Huron River Fall Paddling – Start Kayaking

Fall can be a great time to paddle, few power boats, can be warm, and the trees can be in full fall color.  Can also be a time to start kayaking if you have been putting it off all summer.

Huron River Fall Paddle Picture

Huron River Fall Paddle

Such was the case for a Huron River Paddle from Little Portage Lake to the Zukey Lake Tavern as a turn around destination point and to fuel up on food and beverages.  Unfortunately even though it was an 80 degree day and sunny, the tavern neglected to open their outdoor patio, very short sighted for business.  People were waiting for tables by the time we left.

Zukey Lake Fall Paddle

Zukey Lake Fall Paddle

The tree colors were at peak in my estimation,  leaves will only be getting browner and dropping from here.  The water was still high on the Huron River benefiting from the week of rain a week ago.  Not sure of the exact date but the lake levels will be dropped in the next few weeks for winter by opening the dams along the Huron River.

Huron River Fall Paddle

Huron River Fall Paddle below Strawberry LK

I’m planning on doing this paddle again next weekend with the Great Lakes Paddlers.  The temperature is only predicted to be 59 degrees with winds up to 26 MPH.  I hope the wind prediction changes, that kind of wind will not be real pleasant, and not suitable for beginners.  Stay posted.

Paddle To Hell And Back

Hell Michigan that is on the chain of lakes in the Pinckney Recreation Area.  The launch site was on Bruin Lake at the state camp ground boat launch.  We had a very small turn out for a paddle sponsored by the Cross Roads Group of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club.  They just don’t hug trees, there are lots of fun activities, kayaking being one of them.

Hell Paddle

Fall Paddling

It was a beautiful fall day, warm, mostly sunny and the tress were just starting to change color.  There was thunder storms forecast for later in the afternoon, but they never arrived.  There were very few boats out and it made for a very pleasant paddle to Hell.

Fellow Paddlers

Fellow Paddlers

I did receive a complaint after the paddle that we went too far, and 3 out of the 4 people showed up with sea kayaks!  So I guess it should be advised in the future to bring kayaks over 12 feet in length so everyone can paddle at close to the same speed and distance comfortably.  Lesson learned there.

Return Trip

Returning to Launch Site

There was food and refreshments at the Dam Site Inn after the paddle.  I had to miss out on that since I got a call my power was out and I had a generator to get running.  The power came back on of course shortly after I got home.  Good thing because being out of power is a pain – anyone agree?

Kayak Rescue Greenland Style

Getting caught up on some of the videos I recorded at Qajaq Training Camp.  Greenland kayaks can be difficult to get back into with a wet exit due to the tight fit, so the best way to recover from a roll is to have a your paddling partner do a rescue assist.  The video shows some good techniques.

Greenland Kayak Training Camp Weekend – Qajaq USA

Over a long 4 day weekend I had a very different and very enjoyable experience at the Qajaq (pronounced kayak) Training Camp.  It is called training camp because it is a training and learning event, with lots of mentoring, and I’m just guessing the camp part because it is held at a private camp – Camp Lookout in Northwestern Michigan with Lower Lake Herring on one side of the camp and Lake Michigan on another side just over a small sand dune.


Getting Ready

Locked and Loaded

It is a beautiful wooded location on sand dunes; there are very few flat areas in the camp.   The camp faces Lower Herring Lake, with no roads to the camp; the only way to get there is by boat, so you have to paddle your kayak over to the camp.  Camp Lookout first opened in 1917 as a girl’s summer camp, there have only been three owners of the camp, and many of the individuals that went to the camp were multi-generational.  Going there reminded me of going to summer camp when I was young, it was a nice feeling.


Camp Lookout

Camp Lookout Dock and Dinning Hall

Qajaq Training Camp is put on by Qajaq USA.  According to Qajaq USA: “This is a non profit membership organization that is officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat (The Greenland Kayaking Association).  Qajaq USA is committed to supporting Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland Kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking the United States.”


Lake Michigan in front of Camp

Lake Michigan in front of Camp

The food was excellent prepared under the direction of Chef Michael Gray of Uncommon Adventures .  He has a cook book available “Hey, I’d Eat This At Home!” for those interested in preparing and tasting some of the food served at the training camp. Click on the Uncommon Adventures link above for more info.  Michael has a fantastic personality to go along with his culinary skills.  He also puts on kayak trips which sound like a bargain for the money knowing the food that comes along with it.  Going on one or more of his trips is on my list of things to do, “bucket list” if you will.


