Lake Michigan - August 26 - September 5, 2014
August 26, 2014
After thanking our hostess again, we hit the road for our first portage of the day. There was a lot of fog this morning. Everything was very quiet. We launched the boat in the municipal marina and then paddled on Betsie Lake towards Frankfurt. There were many fishermen on the lake this morning. They all appeared,one after the other, through the thick fog. On Lake Michigan we could see far enough to keep on going, however, we paddled close to the shore all morning. Lake Michigan has been kind today. It was a beautiful day. There were a few more waves in the afternoon, but nothing to bother about. We arrived at Orchard Beach State Park in the afternoon. This park, located in the city of Manistee, is perched on a cliff. We arrived on its beach, and had to go up a stairway to the park. Once the reservation was made for the night, we paddled back north to stop at a city park, located at the top of the cliff. We emptied the canoe, and then filled it again for a portage on the road. We portaged 1.5km up the hill. It was a hard end to the day, especially after our portage in the morning and paddling 45km, but it was worth it. The sunset was outstanding and the view from the cliff is superb.
Correction to July 24: Tom Murray should read Tom Williams. Our apologies to Mr. Williams.
August 27, 2014
We started the day with another portage, but it was easier than yesterday. We were going downhill this time. We had a perfect paddling morning ... a slight breeze at our back and very little wave action. There was a swell but not too much. Although we did get soaked during our launch. Then, mid-morning, the wind picked up and began to change direction. We agreed to make the most out of it since the wind was still blowing at our back and made our progress easier. In addition, the waves were now too strong to stop on the beach for a break without risking filling the canoe or capsizing. So, no landing before our final destination. We should have taken a real dinner (even if we stayed in the canoe). Instead, we lived on snacks, not to lose too much time and enjoy the conditions before they deteriorated too much. At Big Sable Point, we saw a super lighthouse, but we do not have a picture unfortunately ... we had to keep paddling. Then, less than 3km after passing the point, there was the mouth of the Big Sandy River. This is where we entered to make the reservation to camp at Lundington State Park.
The Lundington State Park is beautiful and very large. Probably due to a lack of understanding we were assigned to the furtherest campsite on the lake ... but, on the wrong lake, Hamlin Lake. So we paddled the Big Sable River and emptied our canoe at the bottom of the dam. Then we portaged our gear for almost another kilometre. Fortunately, our arrival was not late. It took us almost three hours from the time we booked, until the time we arrived at our site. However, park staff were very helpful. There was even a lady who took some of our equipment, to lighten the canoe, and made the portage easier.
August 28, 2014
We took a different approach this morning. The wheels that we use to portage are in bad shape. We decided to launch our canoe on Hamlin Lake with all the material in it and paddle to the dam. There we emptied the canoe, portaged all the equipment again and filled our canoe at the bottom of the dam. It was 10:00am when we first dipped our paddles into Lake Michigan. Fortunately, we only had 30km to get to Penwater (Charles Mears State Park). Interesting fact: Michigan State prohibits camping on their beaches. The eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan is covered with white sand and it seems a pity not to enjoy this beauty at night. For this reason we had to plan our days based on park locations.
The distance between Lundington and Penwater went quickly. We paddled very well today with favourable conditions. At some point after lunch, there was no wind or waves ... very rare on Lake Michigan! In Penwater we landed on a busy beach, full of people. We were greeted by a large extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles. They were very interested in our adventure and invited us to have dinner with them at 18:30. They were having a pig roast.
We made another portage on the beach, then onto the campground streets. After setting up our camp and having a shower, we went to join the group for dinner. Mark and Sue made us feel like part of their family. The pork was delicious. We also sang the "German" version of Jingle Bells (which is available on our Facebook page). These families (Lanser and Lanning) have been coming here for over 30 years, every summer, during the long Labor Day weekend. There will be 50 of them this weekend.
Thank you all for your warmth and generosity. It is truly inspiring to see such beautiful relationships between each of your family members. It is rare these days to see so much unity and love shared together by a family.
