Wednesday, September 3

My Last Post, by Terry

It’s not all about me, my previous entries notwithstanding. A year ago when we circumnavigated Isle Royale accompanied by Ray and Wendy Sharp to keep us safe, although we dearly enjoyed their company, the trip was mostly an immersion in the waters, shores, and islands of Isle Royale. Somehow I think I expected much the same this year. And while we did experience many heart-wrenchingly beautiful days and paddles, this year it was really about the people.

In her posts, Sue Ellen has thanked the people who supported us the entire way so I won’t repeat all your names, although I am very thankful. What struck me was the generosity of friends, some of whom I don’t see all that often, who, when I wrote and asked “Hey, would you put us up?” rose to the occasion and not only gave us wonderfully comfortable beds, hot showers, and places to dry off, but fantastic meals. But even more, the fellowship we encountered made this an extraordinary trip.

And again, it’s not all about me, although we had decided to do this paddle for ourselves, for fun. But after thinking about it a bit, we realized we were taking advantage of three tremendous resources of our home territory that don’t get enough publicity or credit: the Keweenaw Water Trail, the Keweenaw Geoheritage project, and the Keweenaw Land Trust. So although our paddle is over, I would encourage you to check out some of these links:

For the Keweenaw Water Trail: 

[Sue Ellen interjecting here:  The Keweenaw Water Trail is such a wonderful --and useful--concept!  We used their map more than any other.  It needs more places for water travelers to camp.  I'm hoping we can do something to promote and improve the water trail.  Anyone have some ideas about this?]

Keweenaw Land Trust:

The following are some of the sites we paddled past that the Keweenaw Land Trust has helped preserve for the pleasure of all:

Keweenaw Geoheritage Project:

And finally here are some of the many geoheritage sites we passed:

And, of course, we want to thank all of you who gave to KLT financially. We’ll be sending out individual thanks.

Coincidentally the number of miles we paddled, 134, (my initial estimate was short, and no, those of you who pledged per mile don’t need to give any more) is just Sue Ellen’s and my combined age. So this may be the last big project for us. But don’t you all get complacent – next year we may be circumnavigating our pond and since it’s not even 100 yards, we’ll be asking for donations in the thousands of dollars per mile.


Some more Thank Yous

Again, a big thank you to Evan McDonald and Libby Meyer for their accompaniment.  Libby was especially appreciated as we rounded the McLain lighthouse, hitting that big headwind and Libby stayed right with us and kept me calm.  Libby, thank you also for transporting Evan here and there and getting him to us early in the morning.  Evan was most appreciated as we rounded the eastern point of Great Sand Bay and when he supported my decision to take a break off the water!

Thank you to Kate Alvord and Stephanie Mills for walking an hour in the cold and wet to meet us at the North Entry.

Thank you to Pete and Carol Ekstrom for taking us in on that gloomy day, feeding us, hauling us back home, and seeing us off again the next morning.  That pink shirt you were wearing, Carol, felt like a beacon to me.  Thanks to Pete for taking pictures and sending them on.

Thanks to Jeff Flam and Viki Weglarz for coming to meet us (where we hadn't yet arrived) and I'm so glad you had a gorgeous day on the water anyhow!

Thanks to Mark and Cathy Campbell-Olszewski for letting us know we were heading the right direction on the Eagle River beach.

Thanks to Craig and Jeannie and Leah Kurtz and friends for welcoming us into their cottage, giving us beds and breakfast, sharing sunset and sunrise and coffee.

Thanks to Al and Marianne Brokaw for showing us their cozy hideaway cottage.

Great big thank you to Doug and Nancy Sherk, who hadn't planned to see us at all, but when we showed up at their door like wet puppies, they took us in, dried our clothes, fed us, and let us just camp out and use their wifi until we felt safe again.

Thanks to Bill and Nanno Rose for sharing Silver Island and bringing friends along to celebrate our journey, and feeding us, and letting us use the sauna, etc etc.

