It took less than a week, but the new kayak has been introduced to the water. You can follow along on our trip using the map below.
View Trip 3-12-2010 in a larger map
This trip included your esteemed interlocutor, my friend Denis, his friend Jeff, and a young friend of his.
We began this trip at the same point where the trip last July ended; at Ella Sharp Park. Apparently no one took my advice to spruce up the boat ramp as it was in the same condition.
This is "Trip #7" according to the G.R.E.A.T. website. Although we didn't quite make it that far.
Yours truly almost started this expedition smartly be slipping on some stones and falling into the river. It was a close thing, but after much waving of the arms, I managed to stay dry. Back on land, we double checked our gear and got into our kayaks.
During the trip last summer, I had used the old "flop technique" to get into the kayak. You straddle the kayak and "flop" into the seat. That technique works well in shallow water, but it doesn't do anything for you in terms of getting out later on.
This time, I decided to use the "sit on your paddle" technique. You can see it being demonstrated if you watch the video that opens at the Quiet World home page. Essentially, you put one end of your paddle across the back of the kayak and the other end on dry land...or perhaps in shallow water. You then sit on the paddle just behind the cockpit. This lets you get your feet into position inside the cockpit. Then you lift up and slide the rest of your body into position. You have to be careful to keep your hands on your paddle to maintain that support and stability. Once your butt is in the seat, retrieve your paddle and get on with the trip.
It worked. Yay, me!
At this point, the Grand River isn't very deep. It is quite wide. And it was running lazily at this point. The depth gauge downstream had the river at 11'+ deep. There wasn't much difference at the boat dock from last July, so perhaps that measurement does not mean as much on this part of the river.
Also, the water is cold. I know...Michigan....early March....who would have thought. There you are.
We headed off to the north until we found the break where the river runs to the east. The river picks up a little speed here as the stream bed narrows.
That speed of the water had quite a bit to do with our first yellow marker. The combination of the river, some low hanging trees, and some trees in the water resulted in one of our party going for a little swim. It didn't help that his kayak naturally rides pretty low in the water.
Fortunately, the river isn't very deep here. It was pretty easy to get him and his kayak out of the water, restored to floating conditions, and moving downstream. Also, we had some extra clothes along with us. We made sure that he was as dry as we could get him before continuing on.
My advice, keep some spacing between paddlers until you get to the marshy, straight area that lies ahead. I don't know that it would have helped in this particular occasion, but it certainly would not have resulted in a following kayak almost running down someone in the water. Which I almost did in this case. A little hefty back paddling solved that problem, but it was a close thing.
The obstacles diminished and we were able to paddle along quite nicely. We got to the blue marker just before Francis Street before we found anything interesting. There the river naturally splits. The left split worked well for us. There is some wood in the water that looks to be the start of a foot bridge. Be careful later this summer if you take this trip. The foot bridge may be finished by then. Shortly thereafter, the river splits again due to a nearby homeowner's decision to create some sort of decorative island in the stream.
Yes, I like Kenny and Dolly.
A quick trip under the Francis Street bridge and we found ourselves back in a mess of fallen and semi-fallen trees. For the most part there were reasonable ways to get through. You just have to look for them. We stayed mostly to the left and got through with few difficulties.
By this time we had learned our lesson. Now we were hanging onto limbs near the side of the stream so that the person ahead could get through whatever obstacle lay ahead of us. That easing of pressure seemed to help.
Although I have to confess that I was so busy at this point that I failed to notice where the stream from Sharp Lake joined ours.
In the middle of this mess, the second yellow marker, yours truly got a little wet. I got a little close to a branch sticking out of the water and took on a gallon or two into the kayak. My butt was wet, but the rest was still dry. We paddled on.
At this point there is a long, straight run through the marsh. I hesitate to use the word "boring" because it wasn't. "Peaceful" comes to mind. I bet it is a beautiful place to be in the summer.
We spotted a few homemade hunting stands along the way. You never would have thought that an old office chair would retain such use perched atop a frame of steel tubing.
