Towing my daughter in after our first paddle on the lake. She got sea sick in the 2-3' following seas.
Have you ever paddled in Lake Superior and wondered why you would need your rudder or skeg since there was no wind or tide? I wondered that for several years until this past September when I was paddling with my daughter and her husband and we sought to find out why the weather forecast was so wrong.
My daughter and I arrived in Bayfield late on a Wednesday just in time to catch a ferry over to Madeline Island for a sunset dinner. The weather was to be continually clearing and we couldn't wait to put our sea kayaks in the following day. Since we arrived late we decided to stay at Greunkes First Street Inn rather than find a campsite in the dark. We had their homemade pie before settling in.
At the crack of dawn, which was 7am, we walked next door and had coffee at the Big Water Coffee Roasters as we waited for the town to wake up and open its doors. It was still a little brisk outside but soon the sun was expected to come out and brighten things up. We stopped in Boreal Shores and admired their great selection of clothing and gear. I wanted my daughter to have her own compass because we hoped to paddle from the sea caves over to Eagle Island and I knew that fog can easily arrive out of nowhere and I wanted her to have her bearings.
Chelsea at Maggie's Restaurant in her Maggie's T.
After Boreal Shores, we found a fun little thrift store and spent quite a bit of time there. Chelsea found a cute t-shirt there from Maggies Restaurant which we planned to dine at later. I also like the pottery store just outside of town that has a lot of garden decorations so we stopped there before finding our campsite.
We hoped to see some of the shipwrecks so we found a perfect campsite at Legendary Waters that had its own little shallow nook for the kayaks. There are two shipwrecks near this location. We had a short walk down our private drive that meandered down to our rustic camp. After pitching the tents and unloading all of our gear we started preparing to put in. The average annual water temperature of lake Superior is 45 degrees which has the ability to moderate the climate making the winters warmer and the summers cooler. Between late spring and late fall the shore can be shrouded in fog even when the sun is shining inland. Duluth has an average of 52 days of heavy fog each year as the moisture in the warm air condenses as it flows over the cold lake.
In Lake Superior, small seiches occur almost continuously going largely unnoticed, but the biggest seiches can snap mooring lines and crash ships in harbors. In 1995, lake water went out and came back within fifteen to twenty minutes changing the water level about three feet at Ashland, Wisconsin, Marquette and Point Iroquois, Michigan, and Rossport, Ontario. During a seiche, a lot of water is moving in a relatively short period of time—like a tide, you can be left high and dry or inundated with water as wind and air pressure changes can cause the entire surface of the lake to rhythmically rock back and forth.
For the most part, the prevailing winds blowing across Lake Superior come from the Northwest and sometimes from the East. These winds and passing weather fronts push the water in Lake Superior to the far shores setting-up conditions for seiche activity once the wind dies down. “Free standing-wave oscillations” are due to the pendulum-like movements within seiches. Seiches are sometimes called “sloshes” on the Great Lakes and they are almost always present on Lake Superior. Lake Superior's seiches have a period of 7.9 hours. The movement stirs both nutrients and pollutants into the water column. The seiche actually reverses the flow of some rivers—the St. Louis River can flow upstream for 11 miles when a seiche floods the harbor.
We decided to collect driftwood rather than attempt finding Eagle Island in the fog. When we drove into to town the sun was out as we dined at Maggies.
The Apostle Islands proved my progression as an experienced sea kayaker like no other place I have paddled. Everyone has their unique goals and desires when it comes to paddling. It had been 9 years since my first sea kayak tour on Lake Superior to see the sea caves. Since then I had returned to do the “outer loop expedition,” an “all-islands expedition” twice, and a trip around Oak Island with Nigel Dennis. For the most part, I always returned in September because it is the ideal time to kayak when the summer crowds and bugs are gone. If you time it right, some years you may even see the spectacular fall colors as well.
...there is rarely a wind-stirred ripple on the water's still surface—
Mirror Lake is a narrow river-like waterway between tall cliff-sided gorges that is about 4 miles long. An impoundment of Sauk County's Dell Creek near the Wisconsin Dells, it is a 137-acre manmade lake that begins where Dell Creek flows under the Highway 23 bridge northeast towards the Wisconsin River .
In 1966 the state bought most of the land on the west end of the lake and opened up Mirror Lake State Park . Some families have kept their land and rustic cabins along Mirror Lake and the Seth Peterson Cottage. designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, has been restored.
The overlooks at the Seth Peterson Cottage have been the chosen sites for weddings over the years. The cottage now offers nightly rentals and open house tours are the second Sunday of each month from 1-4pm. In fall there is also a pontoon boat tour of the lake as well as hors d’oeuvres around the cottage fireplace.
The west end of the lake was once a popular resort area where Al and Lou Ringling enjoyed fishing when taking time off from the circus (Baraboo's Ringling Riverfront). Still a good fishing lake, the main fish species are bluegill, crappie, large mouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.
From the west end, Mirror Lake flows through the “Upper Narrows” where steep sandstone cliffs tower on each side. Protected by the cliff-sided gorges and towering oak and pine, there is rarely a wind-stirred ripple on the water's still surface—just like a mirror.
After the “Upper Narrows,” the water opens up wide at the Mirror Lake State Park boat landing and beach. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and pontoons are available through commercial development on the lake (Boat Rentals).
Just south of the beach, Blue Water Bay, or Gray's Slough, is a wildlife habitat. Here a short trail leads up to the amphitheater where, last October, Chelsea was married (A Rustic Wedding at Mirror Lake State Park).
Just past the interstate bridge(I-90), on the south side, is the “Devil's Post Office.” Photographed by the late, and local, H.H. Bennett, the area has many springs including the Allendale Springs that make the ice unsafe during the winter.
At the end you will be at the dam which forms Mirror Lake.
About three hours north of Chicago, Mirror Lake is a serene, dreamy paddle. Any manually propelled vessel that's not furnished with a motor or sail (canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and rowboats...) is exempt from registration requirements in the state of Wisconsin. Depending on where you "put-in," however, you may need to purchase a state park sticker. The beauty of owning a small boat is that you can really put it in almost anywhere and you don't need to use a boat ramp. There are locations for free parking and easy put in at each end of the lake.
By Mary Fairchild (Mfairlady.com)
Audubon Society George B. Parker Woodland, Coventry, Rhode Island.
"Williams(Roger), lacking the resources... got about by canoe, sometimes likely with a sail rigged...Canoeing, even in protected bays meant confronting sometimes breaking surf and routinely strong currents, heavy swells, whitecaps, and wind; occasional exposure to open ocean increased the danger exponentially." (4; Barry, p. 182.)
Last June, I spent a week in Narragansett, Rhode Island, sea kayaking off the rocky coast and hiking the area's Native American footpaths out of intrigue, interest, and recreational fun. At the close of my week I was able to tour Providence and Newport, which were both the stomping grounds of Rhode Island's founder, Roger Williams.
Roger William's influence as well as the Industrial Revolution, which has its roots at the base of Narragansett Bay, instilled in America the acceptance and freedom to enjoy our leisure and recreation.
Signatures of Canonicus, Miantonomi, and Roger Williams, confirming the sale of land to Williams in 1636.
Fleeing persecution for his beliefs, Roger Williams fled on foot through snow and bitter cold and survived through the assistance of the Native Americans. Eventually, when he reached the upper bend of a bay he called it Narragansett after its inhabitants. In 1636, he bought land from the Narragansett chiefs at the headwaters of the Narragansett Bay near a fresh water spring which became Providence.
The land was once a low, marshy shoreline of a large saltwater cove to the west that had a 7,000-year history of activity by native Americans. Williams stood in defense of Indian property rights and objected to the high-handed dispossession of the Indians by the British since John Cabot's claiming of the New World for England in 1497. When he published, "Key Into the Language of America," he hoped to improve communications between Europeans and the Indians. A first of its kind, the book was a sympathetic guide to Indian cultural patterns as well as a phrase-by-phrase translation of Indian language, mostly the Narragansett dialect.
The Puritan settlers of New England came to the New World to establish a society based on a strict Calvinist interpretation of the Bible. Calvin established an autocratic system of government in Geneva in 1541 that was directed by a group of Presbyters, morally upright men who controlled the social and cultural life of the community to the smallest detail. They not only ruthlessly suppressed heretics and burned dissenters at the stake, but were determined to force old codes against play and idleness which led to periods of strict limitations on leisure and recreation throughout many Christian cultures.
