Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thank you all!

First of all, thank you all for your support, thoughts, and prayers. We really felt looked after out on the big lake. Unfortunately, due to unexpected circumstances, Dana is no longer able to continue on with the journey.

It is too unsafe for me to attempt the rest on my own, however, I am not completely bowing out yet. I am giving myself a week to find another partner, and if all works out we'll finish the rest of the fundraiser. If I am unable to find someone else in the near future, I too will have no choice other than to abort the trip.

Regardless, what we experienced out there and the people we encountered were something more than words. Hopefully we encouraged some of you and others to donate blood, as well as reminded you of the uniquely beautiful area surrounding the Great Lakes region and that we need to protect and take care of it.

Thank you, Sean

Inspiration Point

On our 8th day of paddling we made it to Ludington State Park, but not before stopping at the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. This gorgeous 112 foot lighthouse is one of Michigan's oldest and most well preserved lighthouses. It is now part or the Ludington State Park and is operated by the Big Sable Lightkeepers Association.

Once inside we chatted with volunteers care givers and even interviewed with one of the local radio stations. We took the stairs up the tower to witness a remarkable view of the dunes and water from a birds perspective. After visiting and lunch we were headed for the park. Once we arrive at the park we pulled our kayaks a a small hill and carried them a short distance to our sight. Luckily for us it was right next to the camp hosts sight and took really good care of us. Not even within 5 minutes of getting there Mrs. Willick offered us sandwiches and soda, followed by pie.

After eating and setting up camp I took a hike with M. Willick around the grounds while taking in the beauty and breathtaking views. The next morning I drove to town with our new friends and walked through the park and bought some food. Later on Mr. and Mrs. Willick and I took a hike past the dunes and river. We climbed a ridge that overlooked Lake Hamal and in some parts you could see Lake MI too. We reached an undisclosed point were the Willicks had a family bench. The spot was named "Inspiration Point" and let me say that I was honored and inspired to have the privilege of seeing the view from their point.

Later we had a delicious Dutch oven meal and socialized over a warm bonfire.

Thank you Willicks for your care and passion!

I can't see a thing!

The day of paddling towards Manistee brought more rain and fog. The fog was especially thick when we were about two miles from the pier head. It rolled in so thick that before long we couldn't see a thing and had a hard time seeing each other. So, we hooked up to turn on our strobes and checked the GPS to turn and head to shore. Once we reached the shoreline we paddled South again until we approached the break wall. At this point the wind was strong from the NW and the waves were smashing into the wall and violently rushing back out. We struggled to paddle into the harbor. At times the waves from the wall and the waves from the lake would collide and we were in the middle of it causing our boats to shoot up and splash back down. The visibility was poor and our sense of sound was altered tremendously by the wind and splashing water in our faces. There was nothing to do, but to keep paddling on. We knew that relief would be on the other side of the break wall. Finally, we made it and took a rest.

Then, we paddled through the river to the "Shipwatch Marina" where we would stow our boats for the evening. We checked our messages and called our friend Luke Allen to pick us up. We also called Dave Yarnell from the papers to come and interview us. He showed up right after Luke and asked us all sorts of questions. After a photo of all three of us we were on our way to the Allen's, but not before picking up two orders of the best stromboli ever!

We gorged ourselves once we arrived at Luke's. Just as we were finishing his parents came home. We introduced ourselves, chatted for a bit, and decided to take a tour around their property. It was a pleasant walk with lots of laughs, sunshine, and great scenery. The Allen's fed us well and took good care of us. The shower was rejuvenating and the sleep was refreshing.

The next morning, after breakfast, we headed back to the marina and finished our interview with Dave. After goodbyes we paddled on. Dave met us at the pier to shoot pictures and videos of us leaving.

Thank you Allen's for your hospitality and great company!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lake Magic

We left Frankfort on our way to Manistee, but when we pushed off it was evident that it would not be an extremely long paddling day unless the conditions of heavy rain and moderate winds subsided. As we lost sight of the pier head in Frankfurt the view in front of us grew. The view was of lush green hills and patches of light fog that climbed over the hills, reminding me of Hawaii.

