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Trip Reports

July 2 Upper Manistee River

John Heiam  | Published on 7/2/2016
Lois and I have been paddling about a hundred days a year since 2000.  Some quick arithmetic tells me that is about 1600 paddle trips.  When you are out on the rivers that much, you see about every kind of screw up imaginable, or so I thought.  Today there was a new one, and I did it!  First, some back story.  The Upper Manistee River requires a long shuttle on a dusty washboard gravel road.  To minimize the driving that everyone has to do, Lois and I figure out a complicated shuttle scheme that limits everyone’s driving on that road to one up-and-back trip. Most people don’t try to understand our scheme; they just do as we say, and it always works out. 
 
My part of the plan today was to drive from the Burger King in Kalkaska to the takeout on 612, with John Walton following me in his truck.  We would then leave my car at the takeout, and I would ride with John W to the put-in.  I was looking forward to the ride with John to catch up on news.  At Burger King, I jumped into John’s truck and we drove to the takeout.  It was then I remembered that I was supposed to be in my car at that point.  We had to drive back to Burger King, get my car and drive back to the takeout, where I left my car.  That meant John and I started about 45 minutes behind the rest of the group, but since I had Lois’ lunch in my kayak, we paddled hard and caught up.

At lunch, the rest of the group (Jackie, Tracie, Lois, Jocelyn, Mark S, and Pam) all enjoyed laughing at our screw up.  Max also did his best to lighten the mood by disappearing and then returning covered in black muck.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful.  Our only company on the upper stretch was a few fishermen.  Between Cameron Bridge and Hwy 612 we saw a lot of folks in rental boats, and they were having trouble fitting their boats through the narrow passageways.  At one point we heard this observation: “They (meaning our group) are doing a lot better than us because they only have one brain per boat; we have three!”

The stretch of river from John’s Landing to Cameron Bridge is really beautiful, and it gets little traffic even on a holiday weekend, but there is a reason.  The river is very narrow and there are countless places where the river is blocked by fallen trees.  Sometimes this requires getting out in cold deep water, and lifting/pushing your boat over an obstruction, then getting yourself over the obstruction, and finally getting back into your boat.  Sometimes you can short-circuit this difficulty if you slam into the obstruction with enough speed that you can slide up and over whatever is blocking the river.  Don’t even think about trying to paddle this section in a tandem canoe.  Short durable boats work best (13 feet and under).  You also want a small group. 
 
We all had a great time, but we knew what were were getting ourselves into.  I didn't get any photos of the tough upper section because John W and I were trying to catch the group.
Story by John H. and photos by John Heiam and Jocelyn
 
Jackie enjoys clear sailing
 
Jackie tries to power her way over a log
 
When she came up a little short, John W. came to the rescue.
 
This fellow cheered us on.
 
We couldn't have had a nicer day.
 
Max acts as Jocelyn's navigator
 

Honeysuckle VINE. Native. Flowers come out of the center of the first joint around the center leaf – “perfoliate”

 
Lois uses the scooter technique to get over some logs. She is using one of Jocelyn's canoes.
 

Jackie powers up and makes a run to get over a log

 
Tracie does too
 
Jackie ... and thank you to whoever uses a chainsaw on the big ones 
 
Tracie runs over a beaver dam
 
Mark goes up and over the beaver dam
 
Pam powers through too with Jackie and Tracie watching
 
The two Johns show up after being delayed by the car shuttle screwup.
 
John paddles by the first Indian Paintbrush of the season
 
Close up of the Indian Paintbrush