On the Platte Again, with the Salmon

After the northern lights adventure on Tuesday night (okay, early Wednesday morning), we decided a post-work kayaking excursion was in order. I had less than four hours of sleep the night before, and Tony didn’t sleep much more, but we looked at the forecast, and Wednesday was our best bet for an enjoyable trip in the foreseeable future.

I grabbed a maple cinnamon latte (the details are important here – you should request one of these from your favorite coffee shop!) so that I’d have the requisite caffeine to keep me awake on the ride home. Except for my once or twice a week lattes and the very occasional soda, I don’t have caffeine anymore and my body doesn’t react great to it. Shakes and high temperature, and all that…but it does keep me awake, so I imbibed.

We didn’t get the boats in the water until 5:30 or so, giving us just under two hours until sunset…for a trip that usually takes just over that time. Plus we were alone, so we’d have to make the trek back to our origin to get the car. No big deal: paddle faster ;)

Normally during the fall salmon run, the river is loaded with fishermen angling for one of the monster fish that are fighting upstream. By the time we got to the fish weir, which is piled with fish – and then normally just downstream with fishermen – we had only seen one other person on the water. There was a gentleman raking debris from the underwater gates at the weir (it must be operated by the DNR and not the NPS) who kindly warned me to take care: he had seen salmon accost a lady just the other day, and she left with a bloody (broken perhaps) nose. Duly noted.

As we continued our journey, a few flocks of mallards winged upstream overhead, and a heron retreated downstream, eventually giving over to the woods for escape. Finally, we caught up with a few fisherfolks (there were ladies, too!), but nothing like the weekend hordes we often encounter on this trip. We navigated around a guy wrestling a coho, and then hastened on.

Abruptly, we arrived at the El Dorado landing, an access point about a mile before the planned end of our trip. However, thanks to lingering at the fish weir, and not actually paddling faster, the sun rapidly approached the horizon. We dropped the kayaks off to the side of the landing, and began our two-mile walk back to the car.

About halfway there, I glanced over my shoulder, noting the salmon-colored clouds. I grabbed the key from Tony and jogged the rest of the way to the car. He didn’t want to load the boats in the dark, but I’m more practical: if we didn’t hurry, I might miss a pretty sunset.

sunset over the Platte

Crisis averted. One last stop for photos, and then we recommenced the voyage, this time to rectify the now obvious lack of food in our tummies. All in all, the trip was hectic, but it was still a perfect way to unwind and soak up some fall beauty. Ahhhhh!

Quiet Time on Torch River

Hello again. I haven’t disappeared, though it’s been another week since I last posted. We’ve again been busy entertaining, and again had a great time. I think things are winding down for summer though – both in terms of visitors and the season. Our grass is hardly growing, my burning bush is smoldering, and the sun is noticeably setting before 9pm. That’s all okay…mostly because it has to be, but also because there are still summery days ahead, and even the fall-ish days make for great kayaking and hiking.

Last week, Tony and I scoped out new paddling spot, thanks to our neighbor’s description of the area. We weren’t otherwise likely to go, but he mentioned that loons linger there, so we decided the wetlands by the Torch River bridge must not be so bad after all.

We put our kayaks in at a public access point on the south end of Torch Lake and paddled through some chop over to the bridge. The boaters were a little less polite than I’d have liked, cementing our thoughts on not keeping a future boat docked there. However, once we got through the narrows and beyond the marinas, things quieted and we were able to get lost in the river’s serenity.

Torch River reflections

Almost immediately, we spotted a loon in an alcove off the main branch of the river. It kept a leery eye on us, and then dived for a long underwater swim, only to resurface far from us. Well-played, loon – we did not see that coming ;)

After tooling around by the boathouses and deep-rooted lilies, we headed back out into the river. The lazy current drifted us past a stump-laden swamp, which happens to be one of my favorite things to check out while kayaking. It’s a dark underworld that I would not want to walk through, but to paddle over, it’s dark and mysterious and beautiful.

After idling in the swamp, we rejoined the current, and floated downstream in the lowering sun. Seagulls complained of our presence, but were not irked enough to fly away – even when we passed by them on our return, after shadows cloaked the river. This time we explored a different offshoot of the river, hanging out with a heron. The heron was watchful, but was much less cagey than the loon.

