A great weekend of kayaking
It is Monday morning as I type this, I spent the weekend kayaking with friends. On Saturday, a group of nine of us ran the upper Pine River from the 6 Mile/Meadowbrook access to the Lincoln Bridge access, about 12 1/2 miles of river. That stretch of the river is farther upstream than most people who float the Pine are used to. In fact, the Pine is such a popular river that the US Forest Service has implemented a permit system on the lower river to limit access to the river. The permits are only $2 per boat, I don’t mind the cost, the Forest Service has put the money to good use for a change and built some great facilities for river users. I had always avoided doing the Pine, since it was so crowded all the time in the past. Nothing like a group of drunken louts to ruin a fine day on the water. While there are still a lot of drunken partiers on the rivers, the permit system has helped. It isn’t just the drunks that cause problem, there were so many people running the Pine that there were problems with bank erosion and trash as well. That’s one of my pet peeves, people who venture out to supposedly enjoy the beauty of nature, but leave their trash behind to ruin it for those who come along later. It isn’t just trash, but also just plain stupid vandalism like destroying signs and hacking up trees just because some people feel the need to, something I don’t understand at all. Well, maybe I do understand people like that. They are pathetic little people who can only leave their mark in this world by destruction, because they are incapable of building anything. They have no respect for anything because they have no respect for themselves’.
I know I titled my blog Quiet Solo Pursuits, but I should let you all know that I started a web-based kayaking group last spring, April 2009, and it went quite well for the first year. We had close to 200 members and averaged 25 people on our trips on a regular basis. After our first float of this year, a couple of things happened and I am no longer with that group anymore, but a few of us have stuck in touch and still kayak together. It isn’t that I am opposed to having other people along, it is that I have high standards of acceptable behavior when in the woods or on a river, and very few people meet those standards. But, back to the rivers.
Saturday started out overcast with a few rain showers moving through the area, which were over with by the time we got to the river. The Pine is a spring fed river that stays cold all summer long. With the rain and humidity, there was a haze on the water as we put in and started our journey.
The Pine is one of the fastest rivers in Michigan’s lower peninsula. It keeps you on your toes with not a lot of time for taking pictures or anything else. You don’t need to paddle to move along at a good clip, but you do have to do a lot of steering to stay out of the brush and off the rocks. It is a beautiful river, with a mixture of everything. Low brushy banks to towering high banks with old growth trees still standing. It has become one of my favorite rivers to kayak, I think only the Jordan River near Lake Charlevoix is prettier, and that’s saying a lot. A couple of us ran this same section in the middle of July, and the banks were lined with many different wildflowers along the way. Most of the flowers were gone Saturday, but it is still a beautiful river, and if you can run it in June or July, you’ll also get to see an explosion of color in the form of wildflowers that you’ll want to stop and take pictures of. Being spring fed, you can run it all year round. It would also be spectacular in the fall when the leaves have changed color. The upper section we ran Saturday has some whitewater, not a lot, and not difficult at all. It may not be a beginner’s river, but any one who has paddled a couple of rivers shouldn’t have a problem with it. It isn’t as fast or as twisty as the Sturgeon, and not as difficult as the Little Manistee is. It took us about 4 1/2 hours to run the 12 1/2 miles, and that included two short stops along the way. One at the South Skookum access site, and the other at the Silver Creek access site. A private association owns the land along the river between those two access sites, and by taking our breaks at the access sites, we were able to respect the landowners property rights. By the time we pushed off from South Skookum, the sun had come out and it was a gorgeous day. It did get warm, but there was enough shade and cool spots along the river to ward off the heat, and dipping your feet or hands into the cold water of the Pine is a great way to cool off.
It was a great trip, marred only by the drunks at Silver Creek who insisted on whooping and hollering at every woman who went by in a kayak or canoe. If they were ever to allow shooting rude men, I’d be all for it.
Then on Sunday, Mike, Connie, and myself kayaked the upper Rouge River above the Dam in Rockford. We did it as a change of pace, the upper Rouge is a much gentler river than the Pine. I consider the Rouge to be my home river, I have floated it the entire length that is practical in everything from a rowboat to rubber rafts to kayaks. I have also waded most of it during the many times I have fished it. I am not positive, but I think I have run the Rouge in every month of the year. I know I have fished it all year round. They say every river has a personality of its own, the Rouge has a split personality. Above the dam, it is a gentle river with a moderate to slow current, with a gravel or sandy bottom in most places. Below the dam, the river picks up speed, the bottom is mostly rock or gravel, and there is some of the best whitewater in the lower peninsula, albeit very short stretches, like where the old Childsdale Dam used to be. The “problem” with the Rouge is that its depth fluctuates a great deal depending on the amount of recent rainfall. The entire river tends to be shallow, and a week without rain in the summer means you’ll probably be walking a couple short stretches. We had to get out of our boats a couple of times on Sunday, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people. I guess it is because I am used to wading rivers while fishing. The best time to do the Rouge is after a heavy rain, especially below the dam. The surprising thing about the Rouge is how undeveloped it is for being less than 15 miles from downtown Grand Rapids. There are some houses along the way, but not as many as you would expect, and the amount of wildlife is incredible! Many a time I have seen deer crossing the river while I fished, or watched mink along the banks, and there are a lot of waterfowl, especially once you get near the dam.
Just a couple of the pictures I took on Sunday. Here’s another, of the Cardinal flowers along the river.
Every river does have a personality, and we chose two different rivers with different personalities just for that reason. Saturday on the Pine was beautiful, but as fast as it is, you sometimes feel as if it went by too quickly. Sunday on the Rouge was the antidote to that, a slow leisurely float with lots of time to take in everything there was to see. It doesn’t get much better than that!