Friday, June 24, 2011

Two sweet expeditions

If you think I'm going to write about Freya and her South America deal or Chris Duff on his way from Scotland to Iceland via rowboat you will be disappointed. This post is about a couple of more accessible adventures undertaken by a couple of midwestern guys. Coincidentally, the last I heard both were windbound at about the same place on the Keweenaw peninsula with 6'-8' seas out of the northeast, the same winds that deposited most of the wrecks along that jagged coast over the years.

Bryan Hansel lives in Grand Marais, MN and is a photographer, blogger, kayaker, and pretty much anything else needed to get by in a area that's breathtakingly beautiful but not necessarily an employment mecca. Bryan had a few weeks available and decided to paddle all the way up the Michigan shore of Lake Huron, across the Straits of Mackinac, up the St Mary's river and into Superior. From there he paddled the shipwreck coast past Grand Marais (site of the upcoming GLSKS) and Pictured Rocks, past Marquette, and up the Keweenaw to Copper Harbor. The last I heard he was waiting out the northeast blow and it's accompanying 6-8 footers and plans on taking the ferry to Isle Royale and then paddle home to Grand Marais, MN.

Some of you might remember my friend Rick from the ISS kayak symposium a couple years ago. Rick is from northern Illinois and is in the process of paddling around Lake Superior in week long chunks, two weeks per year. He spoke to the symposium crowd in 2009 at Stage North about paddling to Washburn from Superior, WI.,through the Apostles and around Madeline Island to get to Thompson's West End Park, site of the kayak fun. I got a text from him and his son in law earlier this week when they were windbound in a primitive camp on Jacob's Creek just east of Eagle River, MN. The first night they bushwhacked to M 28 and got a lift to a bible camp where they had supper. A second night forced a call to an Eagle River bar, asking if there was a patron who could serve as their taxi service. No true Yooper is going to let a couple guys sit in their tent during a gale with no beer, especially if it results in free beer for them, and the guys were promptly picked up and enjoyed beers and supper in a warm tavern.

The big expeditions are fun to read about and fun to follow in these days of connectivity and Twitter mania. They show us what is possible if a human being has the will and the skills to hammer out these epic paddles. But the fact is that 99 44/100% of us aren't going to even get past the stage of thinking about a journey like that. Bryan and Ricks adventures on the other hand, make me think about why I couldn't do something like that. The main obstacle right now is time and committments, but that's what makes Rick's plan attractive, the ability to break it down into chunks and knock off one or two a year. When I don't have to worry about my vocation any more and can devote full bore focus on my avocations, that paddle for a month scheme sounds pretty inviting. I am sure I'm not the only one out there in the blogosphere with those kinds of thoughts racing around in their heads.

We have a group up on Sand Island this weekend, a kind of 'graduation' for those that took the day long SKOAC beginning sea kayak class earlier this month. For a lot of those folks the crossing from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island will be the most exciting paddle so far in their paddling lives. The Sand Island sea caves and lighthouse will be frosting on the cake. As we become more experienced we need more challenges to get that same 'wow factor' but its still out there and does not need to be consumed in gigantic doses. Best of luck to our two Great Lakes kayak adventurers. I hope to have a adult beverage or two with both of you before this summer is history.


Ginger Travis said...

Journeys . . .
There's a guy, Bob Simpson, in North Carolina who has an old wooden trawler and writes for the Raleigh newspaper. He recently wrote this wonderful line: "Boats are the swans of our dreams . . .."

Bryan said...

Thanks for the mention, Dave! My trip was one of the best kayaking trips that I've ever taken. Super fun despite all the bad weather. I'm at the point where I feel my skills are the perfect match for long distance trips on the Great Lakes. It's a really fun place to be.

mikehenebry said...

When was the photo of the Grand Marais Light taken with the big waves?

mikehenebry said...

I went on the the Bark Bay tour at the Inland Sea SKS and encountered the roughest conditions that I have paddles because the guides decided to leave the safety of the slough and paddle the open bay. However, I leared a lot and did my first surf landing complete with a bout of side surfing and bracing into the wave. Great fun! You can view photos on my Picasa and Facebook pages.

Mike Henebry

DaveO said...

Glad to do it Bryan, I'd love to jump on a trip like that at some point. Mike, good to meet you on the dunes tour. The shot is from the GLSKS in 2009. All tours and classes cancelled and the three choices for all were Wind and Waves I, II, or III.