Today, not far from Providence, Rhode Island, over 100 beehive-shaped piles of stacked stones(pictured above) are an important historical feature that have been preserved. These mysterious stone cairns, like other unusual stone structures found throughout New England have provoked many questions. As with many activities there are no references to them in the old town records and this makes it difficult to attribute their construction to the last 200 years.
Recently a large field of about 100 rock cairns south of Providence, in Hopkinton, has been an important topic of conversation as a subdivision was proposed that would divide up the property. When asked for his opinion on the matter just last April, Doug Harris, preservationist for ceremonial landscapes and deputy tribal historic preservation officer for the Narragansett Tribe, referred to the cairns as "ceremonial stones" that had been "left by the ancients." According to Harris, every stone had been placed in prayer and a prayer was spoken into it and placed on the earth and that was to be received by their Mother Earth which in turn would bring balance and harmony to the Narragansett. He also added that it was their church, in a sense, because they have that intimate kind of relationship with the landscape. (6; The Westerly Sun)
A tribal, pre-technological society usually works when it is necessary and infuses rites and customs that lend to variety and pleasure. In the tribal society, work tends to be varied and creative rather than a narrow, specialized task demanding a sharply defined skill, as in modern industry. Ritual often accompanies work that is essential to harvesting, building, or a hunting expedition. Rituals often involve prayer, dancing, and feasting which where all part of their world of work. (9; Jones & Bartlett)
View of the Hudson River from the Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, New York.
The first weekend of my trip I camped and explored some trails at the Mills Norrie State Park in Staatsburg, New York, along the Hudson River. I also enjoyed learning to use the Greenland paddle and several different types of canoes with Atlantic Kayak Tours.
Robin Read demonstrates her graceful Greenland roll; 6/20/14.
Robin Read and Alan Mapes instruct Greenland paddling classes and lead tours at the Norrie Point Paddlesport Center on the Hudson River. Later, Robin joined me in some canoe classes as well as a few days in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for some ocean sea kayaking.
In 1607, Henry Hudson sailed up the Muhheakantuk (The River that Flows Two Ways) and met the Mohican people. In 1693, the 4,000 acre tract of land from the Mohicans including Hopeland and the waterway was named Hudson's River.
By the close of the 19th century, agrarian estates began evolving into recreational retreats for the wealthy where they enjoyed horseback riding, hunting, fishing, yachting, tennis, and golf. Compared in natural beauty to the Rhine River Valley of Germany, the Hudson River was nicknamed "America's Rhine." In 1997 it was designated as one of the American Heritage Rivers. The American Heritage Rivers Protection Program was created by an Executive Order signed by Bill Clinton in 1997. The recommended rivers were to represent a variety of stream sizes, diverse geographical locations, and a wide range of settings from urban to rural and ensure that relatively pristine, successful revitalization efforts were considered, as well as degraded rivers in need of restoration.
The Industrial Revolution created a reduction of work time which made possible new forms of leisure time (9; Jones & Bartlett). The Blackstone River Valley, also an American Heritage River, meanders for 46 miles from Worcester, Massachusetts, to the mouth at Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, and marks the location of the beginnings of the American Industrial Revolution.
In 1790, American craftsmen built the first machines that successfully used water-power to spin cotton. Along with scenic water trails, the story of the American Industrial Revolution can still be seen as thousands of structures and landscapes have been preserved for us to see how radically peoples lived had changed during that time. Here we can more keenly see how the force of technology and invention, labor and management, commerce and government, and in lieu of the it becoming "the hardest working river" making it one of the most thoroughly exploited and polluted rivers in America, of pollution and recovery affect us today. (10; National Park Service)
Along with canoeing and Greenland paddling, I spent a little time with Greg Paquin. In the picture above, Greg spent some time discussing towing skills he had just learned recently. He also answered my question on how to rig my tow belt so I don't need to purchase a separate short tow rope. Greg Paquin is the founder of Kayak Waveology and is on staff at Tom Bergh's Maine Island Company.
Greg Paquin is very familiar with the tide races around Fisher's Island Sound where the annual Autumn Gales Rough Water Sea Kayaking Event offers top notch coaching with coaches from Whales, including Nigel Denis and Phil Clegg. The Rhode Island paddling following this event included Chicago coaches Alec and Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin who had just spent some time in Whales training with Phil Clegg. The ocean is very unpredictable--which can be very exciting. I usually research my paddle locations as well as the coaches and their motivations before I go so I can see what they are doing during their training to help prepare me. I found the following perspective by Sharon humoring--especially if you are a paddler from the Midwest like me:
Alaska has Denali; Hawaii has Jaws; Oregon has the raging Columbia River Gorge. The Midwest has Lake Michigan, and Midwestern paddlers are tired of dismissive remarks from kayakers on both coasts.... that’s why you paddle across Lake Michigan. Because if you have enough skill and you have the right equipment and the weather looks good, you just might make it. And then again, you just might not. Sharon Boyd-Peshkin, Chicago Magazine, May, 2007
Landing on Whale Rock Island.
I felt a little crowded out at our first surf beach where the group rode two sets of swell that came together, but then I just moved down the beach a little ways and caught a few long rides all by myself and I was good. Then we paddled along a stretch of rock gardens en-route to Whale Rock Island (pictured above). I was watching ahead of the whole group and focusing on the incoming swell and how often it would come and totally change a safe area to a route that should be avoided. Scott had taken the lead and wove quickly far ahead of the group.
"The primary strategy for paddling in surf and rock gardens involves reading and handling these waves; knowing how to judge them, when to avoid them, and how to handle them when necessary." John Lull (11)
I watched Scott pass through a narrow area with large, jagged boulders on both sides of it that had been totally covered by wave surge just minutes before he had passed through. Wondering how long until the next surge, I watched. It took a good 6-7 minutes before that would happen again and it was just in time for Ralph to get pinned by it in total surprise. Fortunately, unlike me, he had taken out his plastic boat that day. As he was repeatedly beat up against the shore-side boulder with no way to bail out. Doug attempted to help but had to roll to get out of the surge safely himself. Next Alec climbed up the boulder from behind but was still unable to get to Ralph until finally the wave surge had ended.
"...getting to more advanced levels doesn't happen by taking courses. ...Judgment on the open sea, surfing, kayaking in rock gardens, 'sea sense,' seamanship, and other important skills cannot be taught in the same way. They depend on experience, and to some extent, a mentoring process." John Lull (Soares; 12)
On our way back we had two students lead the way and they chose to repeat the same scenario expecting the group to follow until they were hit by wave surge and needed to be rescued as well.
The late Eric Soares, co-founder of the Tsunami Rangers, came up with a sea conditions rating system as a way to classify general danger and difficulty on the sea. Wind, fog, water temperature, wave height, surf, and rocks are all rated and for every 20 points the class rating increases by 1; a total score of 40 equals a class II. Reefs and rocks combined with large waves can present considerable risk when kayaking in rock gardens. Tsunami Ranger and author John Lull writes, "Large surf often requires some miscellaneous danger points added in, due to such hazards as powerful rip currents and steep pitching waves. Most rock gardens rate at least a class 3, especially if breaking waves are present. If the swell is large, most rock gardens rate class 4 or higher, depending on exposure to the waves." (11; Lull)
Breaking waves will result from swells entering shallow water and you can watch for a pattern in the sizes but swell size patterns are not always so predictable, and trying to time your movements to the smaller ones can be hazardous. The number of waves in a set can vary, and sometimes there are no sets at all, with swells arriving in truly random sizes. This situation occurs when a storm creating the swells is close by, or when the storm is at your location—which would make all of the waves big. The more distance the disturbance, the greater the time and space for the swells to sort themselves our into some pattern as they travel.
Even the best defined sets, wave sizes and patterns of arrival are always somewhat erratic. The swells will look small and then all of a sudden, you get nailed by a big one. On the lower tides the rocks will cause breakers on almost all swell, but on higher tides, only the largest swells break. Intertidal rocks, which are the likely candidates for boomers, are marked on your chart by an asterisk. If you can't locate them just paddle a wide berth and watch for patches of foam from previous boomers as well as kelp which is a sign of a shallow rocky area.