Thanks to Craig and Sharon and Dave Bach and Allison and Libby and Evan for celebrating with us and feeding us.

Thanks to Dave Carlson for accompanying us on the last leg in his nifty wooden kayak.

Thanks to Sam and Shelby at Keweenaw Adventure Company and Steve Brimm for fussing over us when we arrived in Copper Harbor, and thanks to Captain Don Kilpela for sharing his berry-pickin' stories, if not his berry-pickin' secret spots.  Thanks to Chris Waara at the Harbor Haus for coordinating our send-off party.

Thanks to Keren Tischler for welcoming us home, and to Barb Hardy for blog support.

Day Nine: Rolling in to Copper Harbor

Sunrise on Silver Island, so peaceful and magical.  Due to the generosity of our friends the Roses, we have been allowed to stay here over the years and it never fails to delight and thrill us.

We were packing up in a leisurely way when another paddler arrived and announced he would paddle with us to Copper Harbor!

Dave Carlson from Lake Bailey travels all over the country with his wife and their hand-made wooden kayaks.  This boat is a thing of beauty and he could pick it up so easily.  We set off by 8:30am, getting a send-off from Dave and Allison.

The west wind caught up with us as we neared the end of Agate Harbor and there we could see the huge vein of calcite that runs perpendicular to the shore.  It looks to be about a yard wide, an eerie greenish white line that glows way down under the water--not sure how deep it is right there, but it always seems just a little scary to me.

We love that following wind; it carried us all along that rocky shore, till we passed between the rocks of Hunter's Point and Porter Island, into the still waters of Copper Harbor.

Back to where we started nine days ago.  We unpacked, went and got a thimbleberry icing doughnut and a bilberry crumble from the bakery and fish store, had them with coffee on the dock of the Isle Royale Queen, and then were regaled with stories of berry picking on Copper Island by Captain Don Kilpela.

Home at last!  Chester was happy to see us.  We said hello and went to take naps like the old folks that we are.

This adventure was about more than the Lake, the Island, the water and sky.  It was more than we expected about the people who love the Lake and the Island, who supported us, cheered us on, fed us, told us stories, gave us beds, and were such good friends sharing in the adventure.  

Donors to Keweenaw Land Trust are particularly appreciated; thank you so much!   Stay tuned to hear more about KLT.

I hope to write at least one epilogue posting for this blog, and I invite others to send me their stories of boating on Lake Superior.  Have you used the Keweenaw Water Trail?  Would you like to know more about it?  Okay!  That's all for now, Onward!  

Tuesday, September 2

Day Eight: continued

We really enjoyed our time with the Sherk family, especially hearing granddaughter Sarah talk about her chickens.  (We've always said, put some owners of chickens together for whatever reason, and within five minutes the conversation will be entirely about chickens.)  We watched the waves out the window with Evan monitoring three different weather sources until about 2:30pm when we decided it was time to go.

Back to Cat Harbor we trooped, and as we packed up we were pleasantly surprised when our friends Dave Bach and Allison Slavick drove up in their pickup, on their way to meet us at Silver Island!  I turned my camera over to Dave who got the following shots of our stream-lined launching techniques:

The wind was still strong, but once we were out of Cat Harbor, we found that it had gone from a northwest wind to a straight west wind.  This was perfect for us!  The waves pushed us along and even a bit of sunlight started to peek through.

Dave and Allison beat us to Eagle Harbor and took this shot of us off-shore, and.....
This shot which shows Silver Island in the far-off distance.  It's the third bump.

The sun broke through gloriously as we pulled into the shelter of Silver Island, and were greeted first by Bill Rose, and then Nanno Rose, owners of the island, and then the others who celebrated with us our Bon Fini!  They had prepared not only another fabulous dinner--beet salad, pork loin, keilbasa, orzo salad, quiche and salad with chocolate for dessert--but the saua was hot!  Naked folks were running from the sauna to the jump-off cliff, one of Terry's favorite activities.
Evan's arrival on the island.

