Finally get away from my responsibilities and took a little break.
Rounded up an old friend and his kids to go along on the trip. The youngsters had never been to the cabin; he hasn’t been there since a quick stopover on his honeymoon. His wife had the misfortune of stubbing and thus breaking her toe a couple days before we left. She opted to stay home despite my claims of the restorative powers of cold Manistee River water.
Arrived in Grayling about 10 PM and did a quick bit of shopping for supplies and adult beverages. Finally get to the cabin and unpack. Kids excited to ‘camp out’ in their trailer; not so excited about the ‘spooky’ sleeping loft. Too many cobwebs, I guess. I bunk out on the screen porch, and we all go to bed in anticipation of tomorrow’s canoe trip.
Saturday morning dawns cloudy and a drizzle of rain. Breakfast and moving the canoe from the rack on the trailer to the rack on the truck take a little time. Turns out the new kayak fits right inside the back of a Ford Explorer. Kids are a little squished but hey, it’s only a few miles to the put-in! We make sandwiches and pack lunches, and head upriver to the County Road 612 bridge. More drizzly rain on the drive up but it stops as we are unloading and carrying the boats down to the river. Mist and fog on the water make for an atmospheric start of the journey. We get serenaded by an already tipsy crowd at one of the rental cabins near the bridge, but after that it’s peace and quiet the rest of the trip.
The canoe drifts faster than the kayak so I find myself having to work just to keep up. I brought along a reach extender/ ‘grabber’ to grab any cans, bottles or trash that the drunken livery crowds leave behind. The kids quickly became experts at spotting empties and would point and shout them out to me. Here’s a little message to the guy who was drinking ‘Twisted Tea’: you’re a %#@!ing slob. I was picking up after you for miles. I picked up as many cans as I could reach safely. Canoe liveries expose people to the beauty of a natural river, but they also expose the river to the ugliness of people. It’s not hard, folks… don’t use the river as an ashtray, a garbage can, or a toilet.
We stop for lunch at the Upper Manistee River Campground. feels good to stretch our legs and wolf down sandwiches. The kids call their mom (the cellular phone service around here is improving!) and rub it in. We continue downstream. The kids get a close up view of a Great Blue Heron as we come around a bend. It takes flight and for the next few bends in the river we repeat the process. They got a great view from the lead boat, I with my camera, lagging behind… not so much. Lots of fish jumping/ feeding, dragonflies flying around, but thankfully no swarms of mosquitoes, horseflies, or the dreaded ‘Little Black Fly’. Sure, they look like a harmless fruit fly but looks are deceiving. They’ve driven grown men mad with the relentless buzzing and biting. None of that for us, it’s clear sailing all the way.
About the time we’re getting hungry, we round the last bend and the cabin comes into view. After the mad rush for the bathroom/outhouse subsides, I pump up the tires on the old single-speed Schwinn bicycle, adjust the seat, and set off to retrieve the truck left at the put-in. Normally we’d hire the livery to drop us off but ‘due to insurance rules’ they have to charge full rental price (even if you have your own boat) to shuttle you upstream.
No, thanks, I can peddle a bike for free. It’s 5.5 miles, flat, and doesn’t take all that long. I’m back before dinner is ready. We splurged a little and cook steak and potatoes on the BBQ grill. Good eats! Too damp for a bonfire but we start a small fire in the cabin woodstove to drive out the chill. Adult beverages while the kids watch a DVD.
Sunday is another cool overcast day; sleep in and then cook a hot steak and eggs breakfast with our leftovers. Lazy day, I don’t do any ‘chores’ other than spreading some grass seed in the front yard area to try and fill in the bare spots and slow the erosion. Kids and dogs and a long hot summer have not been kind to the already struggling ‘lawn’. We clean up the cabin, pack up and hit the road. Too late for the bakery, it’s already closed when we roll thru Grayling. Stop for a pizza and eat it in the park. Make the obligatory stop at the Grayling American Legion Hall where the kids play on the tanks and marvel at the jet and missile on static display.
Hit the highway south and thus ends my 2011 vacation.
Photo Gallery and video of the river trip.
GPS Stats: (water miles)
Mileage: 7.38 miles / 11.8 KM
Max speed: 5.1 MPH / 8.2 KPH
Moving average speed: 2.2 MPH / 3.54 KPH
Time: 3.21 hrs moving, 1.17 hrs stopped