Rebecca Merz, Sue Thomson, Robin Read, Lorrie Ruh, Bill Lozano, John Loughlin, and Sharon Bloyd-Peskin, Newport, Rhode Island; 6/26/14.
This was Rebecca's first ocean experience, but she's had some great surf practice on Lake Michigan with another Midwestern coach, Keith Wikle, who lives near her in Michigan. Moving on from her first BCU training just prior this trip she was all geared up to advance on with several of the same coaches. I enjoyed watching her progress in her skills.
As I began my week of ocean kayaking in Rhode Island I was asking others to help carry my boat when I felt my back catching again on me--a re-curing injury from last summer from a non-kayaking event. It turned out that Robin, John, and I were all nursing back or shoulder injuries during the trip. Whereas my injury was from improper lifting, John's shoulder was injured by a very large steep wave last year.
Rounding the tip of Block Island.
One night both John and Robin held ice packs on their injuries and I tried some techniques to relieve my lower back pain. Throughout the week, John and I did not always join in and we'd take a rest, and when we arrived on Block Island, after our surprise in doubling the length of our trip, John capsized when he lost balance due to his injury and needed rescue. Its an important call to make when paddling a long day with an injury as to whether or not to go, yet we did not know our trip would turn out as long as it did until we were already halfway through.
Crossing East Passage from Newport Neck to Jamestown with a storm approaching(another important call to make); 6/26/14. Picture by Lorrie Ruh.
The reason the Block Island paddle was unexpectedly almost double in length, 21 nm, was the unexpected boat traffic from the sailboats racing around the island for Block Island Race Week. After pausing to weave between them, we chose a landing just behind them and then circled the southern end of the island and up to the ferry dock.
I was comfortable with long paddle stretches and my back did well although my boat seemed a little off in the following seas which concerned me. I would find out later that I had paddled the whole day as well as the rest of the trip with my bow filled with water from paddling in the downpour the day prior. I wondered why my boat seemed so heavy--and I had seriously thought of replacing it--badly. It wasn't until after I had my boat off my car in Chicago that I figured out why it was heavy. The water in my bow the following day at the Charlestown Breachway, where the current in a constricted area got very strong during ebb tide, didn't effect my balance or my roll “in conditions,” but my back sure needed some rest toward the end of the day. (Charlestown Breachway YouTube).
At the age of 70 Roger Williams rowed 25 miles from Providence to Newport to debate the Quakers. He mistrusted a religion that relied more on "inner-light" than on the New Testament. No Quaker, however, in Rhode Island was ever punished for their beliefs or practices, whereas in Massachusetts some Quakers were hanged. Williams likened Rhode Island to "many a Hundred Souls in one ship." The captain should punish those who "refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the ship," but "non of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks [should] be forced to come to the Ship's Prayers or Worship; nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular Prayers or Worship, if they practice any."
This compelling image of the state's role would set the pattern for a nation. In 1643, and again in 1651, Roger Williams journeyed to England to obtain royal charters for his colony. Then, in 1663, he received notification of the King's written word that they would have freedom in religious matters. During his return to secure the charter, and in the context of the English Civil War, Williams wrote "The Bloudy Tenant, of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience." It was his life's work, and it pushed the conversation about church and state beyond religious toleration to complete religious freedom.
Attacking the idea that God gave material blessings or punishments to nations on the basis of their collective obedience to God's will, William's book challenged the notion made popular by John Winthrop and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay that Old Testament Israel could serve as a model for modern society. Termed "soul freedom"--liberty of conscience, Williams challenged both established religion and established government. His theological basis for separating church and state was under the Protestant concept of the Ten Commandments which divided them into the first four that were concerned with the relationship with God, and the remaining six, which dictated behavior toward fellow human beings. He felt that the state or civil authority could have no say in how or whether a person followed Commandments I through IV.
"...our royal will and pleasure is, that no person with the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be anyway molested, punished, disquieted, or called into question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion..." Rhode Island State House Charter Museum
Tags: Alan Mapes, Alec Bloyd-Peskin, Atlantic Kayak Tours, Coastal Sea Kayaking, Greg Paquin, Hudson River, Kayak Waveology, Mills Norrie State Park, Narragansett Bay, Native American Cairns, Norrie Point Paddlesport Center, Phil Clegg, Providence, Rhode Island, Robin Read, Roger Williams, Scott Fairty, Sea Kayaking, Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin
Yesterday I paddled solo in Chicago. Although the near-shore forecast said only 1-3 ft waves, I knew the sustained east winds would not disappoint. Sure enough, down by Oak Street, where the sea-wall gives way to open beach, I found some interesting choppy, clapotty stuff to play in, where reflected waves run sideways into the break.
I hadn't outfitted for surfing -- no helmet, and my only hydration, a bottle of Gatorade, under a bungie on deck. After wrestling the waves for a while, I got seriously thirsty.
Out beyond the break, I grabbed the bottle with one hand and was just about to open it when I felt the whole hull drop by six inches. I knew what was next, and 2/10 of a second later an up-gusher launched me three feet in the air. Reflexively, I grabbed my Greenland paddle with both hands, and managed to low brace, not even getting my face wet -- which was good, since my nose clip was on my pinky so I could gulp. But, the Gatorade was gone and not to be found.
My state of dehydration forced me to land, abandon my kayak on a crowded beach, and search for a drinking fountain. I chugged about a liter, I'd guess.
In retrospect, I have a few one-handed rolls, any of which would have allowed me to capsize and roll up with my bottle still in hand. I've managed to do this when holding my camera, after floating into a big break while looking at the viewfinder.
Sometimes it may be better to think for two seconds underwater than to react in 0.2 seconds in the air.
But to do so requires planning -- what you will do in a pinch. Or even earlier, like packing spare hydration below deck. Live and learn, that's me, never.
CASKA hopes you can join us and our friends in the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association for an afternoon paddle on the lake, a beach picnic, and a policy meeting with the National Park Service on Tuesday, June 10.
CASKA is supporting NWIPA as they continue their longstanding efforts to protect and designate a water trail on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. Please come for the National Park Service meeting at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore at 6 PM.
Prior to the meeting, CASKA will host the paddle and picnic. The forecast is clear and calm. We will not paddle far from the beach launch spot so latecomers can join the group.
Plan to meet at 1:30, launch at 2:00. Land by 4:00 to eat and make the 6:00 meeting.
Location is Porter Beach Access, Porter, IN, just west of Indiana Dunes State Park. Take I-94, US 20, or US 12 (Dunes Hwy) to Indiana Rte. 49. Go north on 49, it will become CR 25E. Turn left onto State Park Rd, til it ends. Turn right on Waverly Rd., turn left on Roskin Rd, and turn right on Wabash Ave. Drive north on Wabash until your hat floats.
Please email Bill Burton, freewilly577~at~icloud.com so we can plan food and beverages and know to look for you on the beach or the water.
(Meeting and water trail information follows, courtesy of NWIPA.)
Paddler Alert: Public Meeting on the future of the East Branch of the Little Calumet River Water Trail in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
NW Indiana and neighboring paddlers,
On Tuesday, June 10th from 6:00 p.m until 8:00 p.m. at the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center located at 1215 N. State Road 49 in Porter, IN., the National Park Service is hosting a public meeting on the future East Branch of the Little Calumet River.
The NPS is preparing a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the "East Branch of the Little Calumet River use Plan" for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This is a major milestone on the road to the possible development of a water trail on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River.
The public meeting is partially as a result of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association's efforts over the past five years to develop a 16 mile continuous water trail along the East Branch of the Little Calumet River from the Heron Rookery to Lake Michigan in Portage. Currently, most of the East Branch is heavily chocked with log jams where is is unusable for the most part by paddlers. NWIPA, working with dozens of partners have helped create many new public access points along the river laying the ground work for a future water trail.
The draft EA is being prepared to ensure that the National Lakeshore reviews all impacts and opportunities related to recreational use of the Little Calumet River prior to deciding on the course of action.
If you would like to some day be able to paddle the East Branch of the Little Calumet River, it is very important that you attend this meeting.