Doin' the Silver Island Shuffle.

 Terry and Libby heading to the north shore,
Terry and I checking out the north shore,
Evan and Libby with a freighter between them on the horizon--can you see it?

The party leaves in the sunset, Brockway in the distance still lit up.

Dave and Allison stayed on the island with us.  We sat at the campfire, telling Lake Superior stories.  Turns out several years ago Dave had made nearly the same trip we had made, only he was alone and the experience was different, of course.  It inspired some poetry and I'm going to be leaning of Dave to share his story, or at least some poetry.

At last we bedded down to the sound of gentle waves lapping the shore.  The stars were bright, Polaris hanging low over the island.
We had one more final leg of the journey for the next day, on to Copper Harbor.

I added some pictures to Day Seven....

Day Eight: OMG, What were we thinking?

It's only 11 am, and I'm thanking sweet Jesus to be alive.  Okay, you know by now that I can exaggerate and Terry would say, that was fun!  And Ray Sharp would say--Those waves were pretty sporty, eh? But good grief, going around the point at the end of Great Sand Bay was really scary!  But we have been rescued by Doug and Nancy Sherk who have a clothes drier AND wifi!

Here we are with their son Ben, in their lovely home between Great Sand Bay and Cat Harbor, with Evan taking the photo.

Now back to yesterday:  we left the Fitzgerald around 5 pm in intense sunshine, coasting along the sand, hailed by the Campbell-Olsiewskis (forgive me for that spelling) who were basking on the beach
on to our friends Craig and Jeannie Kurtz's cottage where we were made welcome by the whole family including their daughter and friends and their dogs.

This is their dog Teddy, pretending to be a cat.

We were made comfortable for the night, after watching the sunset and sitting just a while in their sun-warmed sauna there on the beach.

We had a great breakfast of waffles made by Daughter Leah,

Visited the neighbors Marianne and Al Brokaw in the sweet addition they've built.

It was grey and windy when we cast off, but the wind was heading mostly in the same direction we were and the waves weren't all that big, so we said well, if they get too big, we can always stop, plenty of take-out places.  HA!  Things were good until about opposite the monks' basilica and I yelled at Evan to try taking a photo of the dome with my waterproof camera, and he yelled back, are you kidding?  I'm fighting to stay afloat here!

Yes the waves were huge and we were riding them with stability in our big flat- bottomed boat, but Evan, in his little speedy kayak, without a rudder, was just bouncing all over the place.  We managed to fly right on past the sand beach, but when we had to get around the point with big breakers slamming over our hull, I was worried, and kept telling myself what Libby had said, you gotta relax into the wave.
Evan said later that he realized that neither of us would be able to do much to help the other if something bad happened here, but at the same time he wished he had one of those helmet cameras because it was thrilling to watch us bouncing and wallowing.  Terry just kept saying he was having fun!

And here I need to give some credit to my husband; he really is an expert kayaker and kept the kayak steady even in those huge rollers--were they over four feet tall?  I'm exaggerating again.  But Terry is the best!

Cat Harbor!  Yeay!  We surfed in, and only then realized that it was raining and we were soaked to the bone, we'd seen Doug Sherk's house and we just walked here.

The waves haven't decreased yet but we're still hoping they might and we'll get to Silver Island this evening.  Once launched again we think it should only take an hour and a half or so..


Day Seven: Calumet waterworks to Eagle River

Red sky at night......last night's sunset was nice and red, a good portent that has been born out.
As our friend Curt would say, Thank you sweet Jesus for this day!  

I'm going to have to make it short because the connection here at the Fitzgerald in Eagle River is a little funky, and I'm sitting out in the hallway, so I'm going to have to flesh this out later with pics and all.  The pulled pork sandwich was excellent, so this is not to dis the Fitz, you understand.

