Lake Superior
........Spring 2010



My paddling partner Gale writes about our paddle on Lake Superior:

Monday, July 14, 2008 Canoe Lake, Lake Superior State Forest, Michigan Upper Peninsula
We left Cleveland at 10:15 a.m. bound for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with our two HAB’s (heavy-ass boat) kayaks securely tied to the roof of my Jeep Patriot. We chose our heavier plastic Perception kayaks because they are more secure and easier to perform self-rescue in, should either of us fall into the 45° F water of Lake Superior. The goal, of course, is to stay dry, but one must prepare for the inevitable day when one goes for an unplanned swim. After nine hours of driving and a couple of short breaks, we found ourselves in the small town of Senney, still some miles from our destination of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with only about an hour of daylight left. I thought a short cut was in order and pointed my new 4WD Jeep down Fox River Road, a dirt track that got progressively worse the further we got from Senney. As with most shortcuts, the paved road would have been much faster. We came to an intersection with the Driggs Lake Truck Trail, which appeared much better than the dirt track we were on, so I turned onto it. Just before dark we came, much to Heike’s relief, to a small primitive campground at Canoe Lake. We fought off a hoard of mosquitoes to set up our tents and were rewarded by the haunting calls of a loon on the lake.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 12 Mile Beach Campground, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan Upper Peninsula
We struck camp in the morning and headed down more dirt forest roads towards Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We set up camp at 12 Mile Beach Campground and scouted around for put-ins on Lake Superior. We found one at Hurricane River, but the marine forecast was for afternoon thunderstorms, which gave us pause. The predicted thunderstorms never materialized, however, so decided to put in right at 12 Mile Beach. We slid our kayaks down a 30-ft high sand bank onto the beach. They went down surprisingly well. Getting them back up, however, was not so easy! We paddled west from 12 Mile Beach for about three miles in water so calm it looked like a sheet of glass, and so clear we could see the bottom. I became mesmerized watching the patterns in the sand on the bottom of the lake. The sky and lake were so blue, with a few white clouds above, and a white birch forest on shore. After the paddle and dinner we watched the sun set on the beach and the stars come out. We caught a brief glimpse of Saturn and Mars low on the horizon before an almost full moon rose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 12 Mile Beach Campground, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
We paddled east this morning from 12 Mile Beach in rather calm water. We took a lunch break at Au Sable Lighthouse, on the porch of the assistant keeper’s house, which is now open for tours. We passed on the tour, however, as the marine forecast suggested we had better get going if we were to continue on to the Au Sable Dunes east of the lighthouse. The dunes were very impressive, about 200-feet high. On the return paddle, the wind increased, coming at us from behind but at an angle that kept driving me into shore. When I would turn the bow away from shore, the wind forced my stern out toward open water. Even with the skeg down, I had to struggle to keep a straight line. After a short rest, we worked to get the kayaks back up that 30-ft sand bank. A winch would have been nice, but in the absence of one we made do with a rope wrapped around a tree at the top of the bank. Heike pulled and I pushed (or was it the other way around?), and eventually we got both HABs back up that hill and loaded onto the Jeep. That evening Heike, who keeps pepper spray in her tent in case of bears, accidentally sprayed the inside of her tent instead. She can now vouch that pepper spray is one heck of a deterrent!

Thursday, July 17, 2008 Kingston and Grant Sable Lakes, Lake Superior State Forest

The weather forecast called for a 50% chance of thunderstorms today, so I begged off of Lake Superior and suggested that we paddle two inland lakes instead. Kingston Lake was small but nice, and kept us busy for an hour or two. We ate lunch there then drove the freshly graded dirt M57 to Au Sable Lake. This lake is located directly behind the Au Sable Dunes that we paddled to yesterday. The dunes separate Lake Superior from Grant Sable Lake. Grant Sable Lake was larger than it looked in relation to the high dunes, about four to five miles long. It had a strong fetch off of Lake Superior. The water was the color of tea, but clear. The lake is round, probably a kettle lake carved out by glaciers. As we were loading the boats in the parking lot, a local paddler showed up and asked if we were here for the symposium. Symposium? We asked. Turns out there was a kayak convention in the town of Grand Marais a few miles east. We drove there, had a wonderful dinner of white fish and beer at the Sportsman’s Restaurant, and then checked out the kayaks at the harbor. After shopping the equipment vendors, we headed back to 12 Mile Beach Campground in a rain storm. So much for the freshly graded M57! It was pitted and muddy again, but we made it through. I paid the price for forgetting to close my tent flap, sleeping in a wet bag all night.

Friday, July 18, 2008 Minor’s Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior
Well, today was the day that I had to brave the most challenging, but also the most beautiful section of Lake Superior. Having less cold water paddling experience than Heike, I was hesitant to paddle this stretch of shoreline because there was a four mile stretch of solid rock wall where landing would be impossible. My fears that Lake Superior would kick up during that stretch of the paddle never materialized, however, but I did have to psych myself up to try it. While unloading the HABs in the parking lot, I stepped back onto a curb, lost my balance, and fell down with Heike’s boat landing on my shin. Dented, but fortunately not broken, I recovered in time to help carry the boats through the woods, down a set of stairs, and across a beach to the shore. (The one thing that is really lacking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is good put-ins for small boats.) We paddled west for ¼ mile to Minor’s Castle, a 200-ft high sandstone rock formation. Then we paddled east for four miles, past rock caves and formations, to a natural arch. I paddled through the arch while Heike took pictures. It was very loud inside the arch with the waves crashing onto the rock walls and causing an echo. The park tour boat passed us a couple of times, and we had fun playing in its wake. It turned out to be a very nice paddle and I am glad that I “braved” it after all. We ate lunch in the town of Munising, and returned to 12 Mile Beach Campground to pack up in preparation for the drive home the next day.