The NWI Paddling Association and its partners believe strongly that the Little Calumet River is potentially NW Indiana's second crown jewel next to Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes themselves. Benefits of the East Branch of the Little Calumet water trail include such things as:
- New recreational opportunities for paddlers, anglers, and others through the the development of a water trail along the Little Calumet River;
- Economic development opportunities as a result of the opening of the water trail including local recreational business development, tourism, attracting new businesses wishing to locate in an area with ample recreational opportunities;
- Improved local health as a result of having recreational opportunities for people wishing to get outside and exercise utilizing the potential new water trail;
- The development of new outdoor educational opportunities with youth and adults alike by organizations such as the Dunes Learning Center, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, NWIPA, and many others;
- Improvement of the river itself. We believe that addressing the severe log jams that exist utilizing ecologically responsible techniques such as the palmiter method of steam restoration with improve of the river resource for both fishing and paddlers alike. Currently the river is being chocked with log jams at an ever increasing number. With the die off of ash trees due along the river as a result of the Emerald Ash Borer, we believe that better management of the river will result in better water quality through decreased erosion and sedimentation in areas where severe log jams are negatively impacting the resource;
- Land conservation: Organizations have been working over the past 5 years on preserving and restoring the natural areas that exist between the Heron Rookery and the lakefront in Portage. Approximately 1400 acres have been preserved along this corridor just in the past few year;
- Better fishing habitat: Utilizing ecologically responsible methods of stream restoration, not only will the river be better for paddling, but there will be better fish habitat will be created;
- As a result of the water trail in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and surrounding lands, there will be more public access for fishing, paddling, and other recreational pursuits resulting in a better quality of life for all of Northwest Indiana.
At this time, we believe that this is the only public meeting scheduled to discuss the East Branch of the Little Calumet River EA. The NPS Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is asking for your input into this process. Please come out to have your voice heard if you would like to one day be able to paddle the beautiful East Branch of the Little Calumet River.
Northwest Indiana Paddling Association
Paddling around Eagle Island, 2009; the island is protected by Critical Species Natural Area.
Last fall, on September 24th, Chequamegon Bay JFK Day marked Kennedy's visit to the Apostle Islands area thirty years ago (Sept. 24, 1963). Chequamegon was applied to the region by traders and missionaries which derives from a Chippewa(Ojibwe) word, shagwaumikong, meaning soft beaver dam.
Harold C. Jordahl, Jr., who was directly involved in events surrounding the establishment of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in the 1960s, put together a manuscript in 1994 which includes a chapter about Kennedy's visit to the Apostle Islands as well as a chapter on the history of the Native Americans to enable a better understanding of their influence on the final legislation.
Not many people are aware of the Apostle Islands--their uniqueness as an archipelago in the Great Lakes. So when Kennedy did his tour I persuaded him to fly over to Ashland. I flew with him along with Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy... we flew by helicopter from Duluth. ...Fortunately, as we were flying over a bald eagle comes off to one side. We landed; there was a big crowd. He gave a speech including an endorsement of the idea of saving the Apostle Islands, so that got it at the presidential level and, of course it would be noticed by the park service and everybody else. Then the president was assassinated. Gaylord A. Nelson (18; Jordahl, p. 251)
Paddling with Eila Wilkenson (2nd left) and Nigel Dennis (3rd left) around Oak Island; 2011.
My first sea kayaking included several trips to the Apostle Islands. In 2011, I met up with Eila Wilkenson and Nigel Dennis from the UK for a paddle around Oak Island at the Inland Sea Symposium. The Inland Sea Society is a self-sustaining organization that works on projects promoting environmental stewardship through education and recreation, sustainable communities, and watershed-based organizing.
The goal of the Lake Superior Water Trail is to eventually link Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the United States, Ontario in Canada, and many First Nations in both countries. Gaylord Nelson was instrumental in establishing the National Trails System, the Wilderness Act, and Earth Day.
In 2004, the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness was established. It is a 35,000-acre wilderness area located within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, off the Bayfield Peninsula of northern Wisconsin. Of the twenty-two Apostle Islands the wilderness area fully or partially covers eighteen and provides opportunities for camping, hiking, sailing, kayaking, and fishing.
Outer Island, Apostle Islands National Seashore. 2009.
In the picture above, my group was anxiously awaiting the wind to develop some nice surf to play in later that day. It was so windy that day that most of us went to the lee side of the island and napped once we had landed. The north ends of Devil's Island and Outer Island are exposed to the full fetch of Superior in all directions. Wave heights of 8 to 10 feet are not uncommon with a strong northeast wind even in summer months. Always check the marine forecast. Coastguard approved PFDs are required and a wetsuit is also recommended because the water temperatures are often less than 50 degrees. Fog can be a problem, too, and it is important to have a chart and compass for your crossings (Nautical Chart # 14973).
In general, sea kayaking is considered a very primitive form of boating and is not necessarily appropriate for large numbers of people. But for the natural constituency of mariners who are drawn to kayaking, most sea kayakers can average 3 miles/hour in a loaded boat. Given this average speed you can expect to cover 20-21 miles/day with 7 hours of paddling and some stops--about 100 miles/week.
Taking in the surf on Outer Island; 2009.
When I took the ACA L3 sea kayak Door County Instructor Development with Sam Crowley, he assigned the topic waves in deep water for me to teach. I knew Sam, of Marquette's Sea Kayak Specialists, had spent a lot of time in the Apostles years ago and I asked if I could use his "well-worn chart" to discuss the locations where you could most likely find the largest surf and when (video of Sam surfing in Marquette).
Due to the rapidly changing weather conditions canoes and small open boats are not recommended for use between the Apostle Islands and excursion cruises are offered for island tours.
My first sea kayak tour out of Duluth was to include the sea caves in the fall of 2006. In fall and spring the risk of hypothermia is high and this was the first time I had paddled in a wetsuit and used a sprayskirt. After spending the morning in a protected area we had lunch and attempted to paddle near the sea caves but not to them since the water was beginning to get choppy in the gusts of wind that had started. Within the first five minutes three of the boats capsized and the paddlers swam back to shore and chose to remain huddled next to their boats out of the wind to stay warm as the rest of us circled around and headed back. (see another important report by Haris Subacius: Cold Water Trumps Young Hot Blood)
Today, if you are planning to tour the sea caves you can use your smart phone and check the live conditions report at SeaCavesWatch.org. The site also displays water temperature and photos of the waves at the sea caves, and it relays wind speed recorded at Devil's Island. For more information on kayaking at the Apostle Islands check the National Park Service website.
A spirit house in the La Pointe Indian Cemetery ; 2009.
After my 9-day kayak expedition of all of the Apostle Islands in 2009, I spent some time on Madeline Island. The Christianized Ojibwe are buried in the La Pointe Indian Cemetery(pictured above) where spirit houses have been erected to protect food left for the dead for sustenance for their four-day journey to the hereafter.
The Ojibwe are one of the largest groups of Native Americans north of Mexico. They are divided between Canada and the United States today where legal arguments in treaty-rights and treaty interpretations often bring to light the differences in cultural understanding of treaty terms to come to legal understanding of the treaty obligations.
The Ojibwe believed that land was a fully shared resource, along with air, water and sunlight, they could not conceive of separate land sales or exclusive ownership to land. They remained on La Pointe for three generations (120 years) and then there was a complete and sudden evacuation at that time, writes William W. Warren, in his book History of the Ojibway People (pdf link). William, who is half Ojibwa, writes that there was a very dark period in the Ojibwe history that scattered them in bands on the adjacent shores of the Great Lake and sent many families back to their former migration. During this time, their medicine men had started initiating cannibalistic feasts which became vogue and custom. From that time on the Ojibwa considered the island to be haunted and never resided on it until the French traders came and built their trading establishment there. (Warren; 23, p. 108, 109.)
Switching boats before we surf some incoming swell at Devils Island.
The Apostle Islands were strategic for defense, sustenance, and trade. Because the water level of Lake Superior rose and fell several times during the past glacial ages, beaches which might have provided ancient campsites are found near the highest islands, Oak and Bear, or submerged below today's waterline.
Devils Island (pictured above) rests atop many natural caves. The name comes from the large booming sounds created from air pockets that form under the island that the natives attributed to angry spirits. Many of the Great Lakes and Northeastern Woodlands Native American tribes believe that there are several water beings.
