Portage Lower Entry, MI to Houghton, MI: Daily miles 14.1, Total miles 1164.6

Last night while we were trying to fall asleep kids kept pulling up to the boat launch on dirt bikes. In the morning we discovdered that it was dumb frat kids untieing the fishing boats’ moorings. Both fishing boats were still mostly tied up (at least one rope holding them to the dock) and I’d like to think that our illegal camping at the boat launch provided an element of fear for the frat boys and saved the poor fishermen hours of wasted time fetching their loosed boats in the morning. We launched at around 8 am and paddled the 14 miles to Houghton by noon. It was all a bit anti-climactic, but it feels good to be home with no more commitment to the lake.

Crossing under the Houghton Lift Bridge, Finally done

Written on September 6th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Big Bay, MI to Portage Lower Entry, MI: Daily miles 47.1, Total miles 1150.1

We woke up to another beautiful day. Flat water, clear skies, warm weather, it’s what I had hoped for all summer. Paddling 47 miles in this weather was no problem, although it was not our original plan. We had only intended to paddle as far as the mouth of the Huron River today, but we got there around 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon and it was absolutely full of partying vacationers so we decided to make the jump for our beloved Keweenaw – HOME! We realized as we were about to paddle across that we had no maps with us and didn’t really know exactly where the Portage Canal was located on the almost invisible sliver of land on the horizon, so we paddled for land on the other side and figured we’d know it when we got there. The twelve mile open water crossing went well, aside from the fact that I forgot my sunglasses and couldn’t keep my eyes open for half of the paddle. Believe it or not it is surprisingly hard to paddle with your eyes closed, even after almost 1200 miles. We landed safely on the Keweenaw side of Keweenaw bay around 7 pm, both desperately needing to use the bathroom, and we had no clue which way to go to get to the canal. We ended up going south after drawing a mental map of the area and sure enough we were just over two miles north of the canal. Pulling up to White Sands and seeing the lighthouse that marked the beginning of the Portage was the number one highlight of my trip, it beat Pictured Rocks, it beat crossing into Canada, it beat getting to Ontonagon and thinking I could make it around the lake…we were finally home. I could have stopped right there and been happy, been done, but we both wanted to get to Houghton so we pushed on, not thinking about what a 60 mile day would mean. We stopped at the south entry boat launch for dinner as the sun set. Dinner was much needed and much deserved. After dinner we got back in our boats and paddled in the dark about a mile before we got to the main part of Portage Lake where things widen out and the vast expanses of marsh start. Wt this point we realize that with no maps and only limited light. paddling was useless. We turned around and went back to the boat launch to sleep. As much as I wanted to get home today, sleep felt good. I don’t know what we would have done if we had pulled into Chutes and Ladders anyway – we probably would have slept.

South Entry Portage Light

Written on September 5th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Marquette, MI to Big Bay, MI: Daily miles 31.1, Total miles 1103.4

We started today out of a warm bed with a week of rest behind us. Matt’s brother took us down to the lake early this morning and took some pictures of us as we paddled past Presque Isle. It’s nice to be on the water again with good weather and very few paddling days ahead of us. We paddled by Granot Loma today, one of the only developments on the lake that I would call breathtaking and it surely complimented and rivaled the landscape surrounding it. The water was super calm and our 31 miles went by almost effortlessly. We arrived in Big Bay long before sunset. We once again spent the evening hanging out on the beach before setting up our tent because we weren’t sure whether or not we were on private property. When we did set up our tent a couple and their poodle came down to greet us and inform us that we were on their property. We both got a bit concerned, but they assured us that we were very welcome to be there as long as we weren’t planning on having a big ol’ fire and leaving lots of trash. We are now going to bed with less than 70 miles of paddling left in our future – man it feels good!

Written on September 4th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

The week at home was comfortable and it was nice to see friends, but I couldn’t help but think of the last 100 miles of paddling we had yet to do. The first day we spent at home we mostly just got our house back in working order and I got my stuff ready for school. The next 4 days I spent in and out of classes, which were all a bit overwhelming after not really seeing people for 70 days. We headed to Marquette Thursday night so that we could be on the lake first thing Friday morning (I decided it would be best to take the day off school so that we could finish this thing in one weekend).

