I got to witness it. It was thicker than it looked, and it made an unsettling iceberg-ish sound when he plowed through it. I thought “Titanic!” but didn’t say so aloud; likely Ellen and Doug didn’t have this same idea. But that’s no surprise: I’m the one in charge of thinking up catastrophes.

IMG_3501As we paddled along, in the distance we could hear guns at the nearby firing range, and there was at least one deer hunter out there with us, plus scads of mountain bikers and two other paddlers way off in the trees taking a break, but there were not many birds nor beasts on the river. We saw this kingfisher who made up for being the only one there by being extra fancy.

At some point when it seemed like it was getting colder and we had been out on the river long enough, Doug says, “Did someone make a wrong turn and miss the end of the river?” And I, slow on the uptake, go: “Us?!”  And then we paddle faster for a while, panicking a little, wondering where the takeout is.  We did not make a wrong turn; we soon got there. It’s not the coldest paddle we’ve ever been on (for that paddle, click here), but it was cold–maybe the edge of what we’d paddle in again in terms of low temperatures. Still, it was a great paddle, so we decided that it deserves the blog tag of epic journey!

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Thankful

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26 November 2015

You what’s something to be thankful about? A 60 degree day at the end of November in Michigan!  Recent good weather melted the 8 inches of snow dumped by a winter storm last weekend, so Ellen and I took advantage of the nice day and headed to Argo Pond, a little bump of wider water on our local river, the Huron, for a late afternoon paddle. It was unbelievably nice out–especially after having so much snow around for a week. The sun was low in the sky but shining, and a little wind kicked up some small rolling waves and did ridiculously dramatic and beautiful things with the clouds–I mean really, can you believe this photo?

IMG_3490We shared the river with one other paddler we saw and a welter of water fowl, including this lone, cute American Coot who has hanging out with some wood ducks.  We don’t see American Coots a lot, but when we do, I always think of this song, which seems sort of appropriate, given the holiday?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Gina and Ellen on the river!

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Why So Lonesome, Kalamazoo River?

Kalamazoo River, Mayor’s Riverfront Park to Plainwell

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9 October 2015

On this moody, cool fall day Ellen and I headed over to the Kalamazoo River with our pal Doug to make this long paddle of just over 15 ½ miles (which converted into just over 4 ½ hours on the river) between Kalamazoo and Plainwell. It’s a paddle Ellen and I had done once before several years ago, and the truth is, not just this stretch of river but much of the Kalamazoo feels a little like a well-kept secret: we have never run into another paddler while we were on it, and only twice have we even seen other boats (in both cases, fisherman passing us just as we put in on Kalamazoo and on their way to the dam above Kalamazoo). So—that gets me to my title: why so lonesome, Kalamazoo River?

One answer is that the Kalamazoo, at least in the stretch right by the city of Kalamazoo, is far more industrial than recreational: trains crank around a busy train yard right across the river from where we put in at Mayor’s Riverfront Park; factories line the river on and off for several miles; the water reclamation plant sprays reclaimed water in to the river at a wide spot; and paddling through the town of Parchment, you always get tell-tale whiffs of their paper plant. (Happily, I report that this is the first time since the oil spill that I saw no visible evidence of oil in the water.) This all might turn some people off, but take a look at the pictures below—to me, the industry along this river makes it interesting in ways that few other rivers we paddle are.

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So if industry is keeping folks off the river, I think they’re missing some compelling scenery. But another reason the river might not often get paddled is because there aren’t a lot of places to stop. If you put your boats in the water at Kalamazoo, as we did, the first reasonable take-out is at D Avenue, about 7 miles downstream. Then, really, the next takeout is Plainwell, over 8 miles later. That’s a pretty big commitment.

We can always be counted on to visit the Kalamazoo River, and if the truth be known, we are happy to have the river to ourselves—though we like to see more wildlife than we did during this paddle when every animal seemed to stay tucked into its warm hidey hole. But after a whole day of cloudy skies, blindingly bright sunshine broke out the last mile or so of our paddle—and we were paddling due west into Plainwell, so we ended our day by paddling off into the sunset.

PS See below: Nessie?

nessie

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Just a Wee Paddle

Huron River, between the train bridges around Honey Creek

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4 October 2015

Ellen and I have–alas!–been pulled away from paddling by the current of back-to-school. To get out and enjoy the moody fall day, and to give ourselves an excuse to put the boat racks back on the car in anticipation of a bigger trip later this week, we did this quick paddle-around.  The fall colors are not yet at their peak, but they are most certainly on their way–check out the palette above.  A lovely paddle, over too soon.

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