According to Native American mythologies of the Great Lakes, underwater panthers are described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderbirds, masters of the powers of the air. Underwater panthers are seen as an opposing yet complimentary force to the Thunderbirds, and they are engaged in eternal conflict.(31)
Dr. Timothy Pauketat, who has been a part of the "Mississippian Initiative" (funded by the National Science Foundation), is currently working in western Wisconsin where they now argue for the existence of a short-term Cahokian mission or colony. Presumably, the effects of Cahokians missionizing the ancient north country led to profound long-term change in the ancient American Indian world. Their work in Wisconsin, and future work at and around Cahokia, will attempt to ascertain the relationship of religion to ancient politics more generally.
On the basis of Pauketat's work we now know that Cahokia rose and fell over a much shorter time period, around three hundred years, than had been previously attributed due to improvements in radiometric dating and new methodologies such as identification of domestic remains. Dividing up the artifacts by radiometrically dated and ceramic-seriated phases, he notes an increasing number of foreign goods as time progresses in the Emergent Mississippian phases. He has interpreted this growth as an enlargement of high-ranking peoples able to secure such networks necessary to move such goods as Gulf Coast shell from distant locations.
The emigrants from Cahokia began building in Northern Illinois just before moving up the Mississippi and Rock River valleys to Wisconsin in about A.D. 1,000. For 200 years, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of Mexico--the political capital of the culture we call Mississippian. Although the Mississippian culture was fading by the time the first Europeans arrived it had spread north to Wisconsin and into the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys--many of its elements had reached Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina. The Mississippian peoples raised huge pyramidal hills and left strong evidence of a powerful class of ruler-priests. The 16-acre base of Cahokia's Monk's Mound surpasses that of Egypt's Great Pyramid. (Kennedy; 40, p. 93)
Every village was a link in an elaborate network of trade that extended over hundreds of miles... from the highlands of the interior down the Gulf and Pacific coasts...The mythical spirits that controlled the destines of the villages were worshiped through human intermediaries--men of high rank who maintained the shrines. (1; p. 287)
Those who conducted village rites among the Aztecs were closely engaged in the importation of the special and exotic shells they needed. Sixteenth century chroniclers have described how Aztec priests used stingray spines to draw blood from their bodies. The more eminent one's rank, the more torture was necessary. The objects of commercial and religious significance found suggest that they gained power over public religion and, to some extent, economic life. The state was in this way set for the emergence of a priestly ruling class with potentially great economic and sacred powers. Their religion worked as Islam does, uniting people of divergent cultures through a common and fervently held belief. (1)
Early map of Chequamegon Bay.
According to the oral history of the Anishinaabeg, they began their migration from the East Coast some time around 950, stopping at various points several times along the way, most significantly at Sault Ste. Marie, where they stayed for a long time, and where two subgroups decided to stay. Eventually the other clans traveled West and arrived at the wild ricing lands of Minnesota and Wisconsin and made Madeline Island their new capital. Following the migration there was a cultural divergence separating the Potawatomi from the Ojibway and Ottawa. The Potawatomi did not adopt the agricultural innovations discovered or adopted by the Ojibway and they also divided labor according to gender much more than the Ojibway and Ottawa did.
The Ojibwe believe that spirits guide them through life and they have passed down a number of spiritual beliefs by oral tradition under the Midewiwin teachings. Generally two-spirit men practiced Shamanism and it was taboo for women to take on this role, but a two-spirit following this path was called an Iron Woman. "Iron Woman" or "Half Sky" is the Ojibwe Two-Spirit woman who takes on men's rolls. The Half Sky two-spirit would be physically good at man's trade. Also, there is an instance when a wife becomes widow and takes on her husband's manly deeds; this woman is called a "Woman Covered All Over."(27; Wikipedia)
Bonnie Perry "Blessing of the boats," Ladies of the Lake Sea Kayak Symposium; 2013.
Bonnie Perry(above), who is a 5 star sea kayak leader as well as Rector/Senior Pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago, gathers the ladies for a blessing of the boats at the Ladies of the Lake Sea Kayak Symposium 2013 on Drummond Island.
Bonnie brings a wealth of experience not only of the Great Lakes where she has done many expeditions, but also experience from her many trips to the coasts of England, Cornwall, Scotland, and Wales during her pursuit of the BCU 5 Star Sea Leader award. Bonnie is one of the few women in the world to earn this prestigious award, and even fewer in the USA. Keith Wikle, Gales Storm Gathering
Ladies of the Lake promotes itself as the only women’s sea kayak symposium; all the instructors are women. Each year the symposium moves to a different location on the Upper Peninsula’s Lake Superior shore. The symposium will be held in Munising, Michigan, August 15-17th this year. Bonnie had just attended the Sea Kayak Baja Mexico's Women's Retreat just after my winter expedition there last year: ...paddling brings us face to face with what really matters in this world. Sacred, Holy, God. Whatever we choose to call it, it really matters. Bonnie Perry (Sea Kayak Baja Mexico Womens Retreat )
Picture courtesy of Tony Erickson: John Martin, Mary Fairchild. Apostle Islands, 2009.
In the summer of 1928, Selwyn Dewdney accompanied his father, who was an Anglican bishop, on a 3,800 mile journey, mostly by canoe, to visit the Ojibwa and Cree missions in Northern Ontario. Later in life, while exploring Northern Ontario, Dewdney discovered ancient native pictographs painted in red ochre and was able to help record them with the curator of the ethnology department of the Royal Ontario Museum, Kenneth E. Kidd. After visiting 301 sites in Canada and the U.S., his first edition of Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes was published, with Kenneth Kidd as co-author.
Red ochre made from ground hematite was sometimes sprinkled over the human remains and artifacts. The distinctive Red Ochre Mortuary Complex, originally defined by archaeologists working in the central Illinois River valley, occurs across the southern Great Lakes region at the very end of the Late Archaic period. During the late archaic period, things were obtained through long distance trade including marine shell from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, hematite and magnetite from the Ozarks, copper from Lake Superior region, galena from the Upper Mississippi River Valley and southeastern Missouri. Elaborate artifacts found in the graves of some people suggest that these individuals had a special status.
In 1980, two stands of white pine were planted at Agawa Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park to honor Selwyn Dewdney. A plaque erected by the family stands against the Shield rock he loved so much, a few meters away from the Ojibwe pictograph of the underwater panther Mishibizhiw.
Mishibizhiw translates into "The Great Lynx." It has the head and paws of a giant cat but is covered in scales and has dagger-like spikes running along its back and tail. Michipicoten Island in Lake Superior is said to be his home and he is a powerful creature in the mythological traditions of some Native American tribes.
The Ojibwe revered copper and associated it with Mishibizhiw to which offerings were made for safe canoe passages across the lakes. They also used copper tablets to record clan genealogies. People began mining copper as early as 4500 BC at Isle Royale. Much of the mining was along the Minong Ridge which the early people, and more recently the Ojibwe, reached by canoeing into McCargoe Cove. (Kennedy; 40, p. 19.)
JFK, Jr.; Wikipedia image.
During Kennedy's visit to the Apostle Islands in 1963, he had commented on how much the Apostle Islands had reminded him of Hyannisport, Massachusetts, where he grew up, sailing nearly every day in the Atlantic.
The public image of the Kennedy White House, cultivated by the emerging power of television, was one of glamour and high culture. JFK was born into great wealth and almost all of his income and property came from a trust shared with other family members. His wife was an oil heiress and his father was one of the wealthiest men in America and was the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
When families belong to the local elite and social, religious, moral, and cultural capital is abundant and generously transmitted to them, they often struggle to develop an identity of their own. Not only is it very difficult for high-profile people to be taken seriously, but the amount of coverage they get is often disproportionate to what they merit which in turn feeds the outsize egos most celebrities possess.
High-profile children, children of clergy in particular, often experience pressure due to the expectations placed on them which are known to develop feelings of inner conflict as a result. Living in the public eye, they had to cope with possible discrepancies between ‘front-stage’ and ‘back-stage’ behavior by their father and whether they liked it or not, they were watched and had to set an example for others which made them feel like they were public property. Often, this feeling could lead to rebellion or over-adjustment. Southern Literature of the United States has been filled with these rebellious children of the clergy and this view is seen as a stereotype. (15)
Staying at Gruenke's Inn, John Kennedy, Jr., traveled to the Apostle Islands to kayak for a few days with friends the year before the plane crash which claimed his life and the lives of his wife and sister-in-law. On his fateful day, he had a big weekend ahead of him as he planned to fly to Hyannis Port to attend the Saturday wedding of his cousin, but, he would never make it.
