Hugh Heward Challenge April 27,2013

The first 70 degree day of the year with clear skies made for the perfect therapy after one of the most stressful weeks in a long time. After being forced to stay off the rivers by record rains and flooding for the last two weeks, it was time to get back on the water.
 The Hugh Heward Challenge has been held on the Grand River for the last 14 years at the end of April. Rodney, Carla, and I joined members from several kayak clubs to do the 26 mile Half Hugh. Rodney had done the Full Hugh once, but didn't care to paddle 50 miles again. I had doubts my back would handle even the Half Hugh since I had never done more than 16 miles at a time, but decided I had to at least try. Carla was under the mistaken impression we were only doing the 13 mile Quarter Hugh so she was in for a surprise when I told her that we were paddling 26 miles, especially since she was out for a moonlight paddle the night before. But being the good sport she is, decided to go on the 26 mile run.
Carla also thought we were going on a smaller river, so she brought her whitewater boat. She needs to read the emails more carefully. The area below the dam was the only "whitewater" we would see. Luckily for her Rodney brought both his wooden kayak and his 14' Perception Rhythm, so he let Carla use the Rhythm. She was so pleased with how it handled she may buy one for herself.
  We put in below the dam at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge. The remnants of the rain made for a good swift current, although the water levels had receded to near normal. We paddled at a pace of nearly six miles an hour for most of the trip.
An old abandoned bridge spanning the river.
There are a lot of islands in the Grand River. The size of the river meant that fallen trees didn't present any problems.
Not something you expect to see - an old ten speed bike hanging from a tree in the middle of the river. Did someone put it there, or did it get hung up from a flood?
A four person canoe going down the river as we took a lunch break. There were also several people practicing for the Au Sable Canoe Marathon coming up in July.

Setting off for the last 13 mile stretch after lunch.

 We saw a couple of eagle nests along the river. Both appeared to be occupied. An eagle flew out of the second one and circled above us for a while, apparently upset at being disturbed. He didn't get close enough for a good picture.

Pedestrian bridge entering the city of Portland.
At the end volunteers had a hot meal waiting for us. Grilled hot dogs and three types of chili made for a good meal at the end of a five hour trip.
Miles paddled today: 25.3. Year to date: 96.1 miles.

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Little Muskegon River April 6, 2013

 The Little Muskegon River is seldom paddled in the summer because the water levels are usually pretty low. That's a shame because it must be a beautiful river when the trees are in full foliage. So to take advantage of the higher water levels, it is usually kayaked in the winter or spring.
Jeff joined Rodney and me on the river today. This was the first time I kayaked this river. Rodney kayaked this same stretch yesterday. It must be nice to not have work get in the way of time on the water. Jeff has been on this river several times, and is a much better paddler than Rodney or I. Since they both have more experience, I was following them most of the time.
As has been the case almost every weekend for the last month or so, Friday has been perfect weather for kayaking- sunny and warm, while on Saturdays it turns cloudy and cool. The temperature was in the low 40s when we put in the river at 10:00, and the clouds hung around all day.
 There were still a few patches of snow around, but the ice on the river was gone. The melting snow made for a good strong current. We covered the first six miles in a little over an hour.
We saw several deer and a couple of ducks and turkey buzzards along the river. Other than that, we didn't see any wildlife. The usual geese and kingfishers that hang around the river were nowhere to be seen.
The upper stretch from Morley Dam was pretty much clear of obstacles. That changed rapidly as we got past Long Road. Shortly after we passed under the bridge, we began to have to fight our way through. The first obstacle was a huge tree that spanned the whole river. Jeff was able to get under it with no problem since he was smaller than either Rodney or I. Rodney fought his way around the end of it with some help from Jeff. I eventually got under it, not without a little bit of excitement as I got turned sideways and started to tip. By tipping, though, I was able to clear the tree and brace myself to get back upright. Self preservation is a powerful motivator.
Several more downed trees were not as much of a problem as we were able to get around them. I wish I had brought my saw, though. I had taken it on the last several paddles, but left it in my car this time. It would have helped by cutting a path through the smaller branches of some of the trees.
Another tree blocked the whole river, so we were forced to get out of the water. We were able to portage around it with no problems. Shortly after, another tree spanned most of the river, and we were able to get around it, but I got hung up on another log sticking up out of the water. Rodney and Jeff were a ways ahead of me so they were unable to help. The current grabbed the back of my boat after I hit it and swung my boat against the bank. The log was over the top of my kayak and kept me from tipping over, but I was unable to break free. I had to bail out to get it loose. My dry suit kept me dry, and after emptying the water from my kayak, we were on our way again.
A couple more challenges made for an interesting finish. The last portage required a climb over some logs and up a steep bank, then down the bank onto another log to get back in. I don't think I have ever gotten so muddy while kayaking. But it made for a fun trip and was a great learning experience. It's good to have a couple of strong paddlers to learn from and help through the tough spots.

One of my goals was to paddle every month of the year, and I finally achieved that, even if the December paddle was in Florida. I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Miles paddled today: 12.3. Year to date: 70.8.

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