We paddles on through the rain and when it came to s standstill we pulled over to rest for a bit and reenergize. Coincidentally, Dana sat down and noticed a mysterious piece of wood. He lifted it up and underneath found a geochaching box that was labeled "Shipwreck Marquette 1856." Inside we found a few fun items and a book that Dana signed. After a few "proof" photos we loaded up and paddles into Arcarida.

We entered the pier channel with strong easterly winds and heavy rain. Once in the harbor we browsed for a good place to land and when we noticed an "open flag" hanging from the marina we headed over. Upon entering the building we noticed a group of people inside laughing, "we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you" they said. I guess it would have been amusing to see two rat soaked kayakers pull up to the boat landing looking like lost puppies. We introduced ourselves and shared our story. Then we chatted a bit and harbor master Mike mentioned that he and his friend Vink had a Maine Lobster Fishing Boat that they just pulled in from Frankfurt and asked us if we would like to chirsten her for the evening. We were pleased to stay aboard, dry and out of the cold. They also gave us free usage of the yacht club's private facilities...including hot showers. It was awesome and couldn't have come at a better time.

Once we unloaded the gear into our home for the evening we walked a mile into town on the lookout for a restaurant. We found the Big Apple Bar and Grill and ate shrimp and burgers. After talking with a few locals and giving ourselves time for the food to digest we skipped across the street for ice cream. It had stopped raining for the walk back and we ate our ice cream in peace. On our walk back Dana mentioned his understanding of what we received from the friendly Arcadia folks. His uncle is an avid hiker and hikes the Appalachian ever summer. He says that when people receive unexpected kindness and support from others they call it "Trail Magic." Call it answered prayers, call it magic, I know it couldn't have come at a better time. After warm showers and relaxing we went to bed.

The next morning we thanked the fellows for their hospitality and chatted a bit over a cup of coffee. Then we were off.

Thank you Mark and Vink!

We're baaaack!

After a pleasant drive with Dana's mom and aunt Bernie we landed ourselves back at where we left off. After a warmer nights sleep we packed up and headed into our home on the lake. It felt good-right-to get back in the water. Even though we paddled into a strong head wind for the first couple of miles the sun was shining and who could be deterred by the beauty that surrounded us in the form of massive sand dunes as far as the eye could see on one side and fresh, blue water, in expanse, on the other side.

When we turned and paddled south we received a helpful NW wind which made paddling much more enjoyable. Once we reached the edge of the Platte Bay we contemplated shooting across rather than paddling in. We discussed the circumstances and listened to the weather before we made the decision to go for it. Since we had a tail wind we would be assisted by waves and swells all the way there. Once we were few miles from shore we started getting waves from the East and northwest which combined to create unpredictable but interesting spouts. There is no telling how big or small one will be, but they do have they do have the potential to significantly throw you off balance and possibly cause a capsize. Other than having to perform a few strong high braces we were relatively not impacted. The really interesting thing was that as we paddle further away from shore we began experiencing patterns of waves in about every fourth set of three that would generate large swells. The large swells would sometime engulf your body from the neck-down. When they approached and "swallowed" you, it would stop you dead in your tracks and we had to just try not to fight it and allow the water to roll of of us in order to resume paddling. When you're eight miles from shore and this happens you become a little frightened, but eventually you get used to it, expect it, and hope it doesn't cause a capsize.

Once we made it to the other side we ate a lunch of pop tarts, jerky, and crackers. After a 10 minute siesta we headed back out. Pushing off turned out to be a challenge as we were on the receiving end of those NW waves. Paddling off shore included getting blasted by strong, cold waves and trying to maintain balance was a challenge. We made it off and paddled the rest of the day along the shoreline. Along the way we passed a beautiful lighthouse, sand cliffs so steep that I think I kinked my neck from trying to look at the top of them, and dark forests. Our stopping point for the evening was Frankfort. Where we met up with friend Jen Elliott and her family. They took us in and made a delicious full meal. After eating we visited and told stories. Then it was lights out. In the morning we decided to stay with the Elliotts for another day because the rain and the wind were heavy. So we did what all people like to do on rainy days-we watched movies...and ate ice cream, of course.