That morning he had met with his publishing partner to discuss his magazine amid rumors that funding was to be turned off and that the company had lost confidence in it. He also just had his cast removed the morning prior after breaking his ankle from a paragliding accident six weeks prior. Adding to that list, not only was his take off later than usual, but a local pilot had canceled a planned flight because of a troubling haze that had already reduced visibility. As a test that most pilots use at the airport, the pilot decided to ground himself when he looked off in the distance for a familiar mountain ridge but couldn't see it.
Regardless of this information, just after Carolyn arrived, she, Kennedy and Lauren boarded the Piper Saratoga and were cleared for takeoff at 8:38 p.m., 12 min. after sundown. Other pilots began flying into the same soup up and down the coast and began to radio in for alternative landings, but Kennedy never made radio contact throughout the trip and 48 min. after takeoff, according to radar records, he suddenly began to descend at a quicker than normal speed. He had only gotten his pilot license 15 months prior and without a practiced ability to read all the instruments his plane was plummeting toward the water at 5,000 ft. per min. (10)
Edward Klein, a confident of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, writes in his best selling book, The Kennedy Curse, that the Kennedys felt immune to normal laws with near divine protection from the consequences of their actions.(12)
Kennedy (far right) with his fellow officers, many of them Ivy League graduates.
Kennedy's performance in office rose to a mythical status in part by how he died. During his lifetime rumors were contained, and what Americans saw of him was an image due to the emerging power of television and media. Due to severe health problems, in 1940, the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School had rejected JFK as 4-F, citing ulcers, asthma, and venereal disease. Most debilitating, doctors wrote, was his birth defect—an unstable and often painful back.
He was in constant pain most of the time but his father was able to pull a few strings on his behalf. Author and historian Nigel Hamilton shares with the History Channel, "JFK really got into the Navy through his father who twisted the arm of a previous Naval attache who had served with him in London. At that stage no one was ever thinking that he'd see action so he was given a very light doctoral examination in Boston and really never had to reveal his whole background."
Instead of being shipped off to a war zone, John was ordered to join a PT boat squandran in Panama where he would soon be nick-named "Crash Kennedy." According to Michael J. Bell, President of Historic Reflections, one day when he was coming in from patrol he decided to race another PT boat(torpedo-loaded boats) into the docks but when he tried to cut the engines he wasn't able to and crashed into the dock.
Thomas C. Reeves, Ph.D., Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, adds that it was a terrible disgrace and if he wouldn't have been court marshalled he certainly would have been in deep trouble but he wasn't because they understood that he was "the ambassador's son" so he got away with that.
During JFK's campaign, Kennedy had gone to Las Vegas to visit the Rat Pack including Kennedy's brother-in-law, Peter Lawford. While staying at the Sands Hotel began an affair with Judith Kendel who was also the mistress of Chicago's Sam Giancana, one of the mob bosses the CIA would later recruit to kill Castro.
According to NBC Whitehouse Correspondent, Sander Vanocur, the Justice Department was in the hands of JFK's brother Robert and the Kennedy brothers, assisted by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who had no qualms about using their power against their political opponents. J. Edgar Hoover was a black mail artist who had been practicing illegal wiretapping for years and this was allowed to expand drastically under JFK. Not only did Robert Kennedy use the wiretaps against the Mafia and other underworld types, but he also authorized spying on public figures. (19)
Since Kennedy's presidency a covert system began that continues to increase in our country under every U.S. president; a secret structure that steers defense and foreign policy behind the facade of democracy. It is a political system which resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those sanctioned by law and society–a covert system that is outside public awareness-- Peter Dale Scott, Ph. D, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. (Scott; 29)
Sunset on Devils Island.
In addition to their status as U.S. citizens, many American Indians are also members of federally recognized sovereign nations that, in theory, have the authority to manage their environmental problems independently. As tribal lands struggle with environmental problems, it is estimated that the success of clean-up programs will depend on continued dialogue between the tribes, the states, and the federal government; consistent and targeted funding; and understanding of cultural differences.
The EPA and other federal agencies operate within their own systems, which can act to impede relationships when the tribes don’t understand their bureaucratic language and methods. For example, Indian leaders are typically very concerned about the lives of their people on an individual level, and it isn’t uncommon for a tribal leader to sit by the bedside of a terminally ill member. Because each member of a tribe is vitally important, tribal leaders may be uncomfortable with the EPA’s impersonal, numerical estimates of acceptable risk. Tribes are building considerable expertise in risk assessment, however, and are providing the EPA with recommendations on how to improve risk assessment and risk-based decision making. (38)
Kayaking the Apostle Islands.
In the 1970s a full national Indian movement was in swing. Beneath all of their protests was the issue of returning to the ceremonial use of the lands and raising the question of people and their right to a homeland. The late Stan Jones, a longtime Lake Powell historian and an Arch and Bridge Society board member, stated, in relation to the conflict at Rainbow Bridge, “There are legal reasons for restricting access to a particular site on public land, but religion is not one of them.” (9)
In 1974, Navajo tribal members who lived in the history of Rainbow Bridge filed suit in U.S.a District Court against the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Director of the National Park Service. The suit was an attempt to preserve important Navajo religious sites that were being inundated by the rising waters of Lake Powell. The court ruled against the Navajo, saying that the need for water storage outweighed their concerns.
In 1980, the Tenth District Court of Appeals ruled that to close Rainbow Bridge, a public site, for Navajo religious ceremonies would violate the U.S. Constitution which protects the religious freedom of all citizens. Today, the National Park Service asks visitors to be respectful of its significance to the people who have long held Rainbow Bridge sacred. It is not illegal, however, for visitors to approach and walk under the bridge from one side to the other along or just above the creek bed, and there is a well-worn path under the bridge that is regularly used.
References/Related (fairlady.com Paddle/Play)
Tags: Apostle Islands, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Bonnie Perry, Cahokia, Chequamegon Bay JFK Day, Devils Island, Earth Day, Gruenke's Inn, Inland Sea Symposium, John Martin, Kennedys, La Pointe Indian Cemetery, Ladies of the Lake Sea Kayak Symposium, Madeline Island, Midewiwin, Nigel Dennis, Ojibwe, Outer Island, Sam Crowley, Sea Caves, Sea Caves Watch, Sea Kayak Specialists, Selwyn Dewdney, Spirit Houses, Timothy Pauketat, Wilderness Act
by Jim Tibensky
This September past I went to Maine, took the Maine Guide test, passed it, and planned a nice long kayak tour of Casco Bay. Eight times before I had done week-long kayak trips there, always as a guide for Omni Youth Services' wilderness therapy program. This time I was going to do it with my friend Patty and no teens.
On what was supposed to be the first day of our trip, we were recruited to help lead a day trip of nine double kayaks. Alice, of Alice's Awesome Adventures, the person who was hired to lead the trip, originally expected ten people. When the number increased to eighteen, she needed another guide. Two days after passing my exam, there I was.
The group that hired her was a theater troupe from Emerson College in Boston. They were putting on the play Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. And therein lies the tale.
The play, based on a book of the same name, tells the story of a mixed-race girl, Lizzie Bright Griffin, and a white boy, Turner Buckminster III, who become friends. She lives on the island of Malaga in Maine and he lives in Phippsburg on the mainland directly across from Malaga. At the closest point, Malaga is one-tenth of a mile from the mainland. One could easily be heard when shouting to someone on the opposite shore.
I have stopped on Malaga to eat lunch every time I have been to Casco Bay. But I never knew its story. Thanks to Emerson College's theater team, I learned it. They went to Malaga to see it - to walk on its soil, to sit on its rocks, to hear its sounds, to breathe its air, and to commune with the spirits of the people who once lived there.
Since the civil war, people lived on Malaga. There were probably never more than about fifty people there at any one time. They were independent of the mainland for the most part. They fished, they built homes, they had families, they took care of themselves. Some of them were African-American, some were white, many were mixed. No one on the mainland cared much about Malaga until rich people started putting vacation homes in Maine in the early 1900s. In 1912 the governor of Maine ordered the state police to evict everyone from Malaga, hoping that someone would buy the island and build a resort or vacation home there. The homes that were not removed before the eviction were burned down. The people who could not find another place to live were placed in the Maine Home for the Feeble-Minded for the rest of their lives. The cemetery was dug up with the bodies being re-buried at that same Home for the Feeble-Minded. The five children of the Griffin family were buried in one grave. This all really happened.