August 29, 2014
We stayed on site today. It was raining this morning and the wind was strong. By the afternoon the conditions were good, but it would have taken us too much time to pack up our camp, portage our equipment, fill our canoe and launch. We would not find many campsites available that late in the day. We did some administration tasks and ran errands. The small town of Pentwater is beautiful. It is perfect for a family trip, the beach is gorgeous and there's a candy store in town (which did not go unnoticed by Pierre!).
That afternoon we received a second invitation to dine with the Lanser & Lanning families. On the menu: Steak! We've had a good dose of protein in two days :). The dinner was delicious! We met new family members and talked for a while around the fire. We can't say enough how pleasant it was to share moments with this incredible family. We learned that they all get together at least four times a year. That is really rare these days.
Mike and Mark thought about and designed a solution for our wheels. We are so excited as we have a big problem with the current system. Mike and Jane live in Holland, and they invited us to stay at their home while we fix our wheels and decide on a new system. We cannot believe how generous they are and how concerned that we have good equipment. A huge thank you to you all!
August 30, 2014
Forced day off. Weather conditions do not allow us to paddle. This morning there were white caps and the wind was strong at times. In the afternoon we had a period of intensive rain with heavy winds. Fortunately, the sun came out right on time for dinner, but everything is wet.
August 31, 2014
Our alarm woke us at 5:00 a.m. It was very dark and we needed to use our headlamps. At 7:30 we were on the water. We wanted to make the most of the nice conditions in the morning to move forward. Our goal was Muskegon, located more than 60km away.
Lake Michigan, at least on the east coast, is made almost exclusively out of sand. We have never seen so much sand and over such a long distance. It's really impressive!There are stairs all over the hills on the coastline to allow access to the white sandy beaches. At Silver Lake State Park we saw sand dunes spanning just over 4km. With a maximum depth of 2 km, this park offers a perfect playground for 4 wheelers. We saw a lot of vehicles driving the dunes.
After the park we passed the Little Sable Point Lighthouse. We stopped around noon, for lunch, south of Stoney Lake then resumed paddling the final 32km. About 10 km after we started out, the weather conditions changed drastically and we had to revise our itinerary. We could see bad weather coming behind us and it was in fog and waves that we arrived at Meinert County Park. We spoke with a nice family, on the beach, who were vacationing there, Tim Alkema’s family. Shortly after starting the first part of the portage from the beach to the road, a very nice lady, Kara Koval, came to tell us that it did not make sense to portage our gear up to the campground ... she would help us. She got her car and we were able to put all our gear inside. There was only the canoe to carry on its wheels (which seized up during the portage). What a generous and spontaneous gesture! Kara comes here every summer to see her parents who have a trailer located on the first campsite. She knows the area very well and she did not want to see us work so hard. She came back later with homemade cookies, 2 fresh tomatoes, Kit Kat and Pringles. Kara,thank you very much!
As we were setting up our camp, our neighbours gave us some tasty burgers and vegetables. Delicious! A big thank you to the Ginn’s party. What a beautiful day it was filled with wonderful people!
September 1, 2014
There were already white caps by 7:30 am. The day pronounced itself as a day off. This indeed was the case! There was a lot of wind and we had a rain shower at lunch time. We learned that in Montague (located not far inland), there had been a heavy downpour of rain ... 2 inches of water in one hour.
At 9:10 am we were interviewed by The US Weather Channel via Skype. The interview went well. Luckily, Andy & Jessica, the managers at Meinert County Park, let us use their computer with their internet connection. A big thank you to you two! In addition, Andy recorded the interview on his TV. We were able to watch it.
Andy and Jessica also offered the cottage at the park for our use for free. Wow! That meant a lot to us. Thank you for your kindness and generosity! We stayed dry and could use all of the facilities, such as the washer and dryer. Just like being at home! What a joy! We took the opportunity to clean everything. After 90 days into in our expedition, it was time to spruce up.