Lower Herring Lake

Lower Herring Lake

There was a Greenland National Kayaking Champion star joining the group for the event, his name is Maligiaq Padilla (first name pronounced muh-LIG-ee-ahk). “Maliqiaq is the undisputed “rock-star” of Greenland Kayaking.  He has won the national championships more times than anyone else in history.”  He is a native Greenlander, very humble, with lots of energy, humor, and character.  He is fun to be around, not to mention his traditional kayak skills which he wants to share.  Click on the link for his name above to learn more about him, a very interesting individual.  He was a very enjoyable addition to the training camp, just one of many parts that made the camp a magical place.  I enjoyed his “paddling on the ground” and “Italian warm-up” work out (you had to be there).


The training sessions are very informal, you find a mentor to work with, tell him what you’re interested in and away you go.  Of course everything has to be traditional that you want to learn.  There is lots of rolling training and static braces, sculling braces being taught.  I learned how to roll my kayak this weekend.  Previously I was able to roll it with a paddle float but not really rolling without it.  I was able to consistently make the roll after getting some training from Don Beale.  Don is a real nice guy, laid back and also very skilled.  Just one of the many great people I met during the weekend.


Static Kayak Brace

A New Kind Of Static Brace By "Rooster"

I can go on and on about how friendly and helpful everyone was at the training.  There was nobody that would not help you with any skill or answer any question.  I was surprised that I received several compliments on my Skin On Frame Greenland kayak.  This because there are so many skilled kayak builders there and this was the first boat I made.  I still have to work on it.


After working on rolling my SOF and spending time in the boat I found the beam at the back of the coaming was hurting my back, need to cut a curve in the beam and add some padding.  The back brace I have there is not keeping the boat comfortable.  I also need to move the foot braces forward just a bit for a tighter fit.  There was a suggestion made to me to add some padding on the Masik for a tighter fit as well to assist the boat in rolling.   My plastic P&H Capella did fine with rolling after I switched boats.


SOF Greenland Boats

SOF Greenland Boats

To raise money they hold a silent auction and for the first time a live auction.  I have been to silent auctions before where there is junk being donated.  Not here, it was all great stuff; I was eyeing the traditional paddles made by Roy Martin that breaks down into 4 parts for traveling.  They were beautiful.  I just could not justify the expense to my budget at the moment.  My kayak budget being well spent this year. There was also a raffle, I won a paddle sock!


One of my friends got roasted during the auction, it was hilarious, people were rolling over laughing.  Gerry made the mistake of bringing a Euro paddle to the event (I did also but stayed under the radar); it got auctioned off to his horror.  It really just got removed from the room but Gerry did not know that at the time, I had to chip in $10.00 to reimburse the young lady (Danielle) that won the exorcism.  Gerry kept raising his hand to stop the auction only to get the price raised.  Gerry was set up by his “friends” so nobody was really picking on him for bringing a Euro paddle as a second paddle.  I wish I had a video of this event.


Training Camp Group

"Gerry's Friends" with Gerry. The "Pack" as we were known with Mailiqiaq (White Shirt) - Which one is Gerry?

There were just so many highlights of the weekend to mention, a very enjoyable weekend that came to an end too fast.  Now I know why people come back every year.  I also joined Qajaq USA while I was there, it was hard not to with all the great people and the quality of the event that was put on.  One word of caution, the food is good, I put on 2-3 pounds during the long weekend, even with lots of exercise.  The three full great tasting meals a day are dangerous.

This Week is QAJAQ Training Camp

Busy this week getting ready for my first QAJAQ training camp event.  This is specifically for Greenland Kayaks and traditional paddles.  Taking my Greenland Kayak now ready for paddling after some adjustments were made to sitting position and added some deck lines.  For more information about the yearly event which is limited to just 30 people, go to the following link: QAJAR TC

For me it is a 4 and a half hour drive and 230 miles, taking two vehicles one with a trailer, going with 7 people and 11 kayaks.  Location is just South of  Frankfort MI on the Northwest side of Michigan on Lake Michigan.  The camp is located on Lower Herring Lake which has no roads to it, paddling is required to get there.


Kayak Rolling Demo GLSKS

While I was attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium I watched a kayak rolling demo put on by Doug VanDoran (hope I spelled his last name right).  His day job is a Paster, so he does not get much kayak paddling time and has adopted rolling as his past time.  I have uploaded three parts of his demo below, more will get posted.

He makes it look so easy, the sound is not perfect (windy day on Lake Superior), you may have to turn up your volume, but listen to what he is saying – it’s all technique.

We Did What Nobody Else Was Allowed To Do

We did not realize it until later but we did what the HCMA was not letting anyone else do – paddle down the Huron River on a hot summer day with a nice river water level.  The HCMA was making and enforcing restrictions to the river’s use, like they own the Huron River.  They closed all the canoe launches and fishing access all along the Huron River South of Portage dam to Delhi Park.