No one ever lived on Malaga again. No resort was ever built there. No rich New Yorker built a vacation retreat there. Today it is a beautiful, peaceful, empty, wooded, haunted island that is owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. I won't tell more. You can look it up at:
http://www.malagaislandmaine.org (watch the three minute video)
My wife, Gail, and Patty and I all went to Boston to see the play. It was amazing. The actors talked about how much it meant to them to be able to paddle to Malaga and experience it. The actress who played Lizzie calls herself "an honorary Malagite."
I'm telling this convoluted story, in part, to praise the benefits of kayaking. You get good exercise outdoors with some of the greatest people in the world in some really lovely places and, once in a while, you meet talented young people who, by going the extra mile themselves, take you along with them into a world you thought you knew, but didn't. And you get your name, and CASKA's, in a theater program in Boston.
The objective seemed simple enough, head to the land of Gitche Gumee (big water), paddle among the Apostle Islands, and safely experience what they had to offer. On paper I was ready, having spent several years diligently upgrading my kit of skills and equipment in dual pursuit of a joyful passion and preparation for this very adventure. While I had readied myself for the risks of kayaking remotely in cold and rough water, my partner was less prepared and a cause of some concern, yet unknown to me at the time, more prepared as well. Through study and training I was aware of the many contingencies that might befall us, and had accumulated a full complement of gear to show for it, yet as often happens, it was that which I had not considered that defined our experience.
Lake Superior’s 22 Apostle Islands offer many destinations of intrigue, but our focus would be on Devil’s Island, the most exposed landmass on the northern end of the archipelago with over 40 miles of fetch from the prevailing westerlies.
Devil’s Island offers some of the Great Lakes most majestic scenery as centuries of pounding surf and cryofracturing have sculpted its sandstone shoreline into a whimsically absurd wonderland of elegant arches, standing columns and vaulted caverns linked by a labyrinth of secret passageways.
Bayfield serves as the launching pad for the Apostle Islands with local outfitters offering excellent equipment, training and professional guide services to help you get you there. Todd and I however, were heading out on our own and after checking in at the ranger station we drove to a local casino on water’s edge that accommodates boaters of all sorts. After an equipment safety check, I handed Todd two marine flares that I insisted he stow in his PFD. He obliged without comment before making sure his snacks were easily accessible on his deck bag. We had five nights on the water with 45 miles of paddling before us, including 13 miles of open water crossings. Given my experiences in kayak marathons and our roughly 60 pounds of gear apiece, I calculated we should average a touring pace of nearly four miles per hour. Todd listened to my plan and suggested both indifference and doubt toward my calculations saying, “I don’t know, when I’ve paddled here before, I’ve never paid any attention to that. But I do think paddling is just different up here.”
In a final act before putting paddle to water, I pulled out my copy of Ka Hana Pono (The Practice of Pono) by Connie Rios. Pono is an ancient Hawaiian belief system of spirit greatness, self power and the interconnection between all things, all metaphorically compared to the world of paddling. We knew we were lucky to be where we were and we wanted to start with a brief lesson to get our heads in the right place. When you are in pono you are completely right with yourself, your spirit and others; it’s the state of perfect harmony and balance where we all want to be, all the time. Being in pono is being in the canoe, as the Hawaiians describe it. However, like the sea, life is a dynamic, fluid and overpowering force and our reality is that life’s turbulent seas consistently toss us out of our canoe and into dangerous waters. The key is getting back in the boat, back in pono. Our reading was a tool to help us paddle on, both literally and figuratively.
This lesson was I Keia Manawa (EE KAY-ah Mah-NA-vah) meaning, In This Moment. Pono is found only in the moment. You cannot be pono for yesterday, or tomorrow, only for now. Simply learning about pono will not get you there. Only through practice can you achieve pono, and practice can only be done in the moment. Whenever you are out of pono, it's generally because your mind or your emotions are going to the past or future. The antidote is to bring yourself back into the moment, that's where the pono is. For us, it meant tucking away every other concern away and granting full focus to the here and now, being fully present in every stroke of our adventure.
Given a late afternoon departure, we arrived to our campsite on Oak Island at twilight and the next morning set off for Devil’s Island by way of Bear Island’s, eastern and leeward shore. Excited to be adventuring into unknown waters and paddling in calm seas with waves two foot or less, I was making good time. Todd made steady but slower progress and as I doubled back to reconnect, I was unaware that while he trailed behind me, he was in fact leading the way. We advanced along Bear Island’s craggy coastline of outcroppings, overhangs, cliffs and caves, and my mindset shifted while my pace fell and we each took turns lagging behind and leading the way.
Sandstone shades from terra cotta to fire brick red is sandwiched between the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior and a forest flora brimming with spruce, balsam, ferns, weeds, and fallen trees in various stages of surrender, to produce a stunning façade accented by wild flowers, orange lichen, white birch and luminous green moss. Around one bend, a tree laden with bunches of crimson berries, healthy in every respect, yet completely inverted, hung over the cliff face with just tendrils of exposed roots providing a tenuous lifeline to the forest floor. Passing the next outcropping a room-sized, we saw a room-sized, semicircular recess in the cliff face that had the precision of an architectural model. From waterline to the sandstone plate ceiling, horizontal cracks were consistently spaced every few inches with each successive level recessed slightly from the level below it. Paddling into the space it was as if we had entered, stage right, into an empty but perfect amphitheater. We saw several eagles including three on one tree and two other pairs that seemed to communicate with one another as they exchanged sentry posts. Two crossings, 14 miles and eight hours later, we arrived at Devil’s Island. Over those past eight hours, the beauty of the Apostle Islands had baptized me, cleansing me of metrics like speed and time while transporting the both of us to a frame of mind, very much I Keia Manawa, In This Moment.
After dinner, we got back in our boats and paddled along the western shore to the northernmost tip of Wisconsin and the renowned sea caves of Devil’s Island. The island was so named for the thunder and boom that comes from these caves in high seas, which the Ojibwa Indians believed to be the sound of evil spirits that made these caves their home.
A brilliant light emerged out of the midnight sea and moon glow began to light burnt orange caves, revealing windows and passageways between them. As we continued on, caves began to extend up to 80 feet in depth and nearly half as high and the chambers became more complex and whimsical. Water periodically gushed from openings above waterline, towering bulky columns supported massive weights yet tapered down to a needle, and vaulted chambers were linked to one another in a tangle of honeycombed passageways. It was as if nature’s erosional forces held disdain for the laws of physics and structural engineering, leaving an absurd landscape that appeared to be designed and built by Dr. Seuss himself.
All the while, swells pulsed slowly and methodically, echoing the devil’s boom and thunder in the island’s acoustical chambers. Compressed air forced from smaller cavities produced murmurs and belches but the larger openings produced impressive tremors. Some booms commanded immediate respect and caused an involuntary snapping of our heads in their direction. Others were more of a subsonic vibration than a tone. Overlaying these booms was the sound of waves breaking upon ascending rock faces which sounded rather like cymbals being played with a wire brush. Along with their bizarre visual beauty, these caves treated us to one private percussion ensemble after another.
After probing every cave, we paddled back to camp in deep content. Our outing was just two miles round trip as the crow flies, and had taken us two and a half hours without any sensation of time. Since morning, we had spent 10.5 hours on the water yet had it continued on, so would have we. We just ran out of cave. It was an extraordinary night that made our average speed of less than 1.5 mph meaningless.
As it turns out, the blissful euphoria we both felt may have partially had a scientific explanation. Sea caves are known to produce inaudible sound waves known as infrasonic vibrations. At high levels, infrasound can be deadly with the potential to explode matter, flatten buildings or even bring down an airplane. However, at mild levels, infrasound can be pleasantly stimulating, producing a feeling of invigoration or euphoria that lasts for hours. Physiologically, your inner organs vibrate, your heart rate and blood pressure elevate, and you stimulate a release of endorphins.
Twice more we paddled to the sea caves in varying conditions, careful not to expose ourselves to the rebounding waves within that can quickly spell danger. Deep inside one cave, Todd and a bat took turns escorting one another through a low and narrow passageway that took a bend into complete darkness and linked with another tunnel before connecting to a cathedral cavern with an archway out to open water.