Written on August 28th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Shelter bay, MI to Marquette, MI: Daily miles 27.2, Total miles 1072.3

When we woke up the lake was glass calm so we got going pretty quickly. For the first time in weeks I was the first one packed up, in my boat, and ready to go. The morning was easy and we put away some serious miles fairly quickly. By the time we got to Shot Point I was absolutely starving and really had to go to the bathroom. Matt wanted to push on the the roadside parks that were about 2.5 miles up the way. We ended up getting into a fairly heated argument when I decided I could wait no longer and paddled in to shore without Matt. By the time we were done eating lunch things had mostly resolved themselves and we were able to paddle on in peace. From the last roadside park on 28 before Harvey we decided to just shoot across Marquette Bay to the break wall south of Presque Isle. We had joked about doing this 10 mile crossing a few times early on in our paddle planning thinking there was no way in hell we would ever attempt it, but then when it came time we were way too sick of paddling to even be concerned with the risks of just winging it. The crossing took us a little over two and a half hours, during which time the wind picked up to about 15-20 mph, the lake got a bit choppy and it started raining on us. I was more than happy to reach land and rest my hurt shoulder which was feeling like someone had grabbed onto a nerve near the base of my neck with pliers and then gave the pliers a few good twists. There were tons of people at the beach in Marquette when we got there. We sat at a picnic table for a bit and waited for Matt’s brother, Chris, who was coming to pick us up so that we could go home (can’t miss the first week of school). Our day ended nicely with good dinner, good friends, showers, a real bed, and a 5 day break ahead of us.

Written on August 27th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Muskrat Point, Grand Island, MI to Shelter Bay, MI: Daily miles 17.1, Total miles 1045.1

This morning was clear and calm. Both Matt and I were more than ready to get back into our boats and a little closer to home. The water was super calm so we decided to cross from Grand Island over towards the town of Christmas. We knew that we hit land again somewhere near the center of Christmas because I spotted the giant plywood Santa through the trees. The rest of today’s paddle was also pleasant. Nothing really happened until we reached AuTrain Bay. I had been worrying about paddling AuTrain Bay for most of the trip around the lake because every time I’ve driven past it on my way back and forth to my parents’ house the waves have been ridiculously big out there even when the rest of the lake seemed calm. The waves did pick up a bit in AuTrain, but nothing over 3 feet so it was all pretty fun. We pulled our boats out of the water at the roadside park at the foot of the bay and made lunch. We ate a huge meal of fettuccine alfredo with spam and dehydrated vegetables.  After kicking around on the beach for a bit, checking out the face that was carved into the rocks (the subject of interest at the park) by a voyageur, and walking over to Scott falls we decided it was probably time to get back into our boats even though both of us were generally sick of paddling at this point. The remainder of the paddle was totally uneventful. We pulled up on the beach in Shelter Bay in the late afternoon and sat on the beach for a long time because there were tons of people around and we didn’t want to get hassled when we put up the tent because I’m pretty sure we are on private land right now. Sitting on the beach until dark turned out to be worth it though because the sunset was amazing. Also, while we were sitting on the beach, Matt attempted to eat a can of devilled ham spread. He took one bite and had to spit it back out. It smelled like cat food.

Written on August 26th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Muskrat Point, MI  to Muskrat Point, Grand Island, MI: Daily miles 0.0, Total miles 1028.0

Well, today was a waste. The waves were a little rough and the weather radio was calling for bad weather all day so we sat tight. It felt bad, really bad, to be stuck again. In retrospect, we both could have paddled through the weather today, but you never really know that until afterwords and we knew that there was a bunch of private property and rocky shoreline ahead, so we sat tight. Today was one of the hardest zeros we’ve taken so far. The tour boat that entered the harbor every hour to go wah wah wah like an adult in ‘the peanuts’ about some shipwreck or another didn’t help at all.

