Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Return to Copper Harbor
After a break of a few years we returned to Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw for the Memorial Day weekend. The VoiceOfReason and I met MrEngineerGear and his lady friend the RockClimbingOboist for a weekend of whatever R&R the weather and the lake offered us. Kayaks, mountain bikes, hiking boots, and a worthy beer and wine selection were all alive and in the potential mix. As it turned out, kayaking was the best choice and Gitchee Gumee showed us many faces over the three days.
Ms. RCO is a new paddler but a veteran outdoors person. Wet exits and rudimentary paddle stroke training had been done at Long Lake and we would be watching Gitchee Gumee carefully in this land of the hundred mile fetch in 3 directions. In addition to experienced companions she had an ace in the hole, the venerable QCC kayak. The fit was not perfect but the QCC is nearly impossible to tip over and tracks like a railroad train. RonO, MrEngineerGear and I were at Long Lake last year when I felt that I needed to roll the QCC. Those two stood on shore and Ron told MrEG, "Just watch; he'll hit the first one then get lazy and miss the second one". Which of course, is exactly what happened, to the tune of much raucous laughter on shore. Our Keweenaw padding went fine however and everyone was well within their comfort zone for 98% of the trip. The 2% may have occured when having too much fun amongst the dragons teeth rock outcroppings in 1-3 footers, resulting in an invigorating adrenaline rush.
With a new paddler my brain always reverts back to my first few times on Superior. Depending on her mood she can be intimidating. We saw three distinct moods last weekend. Saturday was as flat as I've seen the lake on the Keweenaw shore, so flat that we located the City of St Joseph, a pulp hauling vessel that sunk in 1942 after her rudder malfunctioned. The VOR commented that we hadn't been out on those rocky reefs before and I pointed out that on previous trips the wind and waves would have caused our chances of joining the City of St Joseph to increase considerably. Sunday gave us a 10-15mph west wind and seas building to 1-3'. I'm sure we all remember the first time that 3 footer lifted up our stern and caused our kayak to yaw about 75 degrees. I had warned MsRCO and she did quite nicely in QCC. We had crossed Copper Harbor earlier and the VoiceOfReason, once again cementing her blog name, suggested that maybe this was time to end MsRCO's testing of her Avocet and get her back in the QCC. Moving from the BMW 320i to the '89 Cadillac Coupe de Ville was a great idea and our downwind leg went nicely. Normally on Lake Superior the wind builds and then begins to drop in the late afternoon. Gitchee Gumee must have took pity on us though, because after lunch at around 2pm it dropped to 7-8mph and just a bit of 'walleye chop' for waves.
It was the perfect progression for learning and becoming confident on the lake. Back at our '40's vintage cabin we kicked off happy hour and grilled steaks. Meanwhile Copper Harbor was hoppin'. Sam from the Keweenaw Adventure Company had organized the IMBA Great Lakes mountain bike summit with a bunch of national attendees and was running shuttles and tours up to the trailhead at the spectacular CCC constructed Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. I strolled down to the general store (no chain's of any kind north of Calumet) and saw a bunch of insipid six packs of beer lined up on the floor. The owner said he was clearing them out and adding more micros. Just when I didn't think it could get any better, he informed me that the abandoned building across the street would soon house a brewpub! I was now officially giddy. Kayak and mountain bike in the summer, Isle Royale embarkation point, plenty of hunting in the fall, groomed classic ski trails in the winter as well as the best glade skiing east of the Rockies at Mt Bohemia, new brewpub, a disdain for Budmiller lite.....we may need to relocate. At dusk the sun came out, which sent us scurrying up Brockway Mountain to catch the sun setting over Lake Superior and distant Isle Royale as well as a nice view of Copper Harbor. It was a great 3 days that could have easily been two weeks. We can't wait to return.