Kalamazoo River March 23, 2013

Winter is taking as much time leaving as it did in coming; we had 6 inches of fresh snow this week. It has mostly melted, with daytime highs in the 40's. With this snow I think we have had as much snow in March as November, December, and January combined. Rodney and I decided on a trip down the Kalamazoo River today to take one last run this winter with some snow on the ground.
 We are going to have to kayak on Fridays, since the last couple of weeks they have been sunny and warm. Saturdays have been cloudy and cool. But work still gets in the way of being on the water, at least for me.
We encountered a lot of fishermen in the upper section of the river, both in the river in boats and on shore. Once we were past M-89, we had the river to ourselves.
The river is fairly wide, so trees didn't cause any problems. We thought about  trip down the Pere Marquette with another group, but didn't want to deal with downed trees. A couple of submerged rocks did keep us on our toes.
 The sun came out for about 20 minutes. The temperature was in the low 40's with a slight breeze.
The river mostly flows through the Allegan State Game Area so there are few houses or roads. We saw lots of ducks and geese and several deer. But the best part was the solitude. There is nothing like the peace and quiet of a trip down a river in winter.

 There were only small patches of ice on the shore. The bayous and still water areas were ice covered. Nothing that caused any problems. We both stayed warm and dry today.
 Spring will eventually come, and whatever snow we do get will melt fast. Even though the cold weather makes paddling more difficult, there is something about winter I will always love. Even after working outside for 23 years when I was in construction, I still love a good snow storm, and will always hate to see it melt. It will be nice to be able to paddle without all the winter gear on, though.
Probably no kayaking for a couple of weeks.
With Vicki's birthday next weekend,  I doubt I will get permission to go kayaking. Need to keep priorities in order.

Miles paddled today: 15.7. Year to date: 58.5 miles.

View 4012-4036 Allegan Dam Rd in a larger map

Thornapple River - Middleville to Parmalee Road March 9, 2013

A bit of a different kayak trip today. I was hoping to get on another river while there was still snow on the ground, so I contacted Michal Ann to see if the Thornapple River was clear of ice. She said it was, but there was another reason to go down it this weekend. A mentally impaired young man has been missing for over a week in Middleville, and without his medication they were fearing the worst. Hundreds of volunteers would be searching on foot and atvs in the woods and a couple of planes from the air on Saturday, but the sheriff's department didn't have the resources to search the river in the winter. Michal Ann's husband is a volunteer with the sheriff department, and since some of us had winter kayaking experience, we were asked to help with the search.
We had only five paddlers since we had such short notice. And several of the regular winter paddlers were out of town on business, while others were at Canoecopia in Wisconsin. We decided to split up, with Mike and his son and Kirtus putting in at Irving Road to search the stretch above the dam, and Michal Ann and I searching the stretch below the dam to Parmalee Road.
I got off to an embarrassing start, doing a seal launch before realizing my paddle was no longer strapped to my kayak and was lying on the bank. Michal Ann hadn't launched yet, but I was about 100 yards downstream before she was able to catch up with me. I had dropped my paddle leash on the ground by my car as I learned when we got off the river.
Everything went smoothly after that. It was an overcast day with temperatures in the low 40's, and a few sprinkles of rain here and there. The current was good, and there were very few trees in the water to cause any problems. That was good, since we had to spend so much time searching the banks and brush piles. The other group wasn't as lucky, as there were a lot more obstacles for them.
There were a lot of ice shelves on the banks, giving an indication of how high the river had been earlier in the winter. The large amount of rain in late January followed by the cold weather that has persisted since then left the ice three to five feet above the river.

The neighborhood gargoyle watching over the river.
We scared up several deer bedding along the river, and startled lots of ducks and geese. A hawk kept flying ahead of us, and of course there were the ever-present kingfishers and blue herons.

There were a lot of bogs where a person could have easily fallen in, especially at night. But they were still covered in ice, so we were unable to search them. We did check several of them as much as we could to see if there were any holes in the ice.
There was no sign of the missing man by either group or the volunteers on land. Hopefully he will be found safe, but after a week with the cold temperatures we've had at night, chances were rapidly dimming. Pray for the family that they may at least have closure.

Today's paddle: 4.95 miles. Year to date: 42.8 miles.

Quiet Water Symposium Mar 2, 2013

Rodney and I made a trip to the Quiet Water Symposium at Michigan State University in East Lansing. There was a good turnout to view new products and gear, along with information on trips around the state.
Some small campers caught my attention. Nice and compact, easy to get into the back country, and no need to set up.

 There were several wood kayak builders in attendance. Very impressive work. One builder demonstrated how the strips were fitted and installed. I may have to try building one someday.

All the boats and gear makes me want to get back out on the water soon. I met a lot of great people, and got lots of ideas about new places to explore. I may have to take a trip to Canoecopia in Wisconsin next weekend.