Sunday, April 09, 2006



I must apologize to all of you who have visited in the past week. I realize I have somewhat neglected you. It was not intentional. It has just been an incredibly busy week!

Last Saturday was the annual river cleanup in South Bend, sponsored by the FRIENDS OF THE ST. JOSEPH RIVER. About 90 people showed up on a cold, drizzly day. Fueled by fresh baked warm scones and gallons of hot coffee provided by the local Celtic pub, these diligent workers managed to clean about three tons of trash from a three mile stretch of river from downtown South Bend to Darden Rd. on the far north end. A heartfelt thanks to all who shivered and worked so very hard! And a very special tip of the hat to Carol and Terry Meehan of FIDDLER'S HEARTH , who not only provided the fresh baked scones and coffee, but warmed us homemade soup, chili, and soda bread. And of course, plenty of Murphy's Red to wash it down with.

The rest of the week was spent preparing for what I am affectionately calling RIVERQUEST 2006! I built a new canoe seat, complete with backrest and footrest, for the upcoming adventure. The seat is hinged at the back for going under low lying objects, a feature which tuned out to be invaluable. Along with buddies Bob Owens and John Treacy, I made a brief test voyage up the St. Joe on Friday. We left from Leeper Park in South Bend and were almost immediately greeted by a somewhat perturbed Beaver. We encountered a couple of pair of Grebes heading north from their winters hiatus, along with a number of Wood Ducks, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, and Geese. The seat performed well, and was stowed, along with the canoes and gear, in preparation for Saturdays trip to the headwaters of the Grand.

The Grand River is the longest river in Michigan. From it's headwaters In Hillsdale county in southeast Michigan, to Lake Michigan, it flows 260 miles and drains over 5,500 square miles. It flows through 7 counties before reaching the lake. Our quest; to have covered all 260 miles by the end of the summer.

At 5:35 am Saturday morning, Bob's trusty old van rumbled up, and we departed for Homer MI, picking up John along the way. We met our friend Carol Wyble from Battle Creek at a little diner there, and after stuffing ourselves at the breakfast buffet, set off to drop the pick up vehicle at the take out site. Mission accomplished, but not before yours truly managed to get his fingers smashed in the van door. Fortunately, with the help of 800 mg of Ibuprofen, the fingertips went numb, so it didn't interfere with paddling. We put in at the headwaters about 11 am, with the air temp about 34 degrees. and a stiff 20 mph breeze. But it was bright and sunny, and by about 2, the temp was approaching 50.

The upper Grand meanders more than any stream I have ever been on. It passes through several very large marshes, where it is not uncommon to be paddling one direction, and have one of your canoeing partners pass you ten yards away going the other direction! I figure we probably paddled well over twenty miles to make six as the crow flies. These marshes are full of wild life, especially birds. We saw tons of songbirds, scared up a small flock of Sandhill Cranes (who make the oddest sound I have ever heard from a bird ), an Egret , Herons, numerous Red Tailed Hawks, and lot's of common water fowl.

Most of the objects in the way of our progress were man made. We had a few tree falls to pull over, and a dam to portage, but the biggest obstacle was the numerous homemade foot bridges that traversed the modest 6-10 ft span that is the headwaters. Most of these were high enough that you could lay down on the floor of the canoe and pass under (which is where the hinged seatback came in handy), but many you had to drag your canoe over. You can tell this stretch doesn't see a lot of canoes by the startled look on peoples faces as you paddled through their back yards, and all the excited greetings. Everyone wanted to know where you came from, how you got there, and where you were going. It was a lot of fun to talk and wave to folks as you passed by.

We didn't get off the water until about 7. By the time we got the canoes loaded, the gear stashed and our clothes changed, it was almost 9 pm before we arrived at a little bar in Union City MI for dinner. The special of the night was any piece of broasted chicken for 50 cents. I ended up getting 4 thighs and an order of fries. The thighs and the order of hand cut fries turned out to be huge. All four of us got four pieces of chicken, and fries. We had two pitchers of beer, and the entire bill was under 20 bucks!

We arrived home about 12:30, very weary and very full. I poured as hot a bath as I could stand, and proceeded to fall asleep. I woke about 3, finished bathing, and finally got to bed about 3:20. It was a very long, very enjoyable day.

Oh man! That sounds like a great time! (A little cold to start) Think I'll go dust off my kayak and hit the river or one of the sanctuaries nearby, then finish off with some fresh crab for dinner. Mmmm! Enjoy where you live, I always say. Did you take any pictures? I'd love to see that area. Thanks for sharing!
I bought one of those waterproof disposable cameras and took a bunch of pics. Hoping to use it up this Friday, and then I'll post some of the pics (if they turn out)!
good for you, cleaning up the river!! I don't get why people dump their crap around rivers....there is a little trout stream that flows through a deep canyon a couple hours from here....drop-dead gorgeous place until you get close to the bridge that spans the canyon....then you see old bicycles, tires, chunks of's terrible! The stream is full of brook trout, including the odd monster + holds a few chunky browns and the odd rainbow escapee from the local town millpond....
Wow! What a trip! It sounds amazing - great food, great sights, great people, and great times.

Hope your hand heals up quickly!
Good for you, GWB. Sounds like you had a great time and did good things.

I would definitely like to see some pics of the proceedings.
That sounds like such a good time!

I think I remember you posting about the river cleanup last year as well. It's great that so many people help out.

Your canoeing trip reminds me, my friend and I are planning a trip to touch all 5 of the Great Lakes in the summer :)
Did you cuss when you built the canoe seat? ;)
That sounds like a fun adventure for the summer!
We haven't seen any wood ducks or cranes up here yet. Would you mind shooing a few up here?
mr. a - it always irritates me too. why are people such pigs?

m. w. - hand is doing better.. trip was a blast!

dbd - should have pics next week

gp - yes, it is an annual event, and we usually get a good turnout. your trip sounds great!

tshs - nope, not once
Wow. Good times, good food and hot bath!!!
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