There must be lawyers involved, yes the river was high for July 31st but it was not dangerous.  Sure you could do something stupid and hurt yourself but that is true anytime on the water.  Note it was unsafe to even fish…

We even went over all the rapids all the way down until Delhi Park.  We put in at Little Portage Lake and portaged at the dam at the end of Portage Lake on the Huron and went though the Hudson Mills Rapids without portaging.  All this with sea kayaks.  I think the HCMA was a little over the top in their restrictions today.  We wondered why we had the river to ourselves.  We saw a few canoes near Dexter from private property, and some tubers were putting in at the Mast bridge in Dexter.

Check out the video and you tell me if it looks dangerous.

Huron 003

Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium 2011 in Grand Marias MI

Following up from my previous posting about the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium  I wanted to mention some more impressions about the event.


I arrived in Grand Marais Michigan  in the “UP” on Wednesday afternoon making good time from Dexter Mi area in six and a half hours of driving, with 30 minutes spent in Mackinaw City getting gas and a couple other items needed for the trip.  I wanted to get lunch there, but the service was so slow, I left the restaurant, just not on the slower time clock yet for Northern Michigan.


I registered and signed up for my trip and classes.  I took the traditional track class option for my relatively new Greenland paddle.  They allowed registration well before the stated 5:00 PM time which worked out well.  I signed up for the Thursday Spray Falls Trip

Spray Falls at The Pictured Rocks

Spray Falls at The Pictured Rocks

which I enjoyed however the walk back up the river was hot and took some energy to do, not to mention the portage on Beaver Creek.  Not everyone would be happy with this trip; however there are sights you will never see on other trips.  In particular the paddle across Little Beaver Lake and Beaver Lake with absolute glass mirror surface that day.

Beaver Lake

Spray Falls Trip

Due to the calm conditions we also paddled further before returning, just before The Grand Portal rock.


Pictured Rocks

Turn around point before the Grand Portal

My first class was with Derrick Mayoleth, and I was the only student.  They don’t cancel classes I was told, unless nobody shows up.  So I got some excellent one on one instruction and covered far more traditional paddle techniques than if other people were in the class.  I enjoyed all of the classes; my only regret is I did not take the traditional rolling class on Saturday afternoon.


Kayak Race


I stayed in a motel for this symposium, likely next year I will camp since the campground is right next to the main symposium base of operations in the community center.  The beach for the classes is just a block away.  Other than transportation for one of the paddle trips there is no need for a car once you get there.  Everything is within a few blocks walking distance.  Your kayak can be left at the beach for the weekend classes.


Kayaks Ready For Class


Next year to miss the Sunday night traffic, I think I would stay till Monday and take a leisurely drive home, getting in another full day of kayaking in Grand Marais.  The event is very weather dependent, some people were disappointed it was so calm on Lake Superior, they wanted the big waves.

Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium

I attended the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium July 13th through the 17th held in Grand Marais Michigan in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.

GLSKS Kayaks At The Beach

GLSKS Kayaks At The Beach

This is perhaps the reason I have not been able to blog for a week.  WIFI is available there but limited, motels may advertise it but have no signal, wireless cell coverage is spotty.  This is the UP.

The 2011 Grand Marais High School Graduation class has all of five students.  There is one grocery store and not a very good one – I could not find anything good to make a lunch for my Kayak trip to the Pictured Rocks.  There are two bars, one a brew pub The Lake Superior Brewing Co., The Sportsman bar is the only place for breakfast in town.  Both bars have excellent food, but I found the whitefish significantly better at the Sportsman.  Get the Southern Omelette at the Sportsman at breakfast, you won’t be disappointed, but don’t go there before 8:00 AM.  Only the locals can get in for coffee before that.

Don’t be in a hurry in Grand Marais, relax and enjoy it, things just move at a different pace there.  It is very picturesque

Grand Marais Harbor

Grand Marais Harbor

with the protected  Harbor on one side of town and Lake Superior on the other side with fantastic sunsets.  There are sandy beaches and crystal clear water.  Weather can change quickly and be very calm or a raging storm at any given time.  Water temps are typically cold.

Grand Marais Harbor View

Grand Marais Harbor View

I will continue this blog about the GLSKS in a couple of posts, so watch for more.  Remember summer is here, Start Kayaking!

Lake Superior sunset

Lake Superior Sunset July 13th

Lake Superior Sunset July 16th

Lake Superior Sunset July 16th


Zukey Lake Tavern Run – Again

Nine sea kayakers made the 14 mile trip from Portage Lake to Zukey Lake just to paddle for beer.  Two people had a Hell of A Ride the day before, riding 100 miles on their road bikes.  We had a good paddle, river down from last time, not much power boat traffic on the way there.  The power boaters woke-up about 2PM.  Saw lots of other kayakers going down river, more than I have observed on one day on the chain, kayaking must be catching on.

We had three Greenland boats doing the paddle.  Mine was not among them, still have not worked on the seating position to get it right. hoping today is the day I can get to it.  Then I can Start Greenland Kayaking