By this time, the heat had gone from the day and the shadows were deepening. We paddled back out, against the current this time, and then picked our way through the boat traffic. Perhaps this paddle isn’t one for the weekends, but it’ll be one we revisit.
Torch River reflections-2

3, 2, 1…And you’re back in the room

Anyone else watch Little Britain? It comes and goes on Netflix. One of the regular characters is a hack hypnotist who brings his victims (of frivolous trickery that favors his laziness) back to consciousness with the phrase in my title.

That’s kind of how I feel. I’ve been away, but I’m back in the room. And I have lots of stuff to share, not least of which are the photos of lovely blond chicks in this blog ;) I guess I feel like as long as I point out all the pictures, you’ll see that we’ve been busy and understand why I’ve been away without even a Wordless Wednesday.

A large percentage of Tony’s female family members joined us Up North last weekend. His mom (Shari/Blondie), grandma (Mamaw), aunt (Jerri), cousin (Tyler), and niece (Alayna) all rode in one vehicle for the eight ten hour journey, and still managed to arrive in merry (delirious?) spirits. We stayed up way too late chatting and laughing before we got on to the business of enjoying Michigan’s playground the next day.

The sun didn’t burn us with her intense rays, but she did at least visit, which made our trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes pleasant. Alayna delighted in nature’s enormous sandbox and the rest of us oooohed and aaahed at the always impressive views.

Sleeping Bear Dunes panorama

We blinked, and the clock ticked over from afternoon to sunset. We spent the remainder of the light hours playing on a nearly deserted beach in Traverse City, trying to keep warm. Not to worry, we were warm enough for ice cream ;)

We rounded out the evening with a fire (in the fireplace we had installed in May) and then started out Sunday with more activity. Ty and I went for a run, and everyone else did what everyone else does when I’m not there to see or hear it. Which I assume is to make the same noises a tree does when it falls in the woods when I’m not around to hear it.

Despite having been up with everyone since about 8am, time speedily slipped by, and it was after 2pm by the time we finished “brunch” in Elk Rapids. Half the group played on the beach while Tony and I took the other half out kayaking. Then they switched. And then it was dinner time (Tony and I grilled from-scratch pizzas)…followed by ice cream, and later, another fire.

Packing up on Monday morning was a slow affair, as we weren’t in a rush to hurry everyone back home. Five blondes is a lot for one home to sustain, but with all that giggling, we managed ;) How lucky are we to have this bunch for family?

All photos can be embiggened by clicking :)

Treating Visitors Poorly

Please forgive my absence. We have been treating visitors poorly.

Each year my nephews, Zylar (Zy) and Kade, come to visit us in the summer, and since we like to get them out in the lakes, we’ve aimed for late summer their past few visits. This year my sister was able to arrange her work schedule to join them, and brought our mom along as well. One would think the last week of July would be sufficient for planning warm weather activities.

Our guests arrived around 5:00 on Thursday evening, at which point we promptly changed into beach clothes and headed for a swim on Torch Lake. You see, we had all been keeping an eye on the weather forecast, and knew that this might be our only chance all weekend. Friday we attempted beach clothes again in Elk Rapids. It worked for a while. The boys played in the chute in the river (after some convincing, since none of the adults were yet dressed for beaching…and by “convincing,” I mean their Gran tossed one of them in), and then we made our way over to the admittedly warmer beach.

By this point, the sky was fairly darkened by incoming clouds, but breezes were light, and sun shone intermittently. The old folks held down beach towels while the young folks concentrated on constructing sand castles. And then the real weather blew in.

big sky in Elk Rapids

After this, the skies held very little warmth for the remainder of their trip. The boys played some video games with Tony, and we introduced everyone to Phase 10 (a long card game, not entirely unlike Uno). We even soldiered on with a hike up to Pyramid Point. It wasn’t 60 degrees, and the sky rained on us while we made the drive to the trail, but we enjoyed the view – through the falling mist – regardless.

While the clouds were sequestering the bigger drops, Tony and I took the boys over to the Sleeping Bear Dunes to play on the Dune Climb while Mom and Steph opted for the Dune Drive (probably not its most picturesque). Kade monkeyed around in the sand, crawling, rolling, and lolling in it. After we climbed the first major rise, the boys began jumping off little sand shelves. And then we climbed another rise, to find even bigger shelves. It looks like fun, but I am old and frail ;)

We did what we could to empty them of sand – which is to say: not enough. And that’s all right.