Thank you Elliotts! It was lots of fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Umm.... Gale Force!

After gallivanting through Fishtown and Glen Arbor, with Martin, Dana and I thought we would give 25 knot winds and 35 knot gusts a shot. Once we got back to our camp we dressed and loaded the boats. Pushing off seamed to be quite a challenge as it took us multiple attempts before we were successful. As we paddled out it soon dawned on us that we were not going to make it very far in the strong headwinds blowing us backwards. We pushed on for about a half hour. Realizing that we only went two hundred yards and every muscle in our bodies hurt, we decided to turn around to set up camp for the evening and listen to the weather report.

The forecast was calling for gale force winds lasting through Tuesday. Since Dana is in a wedding on Saturday and his mom planned on coming to get us on Wednesday, we figured- why sit on the beach for two days when we can't paddle anyway? So Dana called and asked his mom to come and get us. Sunday morning, she and Uncle Jim showed up to greet us just as we pulled our kayaks up from the beach. We unloaded everything and strapped the kayaks to the top of Dana's vehicle. We were on our way and out from the grip of the cold, windy, lake.

Come to find out when we got stuck on the beach because of the winds we were in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. One of the rangers Approached us Sunday morning and asked us what we were doing. We informed him of our cause and why we were stuck on the beach. He proceeded to educate us that all campers must comply with the regulations of entering the park through designated areas and that they must also purchase a short tern or seasonal pass. In addition, intended campers must use designated camping areas only and may not pitch tents just anywhere. So chatting with the friendly ranger turned out to be rather informative and we just wanted to share that with you so that you may all avoid expensive penalties.

I will meet with the Chippewa County Red Cross Board on Thursday and will also try to set up media spots for the following weeks. This is also a good time for us to ditch our unused gear and grab the stuff we forgot. Sunday, May 24th is when we will begin again, and the weather is predicted to reach average temps for this time of year by the end of the week : )

Stay tuned...


Kamikaze birds (day 8)

Today, we made it off of Leelenau State Park and paddled 24 miles to the far end of Good Harbor Bay. Along the way we paddled through Cathead Bay and by ancient steep cliffs. The conditions were breezy with an unusual SE wind, but even more unusual were the white bodied, black headed, and tropical orange beaked birds that flew above us. All of us sudden they would turn vertical, towards the water, and dive straight in. It was really neat to watch them dive bomb from 40 feet, I am assuming, for small fish. These birds were all along the cost and I have not seen them before, nor do I know what they are, but they were exciting to watch!

Something even greater transpired as we were setting up camp. I pulled out my phone to listen to my messages and there was one from our friend Martin Korson from the Chippewa County Rotary. He said that he was going to be in the area and that we could stay at his parents house if we would like. I hurriedly called him back to let him know that we would gladly accept the invitation and we gave him coordinates to where we were at. He found us with his GPS and we we on our way to a warm meal and shelter for the evening.

Once we got to his parents we met his family and chatted as they prepared a hot meal. Over dinner we told stories, laughed, and ate lots of tasty food. Martin's dad even broke out there very own, home-grown pickles, onions, and potatoes that were out of this world juicy delicious. Afterwards we slept in the spare room in the luxury of warmth.

In the morning we woke up to rain and wind outside. So I turned on the weather radio and confirmed our doubts about paddling as the forecast called for gail force warnings until late the next day-Sunday. So we took our time moving along and ate a warm hearty breakfast with Martin and his brother Tim. Afterwards, Martin took us to historic and quain "Fishtown" in Leeland. Then we made our way to Glen Arbor to check out the situation of the waves and wind and it didn't look so good, but we were going to give it a shot anyway. So Martin took us back to the lakeshore.

Thank you Korson family for your welcoming us into your home and for treating us so well! We really needed it!