In the afternoon, we met Kara's parents (Kara had helped us the day before). We talked quite a while and then Kara’s dad generously offered to drive us to get groceries. Thank you again for this opportunity!
We also spoke with Laurent, from Valleyfield (Quebec, Canada) who now lives in Michigan with his wife. It was really nice talking with you.
Then we met Jon & Rusty, two kayakers. We had a lot of fun sharing experiences. They do a lot of outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, skiing ... One of their favourite places to kayak is on Lake Superior. We also love Superior. We'll see them again tomorrow morning. They are going to paddle with us.
September 2, 2014
We got up at 6:20 this morning and did a last load of laundry. Around 8:50am, after saying goodbye to Laurent who came to see us on the beach, we left. We were accompanied by Jon & Rusty. We talked the whole time they were with us (up to White Fish Lake). We talked about the Mackenzie River. We will do this river at the end of our expedition. This is a must for all paddlers. We are hoping Jon and Rusty can accompany us. Thank you both for the beautiful morning and your company. It was really pleasant to share part of our day with real paddlers.
At 12:30 we arrived at Muskegon State Park. It was really hot!… we were looking for shade.
September 3, 2014
The sunrise was spectacular. There were fishermen everywhere in Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. Our departure from Muskegon State Park was done very easily ... the launch was without waves. The easiest launch so far (I think)! We paddled along the canal before continuing onto Lake Michigan. We met the ferry which goes between Muskegon (MI) and Milwaukee (WI) (the crossing takes only 2 ½ hours).
It was hot already this morning and remained so throughout the day. We had a beautiful morning for paddling, although before reaching our destination, the wind and the waves (sideways) began to increase. Fortunately, we did not have a long distance to go. We were going to meet Al and Lynn Deyoung in Spring Lake, north of Grand Haven. This charming and friendly couple have a house along the channel of the Grand River. The view is incredible! We had met them earlier in Penwater, when they invited us to stay at their home. They spent the Labor Day weekend at the campground with their children and grandchildren, after returning from two months in Alaska.
When we arrived on the beach we talked with people walking on the pier. We met Bob and then Leslie. It was very interesting. It took us almost 2 hours to portage the 400 meters from the pier to get to Al & Lynn’s house. When we arrived, Al warmly welcomed us (Lynn arrived later). We talked about many subjects and about their trip in Alaska. Exciting! We were invited to eat salmon with them and their friends Rosemary & Don. It was a very enjoyable evening. We had a lot of fun. Thank you again to everyone for sharing your hospitality.
September 4, 2014
Wow! This time, the weather forecast was really wrong. There was supposed to be a chance of rain overnight and light wind was expected this morning. We had to put extra anchors on our tent during the night because the wind was so strong, and this morning it was raining hard. We saw on Al & Lynn’s weather station winds gusting up to 40 mph. The waves were powerful. We spent much of the morning watching the storm from the house. The water came up over the fort and the house which was located at the end of the pier. Seeing these conditions and knowing that we needed to continue to get south, Al proposed to drive us to Holland. In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the wind still blew strong.
In the morning, we talked about Ellen, Al & Lynn’s daughter. We were very touched by her story and extremely saddened. Ellen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27. She was treated, but the type of cancer she had was very aggressive. It spread throughout her body. She struggled for 4 years and died at the age of 31. She would have been 33 this year. She had two young children. We are very sorry for their loss. It must not be easy to live with such grief.
We arrived at Mike & Jane Lanser’s home, late afternoon, in Holland. Mike, and his brother Mark, offered (when we had met at Penwater) to help us repair our wheels and find another solution for our portaging system. Both are engineers, like their father. After a thunderstorm with hail, Mike, Jane and their daughters (Ella, Faith, Celia and Trina) arrived. We all went out to eat (thank you again Mike & Jane), then came back to their home. We spent a very pleasant evening. The day had begun abruptly for them. A tree fell on their home. Fortunately, the damage is only material. We will help them clear the tree tomorrow.