Eleven paddlers set out on a foggy morning to paddle the beautiful Betsie River from County Line to Fred's Landing Road: Harold, Pam, Linnaea, Linda, Lois, John, Tracie, Jackie, Marlene, Jocelyn and Milda. This is my new favorite spot on the Betsie! I am so thankful to have a water playground in my backyard. It was literally a wildflower and wildlife extravaganza! Pam spotted a bear with three cubs crossing Lindy Road on her way to the river put-in. I have hiked the Grand Traverse region of the North Country Trail twice and have yet to see a bear. I have smelled one before, but never spotted one.
The Betsie River has wildflowers galore on the banks including a pretty Purple Loosestrife which I learned is an invasive species. Well, a pretty face does not always mean a pretty heart. The fog dissipated before we launched, making it easier to read the river. The salmon that were able to make it up the fish ladder at the Homestead Dam were frantically on the move up the river. I spotted four king salmon. One bumped my kayak or I bumped into it, and I thought I hit a submerged log. Speaking of submerged logs, there were a couple of spots where we had to eddy out, wait, and one at a time paddle hard to POP up over a larger submerged tree. Fun! Before we arrived to this moment, Jackie and Tracie corralled some of the kayakers with a gentle motherly voice, "Wait your turn". On rivers like this, it is important to leave some room in between paddlers because you never know what's around the twisty bend. As Jocelyn told me about the wildflower Turtlehead (a white wildflower that looks like it sounds), John was as busy as a beaver clearing a spot for us to paddle through.
Linnaea also pointed out a bottle gentian wildflower. She even knows the scientific names of these flowers. How impressive! We have a wildflower expert in addition to our herbalist in the club. I reminisced for a moment about a trip on the Manistee,with a group of women, when I learned of natural herbs that help with hot flashes. It's called Motherwort. Well, not any one of us had to worry about that on this trip.
The weather remained moderate the entire trip with some cool Northern Michigan breezes. Aaahhh! We all lunched at a woodsy area on a bank with a large cold creek running down. Milda displayed her southern hospitality (she is from the Detroit area) passing out Trader Joe's ginger snaps at lunch and helping everyone to get back into their boats after lunch. We all had one portage. Lois stated that we could have cleared it out if it was warmer. Some members of the group had folding saws in tow. Lois, the leader of the pack, spotted a leaky beaver dam and a beaver lodge but no beavers in sight. Marlene also noticed large holes in the bank of the river. "Who lives there?", I wondered. Towards the end of the trip, Marlene and I agreed, was a joyous spot alternating between deeper spots with a faster current and shallow riffles over
Linnaea has the book, Paddling Michigan by the Hillstrom's, which states the distance of this stretch is 7 miles. Harold's GPS read 10.3. What a difference. We arrived at Fred's Landing, some of us with only minor scratches and all intact. I was impressed with the teamwork displayed on this trip. Most of the paddlers busily started to help haul the boats up the approximately ten steep stairs, testing our agility. On the way home Linnaea said she advanced her river reading skills on this trip. To the two former teachers, who hosted the trip, what grade would we receive? Also a special thank you to the paddlers who cleaned the river as they moseyed downstream - Jocelyn, Harold, Marlene and me Linda Pelkey. Harold gets the gold star for finding the full can of beer and the unused condom. "I am not sure which is better", he exclaimed. This wasn't even a cleanup but we just can't resist. The other classic comment of the day: "I don't need to worry about sealing my hatch cover because I don't plan to get wet."
Report by Linda; photos by Linda, Jocelyn and John
The leader of the pack
John and Harold cleared a slot and then John helped the group through.
John pulled and Linda pushed her kayak up the muddy bank.
A beaver lodge/condo