Path to the Privy on Grand Island

Written on August 25th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Twelve Mile Beach, MI  to Muskrat Point, Grand Island, MI: Daily miles 27.9, Total miles 1028.0

The morning was beautiful with flat water, sunshine and no wind. We woke up at 6AM but decided another half hour of sleep couldn’t hurt and didn’t end up moving until 8AM.  We were on the water by 9AM.  Our paddle started with the last 7 miles of 12 mile beach which was, of course, all sand.  We took a break near the end of the beach just before the cliffs started so we could get a little rest and a snack.  During our break we met two guys who had just floated their kayaks down Beaver Creek and were going to paddle a section of the cliffs for the day.  They were great to talk to and I am happy to have met them and paddled with them for a few minutes.  The cliffs were pretty cool with a bunch of small sea caves at their base.  I wasn’t truly impressed until we reached Spray Falls. The fall was really roaring, fed by the recent rains, and it was a bit daunting to paddle near where the stream met the lake after a 100ft drop.  After the falls we found some caves which we poked around until we got to Chapel Rock, which I thought was the coolest rock feature and is definitely worth the hike if you are passing by the park. The day continued with more amazing caves, arches and red, orange, purple, yellow and green streaked cliffs.  We pulled into one giant cove with an overhanging cliff to find 12 teens in a circle holding hands for a photo op from above. This was quite a surprise, but nothing compared to when they randomly burst into a bible camp song.  The cliffs began to diminish after Miner’s Castle but the scenery was still cool with many small streams falling into the lake. At this point the wind picked up along with the waves, making the paddling considerably less fun.  After a few miles of battling the wind we pulled up onto Sand Point to rest before making the short crossing to Grand Island.  It was nice to stretch my legs and pick some blueberries after a log day in the boat.  The paddle to Grand Island, while short, became difficult really quickly as we were hit repeatedly with strong wind gusts and surprise 3-4 foot waves.   We found shelter in Murray Bay and pulled up a Hiawatha Water Trail campsite to spend the night. Shortly after we arrived a very nice family from Munising pulled up on their boat looking for berries.  We chatted for a while and really enjoyed our conversation. On the way out the girls left us with the leftovers of their Greek pizza which we really appreciated.  When we finished the pizza we decided to make Alfredo tortellini for dinner and retire to the tent. The day was nice and easy, then hard and frustrating, but it all finished up pleasantly. Pictured Rocks has been, by far, the nicest scenery of our trip.  I am a little sad to be leaving the splendor of huge “painted” cliffs but very happy to have passed another landmark on the journey home.

Hannah paddling past Chapel Rock

Written on August 24th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Grand Marais, MI to Twelve Mile Beach, MI: Daily miles 15.1, Total miles 1000.1

We left the house this morning around 9AM and headed to Negaunee to pick up our boats and Matt’s brother Chris, who accompanied us to Grand Marais.  After the three hour drive we took our dogs for a walk on the beach and ate lunch at the Lake Superior Brewing Company.  We dawdled for a while longer and finally got to carrying our boats and gear to the water.  By 4PM we had loaded up, suited up and said goodbye to Chris and our dog Rainy.  We no longer had a reason to delay so it was back to the water.  The lake was pretty calm with 1ft waves and a light breeze.  The sun came out as soon as we hit the water and it was easy paddling.  I hate to admit it but I don’t feel like being back on the lake. Thankfully, the weather finally cooperated with us and made the day fairly painless despite the plethora of things calling me back home.  Most of the miles we covered today were on the dunes section of Pictured Rocks National Lake shore. The dunes, while impressive from the top were even more spectacular from the water.  The steep, golden sand hills were weathered and mostly untouched by human hands, or feet, showing the stratification of the sand and the many rivulets that had flowed down the steep face of the dune during the recent rainstorm.  The base of the dunes was mostly a shallow sand beach, but every once in a while we came across a small oasis with thick, wet grass and shrubs fed by seeps in the side of the dunes.  The day was nice and the scenery was the most unique we have seen along the shore but at the end of the day I am most grateful to be 15 miles closer to home.  I am hoping the weather continues to be on our side. I am looking forward to Pic Rocks tomorrow.

