Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Grand Day Out

This last week has been a classic Indian Summer.  Cool crisp nights and mornings, followed by gloriously sunny, clear blue sky days.  The only thing that is really lacking is autumn color.  Oh, there are some trees that are spectacular, but we are still over 50% green and many of the colors are dull, with lots of tans and browns.  And plenty of trees are just dropping their leaves.  No, this is not a fall to be noted for its color.

But, glorious weather is glorious weather.  It was a perfect day for a paddle and on Sunday GREAT had its final public paddle of the season.  We paddled the Grand River north of Jackson, putting in just off Route 127, south of Leslie, and did a six+ mile stretch to Dixon Road, where we took out at a DNR access.

Getting to the put-in was a bit of a challenge, unless one knows the area.  I don't, so I first ended up on a dead end road on the opposite side of the river.  I could see 'em, I could talk to them, but I couldn't get to them!  Then I ended up just off the highway (127) - with a fence between me and the rest of the group!  Finally, my personal "GPS unit" hopped in the car and we drove up to Leslie and back down the correct road (thanks, Kat)!

This trip turned out to be one of the smaller groups we took out this season - about 40 people.

As always, folks have to sign in for boats and PFDs, and sign a waiver.

There was plenty of help at the sign-in table.

Compared to many sites where we have launched, this one was great.  It has an easy slope down to the water and the river is shallow right along the edge - I barely got a foot wet, thanks to Jack's launching prowess.

 Before we hit the river, Don, our trip leader, made a few announcements, mostly about the condition of the river.  It was going to be a smooth paddle, but there would be a lot of debris to weave around.  The clearing crew had spent 32 hours on the river cutting through downed trees and limbs, opening up the way just enough for single boats to pass through.  We were advised.

I was borrowing a kayak from my friend Kat.  My Spitfire is still not repaired from the last trip.  The repair kit has arrived, but I'm hesitant to do it myself, even though I've watched the video.  I've gotten as far as flaking off the cracked "paint" and sanding it, but when it comes to mixing and applying the gel coat, I'm a-feared I'll get it wrong!  So...here I am testing out the borrowed boat.  It was a snug fit, but once I was in, it was comfortable.

This trip I was one of the two middle boats, so after about half the group launched, I put in.  As you can see, the launch was nice and easy.

And here are the first two bridges - Route 127.  We went under quite a number of bridges on this trip.

And even more trees!

The river is wide enough here that folks with few paddle skills won't have to worry about bouncing off the banks.  However, there is plenty of debris to dodge, so knowing how to steer and make some quick turns is a real plus!

This lovely old sycamore made a picturesque overpass.  I was going too fast to get a good shot, so as I was cruising under, I just held up the camera, snapped a shot and ducked to avoid hitting the branch, hoping for the best.

The start of this video is a bit rocky (I was trying to balance the camera between the top of my PFD and my chin), but it shows the loveliness of the river and what a great paddle it is.

This is a Youth Haven Ranch Nature Preserve along the left side of the River.  Public or private land?  No idea, but they've built a really nice bridge there.  

We also passed this little cabin. Actually, we passed a number of houses - only a few of which fell into the McMansion category. 

I thought this might've been one of those garden gazing balls that got washed downstream, but apparently it's a bowling ball!  We suspect Jim stuck it there while out clearing the river.  This next weekend there is a clean-up being held along this stretch of the river (f you want to help, contact GREAT at 517 416-4234), and we suspect he put it here so it would be collected when the crews come through on Saturday.

We saw three turtles:  one wee painted, a map, and this fella, which I'm not sure from this blurry photo if it is a painted or a map.  Darn boat was moving to swiftly to get a good shot.

We were also greeted by this black sharpei.

There are plenty of open stretches where one can just drift along without having to dodge downed trees and limbs.  Beware, however, of logs hidden just beneath the water's surface.  They leave no clue that they are there...and I think I found most of them.

Just past this lovely wooden bridge...

was our take-out point.  Jack was waiting for us to arrive.  

Somehow, despite all the boats that passed me, I ended up much closer to the front of the group than the middle.  So, I had plenty of opportunity to get photos of the rest of the group as they approached the finish line.  This was quite a change for me, since I am usually the sweep boat, bringing up the rear.

There was plenty of help to get all boats up the bank.

 We were on the river maybe 2.5 hours, give or take, depending where in the group one was paddling.  We had no swimmers on this trip - everyone negotiated the obstacle course without incident.

After all the boats were loaded onto trailers, cars, and trucks, many went to the Roadhouse for an early dinner and drinks.

It was a perfect October day.


  1. Thanks for the river ride. This brings back memories of my Girl Scout days, when we took overnight trips on the St. Joseph River (southern MI), camping along the way. We didn't always have such glorious weather, though, and sometimes had to bed down in very damp sleeping bags. But what fun!

  2. What an absolute beautiful day for a quiet ride down the river! I could listen to the sound of paddle and river water all day. Thanks for letting those of us who are no where near that river live vicariously through you. I am going to have to save that video for stressful days because as I watched it, it just melted everything that was bothering me. What a grand couple of hours you must have had!