Anyhow the seas were smooth and calm this morning as we embarked, just the way I love it.  Even the fog didn't really detract from the lovely coastline, most of it very familiar to me from walking on the beach close to home, and also close to my home when we lived on Tamarack Waterworks road many years ago.  eagles again, and some mergansers, a sand hill crane at the mouth of the Gratiot.

The wind and sun finally overcame the fog, and we cruised along with a very pleasant headwind,on to the east.  We passed Calumet Waterworks, Tamarack Waterworks, Sedar Bay, Black Creek, mouth of the Gratiot, Seven Mile Point, and finally Five mile Point and Eagle river.

We will stay at a friend's cottage tonight, hope to make it to Silver Island tomorrow.  I will post pictures as soon as I can, also I think our escort Evan has some good ones, especially of a phenomenon we'd never seen before, a fog bow, like a rainbow, only white.


Okay now that we're safe with wifi connection I'll post some pics from yesterday what a beautiful day it was!

First we had to say good-bye to Pete and Carol Ekstrom who had taken such good care of us the day before when we were overcome by the head-wind.

This is a fog- bow!  The ends near the water had an other-worldly glow that doesn't show up here, but made us marvel at the mystery of it all.

Evan cruising by the shore, so calm and peaceful, and the bottom of the sea was just fascinating--smooth sandstone rounded like old mountains with canyons filled with pebbles of all colors, and the sun lighting it up, oh it was beautiful!

Basalt outcrops around Seven Mile Point.  Later, after Five Mile Point, we passed bluffs of what Terry thought was Copper Harbor Conglomerate, and his cousins came out to wave us on as we neared Eagle River.

Paddling through the fog near Sedar Bay.

Still misty at the Gratiot, and there's a sand hill crane in there somewhere.
At the mouth of the Gratiot, a day late.
Some friends, hoping to meet us here to paddle with us, didn't find us of course, and took off paddling ahead of us.  Unfortunately we didn't figure it out until much later so we missed paddling with Jeff Flam and Viki Weglarz.  Dang!  We woulda loved that!  Next time, okay?
Passing the Sand Hills Lighthouse at Five Mile Point.  
Terry wanted to stay here but they were full up.

This day was truly one of the most beautiful days ever!  Lots of fog and sunshine, fascinating lake bottom easily visible, familiar and new shorelines.


Sunday, August 31

Day Six: the truth. From Terry.

Actually Sue Ellen's version is pretty accurate in all but one fact. When we turned out into the big lake into the big waves, I was was not stunned, I was exhilarated! It was true that the waves were pretty big - sometimes Libby disappeared when she was in a trough, but the trickiest part was that for the first half mile or so we had to paddle in a direction such that the waves and wind were coming pretty much at us from the side. After that we were able to turn so that they were coming more directly at us. This was much safer, but continued to take a lot of work to make any progress.

This brings up the touchy subject of having a minder with us. I don't really like someone watching over me and telling me what is or is not safe for me. But in my heart of hearts I know it's for the best and really appreciate everybody's efforts and concern - especially Evan & Libby. Which brings me to another realization, being on the down slope of our 60s Sue Ellen's and my bodies don't move quite like they used to. Sue Ellen and I are still paddling pretty well (if a bit slower), but embarking and disembarking in a surf presents a bit of a problem. 

In my memory (perhaps manufactured) when I first started kayaking in my 30s landing in a surf, the moment the bow touched the beach I would grab the spray skirt, gracefully pirouette out of the kayak and lift it above the surf, all in one fluid motion. This is what happens now: We approach the beach. The executive portion of my brain picks out the right spot and time. But then the reptilian portion starts screaming "NO WAY!" By time the executive portion reasserts control, we've already taken on one wave. Then, of course, at my age it takes a few moments for the message to get to the muscles and sinews and then another for them to really believe this is being asked of them and finally even more for them to limp into action. By this time we are thoroughly soaked. Fortunately given the beaches we're landing on this is more a matter of humiliation than safety.

Weather looks great today. Hope to get to Eagle River.