Written on August 23rd, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

Grand Marais to Houghton and back to Grand Marais: Many miles, but none of them were in boats, so we’re not going to count them

We woke up to a clear dawn with a beautiful sunrise. The dew never settled and the bugs were not an issue. It was one of the best nights I’ve spent cowboy camping. The cat snuggled down with us again for a bit in the morning. I was a bit worried that I would wake up to find some small, dead rodent next to my sleeping bag from last night’s hunting, but, luckily for me, the cat didn’t bring back any trophies. We packed up our sleeping stuff so as not to draw attention to our bumliness and talked for a while with a young dad and his daughter who were taking a morning stroll on the beach. We decided that we felt comfortable abandoning all of our gear on the beach for a while and headed out in search of a good breakfast. We settled on the breakfast buffet at the West Bay Diner…it was a good choice to say the least. I’ve never tasted better bacon and they had fresh squeezed orange juice, homemade baked goods, sausage gravy, biscuits, pancakes, french toast, sausage, eggs any way you wanted them, fresh fruit, and some more delicious stuff that I’m forgetting. I can honestly say that I have never had such a good breakfast, and it’s not just the food-deprived paddler in me that’s talking. After breakfast I rounded up some quarters and walked up to the campground to use the pay showers. Three dollars bought me about an hour in the shower which is totally ridiculous, but man it felt good to get clean under water that was actually hot. In the afternoon I sat with the boats for a bit while Matt got his turn in the shower and then we headed up to the Lake Superior Brewing company for lunch. The food there was good, but in all honesty I was still too stuffed from breakfast to enjoy it. My parents pulled in around 8 pm. It was nice to see them, but the highlight was definitely seeing our dog, Rainy. I’ve missed her so much this whole trip. The only reason I could think of to quit this thing would be to snuggle Rainy and now, finally, after 65 days, I get to hug her spotty wiggliness again. We loaded up the boats and hit the road toward Houghton. I had to drive because my parents brought up their car as well as my truck. The sensation of driving was so weird after a whole summer moving at about 4 miles an hour. When we finally made it home it was almost 2 am and I was way beyond exhausted.

After about 6 hours of sleep and a frantic morning of presentation making, an afternoon of showering and finding “normal clothes”, and a few terrible minutes where I thought our slide show might not work, we were ready to present at Down Wind’s Ladies of the Lake Symposium. Our talk went smoothly enough. I lead the presentation because it was a “ladies” thing and Matt sat beside me, chiming in whenever I forgot something important, lost my train of thought, or grossly exaggerated something. Once again, it was just so weird to be not only around so many people, but to be the object of their attention. It was all a bit overwhelming after so long with Matt as my only companion. It was nice, however, to be in a room full of people who were so interested and understanding. I was super excited when I saw that our friends Jon and Kendra who had paddled with us early on in the trip made it to the presentation. Both Jon and Kendra have been super supportive of us throughout the trip and I think we can both agree that we are lucky to have them as friends and honored that they would drive 7+ hours to see our presentation and spend a few days with us in the copper country.

After the talk at the symposium we had budgeted in 2 days to spend with my parents, Kendra, and Jon before heading back out to the lake. The time with friends and family was wonderful, showing them our “new” house, giving them the tour of Calumet, and spending time relaxing and catching up. After our company left we ended up staying in Calumet for 2 more days, basking in the comforts of home, before we talked our friend Dan into driving down to Grand Marais with us and our boats so that we could get back on the lake and head home via kayak. The weather was looking a little rough, but not too bad with 2 to 4 foot waves in the forecast – but Matt and I were feeling at the top of our game, so it didn’t seem like much of an obstacle. We got to Grand Marais late in the evening, had dinner at the Brewery and, once again, set up camp on the beach, this time with a tent because it was looking like rain. It was quite a surprise when we awoke to forescasts calling for 40 mile an hour winds and 12 foot surf for the next 3 to 5 days. There wasn’t much decision making to do, we just weren’t going to paddle into Pictured Rocks with that type of weather going on – we’d be lucky to even get our boats into the water, let alone beyond the break-wall. Back to Calumet it was.

That pretty much catches us up to when we get back to the real deal – paddling.

Written on August 13th, 2009 , Hannah's Lake Superior Kayak Circumnavigation

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