Sunday morning arrived, moody. The dark, puffy clouds dotted the sky, alternately threatening rain and actually raining. Deciding it was our last chance to get at least one child out on the water, Tony and I loaded up the boats – between showers – and we took Zy over to Torch. Kade wasn’t feeling quite so adventurous that morning. We hastily unpacked the kayaks, and hurried them into the water. The angry skies questioned why we even bothered – did we not think they would unleash their vengeance? We picked a point to the east (someone’s water trampoline), and paddled there. It wasn’t a long trip, but it was enough. As we rounded our chosen landmark, we spied falling water on the far side of the lake, and I am sure I heard the clouds utter “I told you so.” Like a scene from Deliverance, though much more child-appropriate, I urged Zy on: “Paddle faster.”

Just as we tightened the last strap attaching the kayaks to the car roof, the rain arrived, blotting out the sky once more. Temperatures hovered in the high 60′s, and the mixed weather hung, too. We didn’t attempt any more hikes, but Tony and Zy played some afternoon lacrosse, Kade and I picked some raspberries (which we stirred into homemade ice cream), and then we even squeezed in a walk…after which it rained some more.

And that was it. Everyone packed up and drove south the following morning. In the rain.
The weather has since been behaving itself. Until today. Because we have more visitors on the way.

Click any photo – except that one giant one – to embiggen. There are some fun ones in there that you can’t see nearly all the detail…assuming you want to :)

Another Trip to Power Island

Because we wanted to avoid weekend boat traffic, Tony and I had planned to do a kayak trip out to Power Island – a 200-acre bump out in the West Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay – in midweek. But, with temperatures in the low 90′s yesterday and with predicted wind-speeds of no more than 5MPH, we decided to go for it.

Driving up the west side of the Old Mission Peninsula, the Bay looked smooth, but not glassy – so far, so good. And then we passed this guy, guarding Bowers Harbor, whose appearance one can only interpret as auspicious.

Looking like he owns the place…which in birdly terms, he does
bald eagle

We parked at the public boat launch, and prepared to embark. A few other boaters (regular boaters, not kayakers) also launched, joining some of their compatriots and jet-skiers. Overall though, the harbor was relatively calm, and we didn’t feel unsafe making the first open-water crossing.

Easy paddling above ~200-feet of water; Power Island in the center

Instead of remaining in potential boat traffic, we crossed the harbor at an angle, and then followed the shore out to the island. As we neared the edge of the harbor, breezes threatened the calm, and the water rippled.

flock of seagulls

As we paddled beyond the seagull rookery, the definitely-greater-than-5MPH winds from the northwest churned the crossing into a motion-sickness machine. Waves spilled over into little whitecaps, and occasionally splashed into our boats. Normally steering is a matter of simply looking where you’re going, but on the crossing yesterday, it seemed like I could not get my boat to go where I wanted it: instead of left paddle, right paddle it was more like right paddle, right paddle, dig in left… We weren’t frightened, but the passage was intimidating – especially when larger boats zoomed by generating additional wake.

Heading into rough waters – compare to the first water pic above for reference
rough pass waters

Last shot before camera was stowed for safety
mainland and seagull islet

We eventually floated into shallow waters again, and chose a point on the northwest side of the island to hop out. Like the last time we paddled to the island, the rest of the boaters remained on the east side, leaving us alone with the swans.

After making sure the kayaks weren’t going to float off without us, we waded out into the cool, clear water.

The bottom was too rocky for playing, and the water is still not what you’d call warm, so we didn’t stay out too long. We perched on some large boulders to dry off, and then climbed back in our boats to begin the return.

This time we skirted the north end of the island, in the shallows, and then paddled across the narrowest part of the pass. There must be more current through there than we at first realized, because heading back across – while not as effortless as slicing through the water in my header would be – steering was not a chore. In fact, the paddling seemed easy.

Water drops and Old Mission Peninsula backdrop – summer kayaking staples
water drips from blade
Old Mission Peninsula in distance

In another move for safety, we chose to follow the shore all around the harbor on the return instead of zipping across the center. The water was still calm, though the surface was riffled this time, but we are wary of boaters who might speed into us.

These lovely craft with whom we shared the harbor did not make us wary…

As we paddled back into the boat launch area, our friend Mr. Eagle flew overhead, winging his goodbye. I’m positive he kept his eye out for us ;)
soaring eagle

Our 6+ mile journey out and back took about 3.5 hours
Power Island paddle