Eventually, we shot under Brooklyn Road. At this point I was a little disoriented. I had forgotten about
On the far side of Brooklyn Road is a railroad bridge that was built in 1918. It is in pretty poor repair.
On the far side of that bridge there is a farm with fencing that extends into the river way. The fence may have been placed at a time when the river ran lower. Stay away from the right side of the river in any case to avoid the fence and some brush.
The river went back to twisting this way and that. We passed a dock and half of a what I assume was a raft. At least, a wood deck supported by empty barrels is pretty much my definition of a raft.
The sky was starting to get pretty grey as we passed under South Meridian. Denis later offered that we probably should have stopped there. In retrospect, he was right, but we hadn't figured that out quite yet.
And so we went under US127 as well. The river really started to twist back and forth here. At one point, Denis thought he could cut across a marshy area instead of taking the wider loop of the stream. I have to admit that it looked like there was more water than marsh in that area. Still, if I had gotten stuck the way Denis was on the way into that mess, I think I would have backed out of it and gone the long way around.
He was smiling after he made it back to paddleable water, so it must not have been too bad.
The sun went down by the time we got to the South Street bridge. Denis had thought to bring his flashlight. I have one in my fishing tackle that I should have brought. If it were not for Denis, we would have been completely screwed as the trees closed in north of South Street.
Now you may be wondering why there is a yellow marker down stream from the red marker where our trip concluded. That yellow marker is where one of our little party took a dip in the river. What little light that we might have imagined remaining was thoroughly gone by the time he was back in a dry boat and ready to paddle.
So we turned around and made for the nearest street light. As it worked out, we came up behind the church located on the bend on Flansburgh Road. It used to be a bait shop a few years back.
There is a little pond with a foot bridge back there. That posed a little bit of a trick when it came to getting all of our kayaks over to an area where we could stage them for pick up.
Unlike last summer, I was able to extricate myself from my kayak by simply reversing the steps I had taken to get into it in the first place. Use the paddle as a bridge. Push my butt out of the kayak and onto the paddle. Swing the legs into the river. And then stand up.
It was that last part that got pretty tricky. After 3+ hours of sitting and paddling, my legs forgot why they were there. Either that or the land was rolling up and down faster than they could compensate.
In any case, we got everyone out of the river and all the boats on dry land. We then had the minor task of walking about 1.5 to 2 miles to our destination vehicle. In the dark.
We missed a passing police car by about 15 seconds. We saw him, but couldn't get his attention as he drove away.
We were about a few hundred yards into our trek when Denis reminded me about my dry box. Where his keys were. Where MY keys were. Which I had left in my kayak.
So he jogged back to get the box, and then jogged to catch up with us. I kept trying to flag down a car to pick him up so that he would not have to run so far. I finally managed to get him a ride at the intersection of South Street and South Meridian. A couple minutes after that car pulled away, Denis came walking up from the direction of our destination.
He had jogged along fast enough, and cut enough corners that he was ahead of us. Thanks to the young ladies that were willing to give a stranger a ride. Pity that they were the only ones willing to do so.
A couple comments on equipment. First shoes.
I had worn a pair of rubberized shoes. They are designed to get wet, and I didn't see any way not to get my feet wet on this trip. But they were not designed for walking. I now have a couple of nice sized blisters along each instep. I'm sure they will heal, but for the moment, they are a pain.
Second, clothes. Note to self, bring spares especially when it is cold.
Third, kayak. My kayak is a Future Beach Trophy 126DX. The folks at Future Beach tout their dihedral hull design as being superior for stability and tracking. You can see a sectional view here. Download a current kayak PDF catalog for a better view and more of what they say about their boats.
The bottom line is that they are right. The 126DX was very stable. Even the one time when water got in the kayak, I was able to get my weight back to being centered rather than going for an impromptu swim. And it tracks like a dream. The biggest problem I had was getting my hands in the right spot on the paddle so that both the right and the left stroke were even. As long as my hands were close to being in the right spot on the paddle, the kayak ran straight and true.
If every Future Beach kayak is like this one, then I have no problem
Thanks again to Denis, Jeff, and Jeff's young friend for a great trip down the Grand.