I backed into the slot of another cave’s innermost cranny and just before my stern hit rock, a window to another cave appeared. As I paused to take in the portal view of a jagged, coral cliff face silhouetted against the shining sea, a downy, white, single thistle seed pod floated through the window, paused mid-air, and slowly danced its way to me.
Beyond the caves, the island offered other treasures as well. Upon inspection, it’s “nothing special” looking lighthouse gained admiration and respect.
Required to wear aprons to shield any metal that might chink its showpiece, we walked up the final flight of stairs, first to take in a third-order Fresnel lens, and then the view. The lens is a marine jewel resembling a six foot tall beehive of finely crafted glass and brass.
While on the water, a massively long squall line overtook us with a 20 yard thick curtain of vapor and intense winds. Lightening flashed against a backdrop of approaching bright white thunderheads. Pure darkness and clear night skies offered easy viewing of a meteor, falling stars, orbiting satellites, and stretching from horizon to horizon, the Milky Way galaxy. A setting sun set sandstone cliffs ablaze amidst a turbulent sea of dark blue bordering on black. Hiking down an abandoned railroad bed we were suddenly surrounded by a grove of black spruce that looked as though a viral plague and swept through and killed them all at once. Without needles or wind, they stood perfectly still and perfectly dead.
Looking as if they had endured a cotton candy wind storm, every branch and twig was draped in lacey Spanish moss that caught the afternoon sun in splashes of glow and shadow. This graveyard of spruce was dissected by a rail bed cushioned in a mattress of spongy translucent mosses that extended to carpet the forest floor.
Teeming lushness mingled with decaying death, in a mysterious grove of vitality and gloom. Todd remarked, “If Devil’s Island has fairies; this is where they’d live.” And then there was the devil himself, dramatically carved into the sandstone plates of the northeast shoreline.
Na Mahalo Elima, (Nah Mah-HA-low Ay-LEE-mah), The Five Thank You’s, was another of our pono paddling lessons. It is a powerful tool to keep you in your canoe and a fitting close to our story. An absolute law of being is that two thoughts cannot occupy the same space, and where your thoughts lead, your emotions will follow. While external stimuli may be beyond your control, the easiest thing to change in any given moment is your thought. Change your thought and you automatically change your emotion. Thinking of five mahalos can get you back to your canoe, back to pono. Five, because one or two is easy, but thinking of five requires you to really shift your mindset and your heart into gratitude. And gratitude is an automatic activator of pono.
The experiences of our trip made The Five Mahalo’s an easy exercise. Todd and I had common points of gratitude. Firstly, we felt both gratitude and respect to the waters of Lake Superior, as they had shown us great beauty while granting us safe passage. We were thankful for being strong enough in body to explore this wilderness in tiny boats just inches above the water. I was thankful that I had learned to slow my stroke, and often stroke not at all. We were thankful for having been in a place that made practicing In This Moment an effortless exercise. And we were thankful to the Creator for Devil’s Island, a place – despite its name - where it is clear he lives.
If you are looking for adventure or perhaps something to help you find pono, consider heading to Bayfield, Wisconsin and venturing out to the Apostle Islands. While you may perhaps come quickly, I am certain that you will leave slowly. As to come here is to understand that it is a slowness of pace, many lingerings and first and foremost, an attention to the details of these islands that best unlocks their magic. And magic indeed it is getting into your canoe.
Ariel view of Apostle Islands from bayfieldbikeroute.com
Map from reed-realty.net
Labyrinth of secret passageways image from memh via flickriver.com
All other images courtesy of Dacquisto Photography
We knew Labor Day morning will be stormy before we even left Chicago. Family and friends took a short 2-mile paddle from Hurricane River to Au Sable campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Once there, we listened to the weather radio intently hoping that the forecast will change. It did not: 15-20-knot NW winds gusting to 25 for Monday. Plan B was to paddle the kayaks two miles back to the cars on Sunday night and hike back in for the last night. Unfortunately, by the time we got to it on Sunday night we missed the arrival of strong headwinds from the NW. The whitecaps were ubiquitous as far as the eye can see and the paddle upwind that night was hopeless for a group of novice paddlers.
We went to sleep that night hoping again, hoping that the conditions will subside the following morning. Futile hopes did not stand a chance in the face of the forecast of increasing NW winds over Monday and into Tuesday. In the morning, we woke up to sustained 20-25 knot winds and 5-8' waves with the epicenter right around the Au Sable point. The waves were perfectly developed and neatly spaced after a night of steady wind. I loaded my stability-challenged Nordkapp HS as the first boat to be transported back to Hurricane River parking lot. Breaking out through the surf zone was exciting but routine. Once out, I was surprised that the waves did not become tamer as expected. On the contrary, they appeared to rise up, steepen and, from what I could tell, were actually bigger than the breakers in the surf zone. Perhaps the launch spot was somewhat protected by the Au Sable point or, perhaps, the long surf zone brought down the size of the breakers next to shore.
Be that as it may, in the distance to the northwest awaited the Au Sable Point with menacing breakers extending a long way from shore. The progress into the wind with a loaded boat was steady but slow. I am not sure I was even reaching 2 knots. Then I saw one large wave pass. Then another. They were steep, too steep for comfort, but they did not break. I would have to paddle far off shore to avoid an accidental encounter with a breaking monster while rounding the point. If I were to capsize and drift into the surf zone, it was very possible that I will not be able to re-enter and pump out. The shoreline around Au Sable was sheer rock. The risks started to compound. Add to that my slow progress and plan B made no sense any longer. After about 20 or 30 minutes of paddling into the wind, I turned around and surfed to back to shore landing on the rocky coast in less than 5 minutes. Without even trying (actually, I was trying to avoid surfing) a caught one of the longest and fastest surf rides of my life. The boat just stayed in the green of a steep wave without broaching or sliding off of its face.
The rest of the story was a lot of hard labor carrying boats and gear to the lighthouse over the narrow hiking trail and then to the Hurricane River parking lot over a gravel road. We were extremely lucky that a park ranger allowed us to drive our cars over the park service road to retrieve the last three kayaks. We only had to carry three of the six boats the entire 2.5 miles. The remaining three only had to be carried the quarter of a mile from the campsite to the lighthouse. Another ranger at the lighthouse was very kind to let us borrow a pair of park service wheelbarrows.
We gambled! Paradoxically, the only one in the group who made the right call to paddle in the flat conditions of the early afternoon on Sunday was my sixth-grader son. The rest of the group decided to go for immediate gratification and enjoy a hike to the top of the magnificent dunes. By the time we returned, the winds had whipped up waves beyond the abilities of this unpracticed group. We called the nature's bluff and, turned out, she was not bluffing. We had an exit strategy and a back-up plan, and the plan was safe, just not a very good one.
Feasibility of paddling out of these conditions for an experienced paddler? Personally, I consider head winds up to 20 knots as something in which a practiced sea kayaker can make passable forward progress. The outer limits of conditions in which I would choose to paddle, to be sure, but, in emergency, short distances can be covered against a force of this magnitude. On this day, several other things added up and continuing with the plan ceased to make sense.
The first thing I felt when I paddled out through the breakers alone was exposed. What an incredible comfort it is to have a paddling partner by your side. Confidence was quickly sapped by the absence of support and safety net. Waves that looked clean, organized, well-spaced, and warm from shore were far from friendly once on the water. It never ceases to amaze me how different waves feel and look from the cockpit.
Second, the amplifying powers of headlands and shoals turned the easy 1.8-mile 30-minute stroll in the park into a 3-mile and potentially a 3-hour slog. Simple real-life embodiment of the navigation principles I've taught so many times—time equals distance over speed. If you multiply yesterday's distance by two and cut the speed to less than half, time grows geometrically. I did the math on the water and saw what an obvious losing proposition the continuation of the journey was!
And that's before the consideration of safety. I did not feel threatened wearing a wetsuit less than a mile from shore in 70-degree water with an on-shore wind and swells. Had the worst happened, I think I would have made it to shore unscathed. The possibility of a damaged or even lost boat, on the other hand, was very real. The waves that size can easily rip it out of one's hands and hand it over to the meat grinder on the shoreline where waves meet sharp rocks. My old Nordkapp has many faults but it is my first real boat and I have a fair amount of sentimental attachment to this genuine floating piece of kayaking history—not to mention the gear inside it.
At the end of the day, everyone was very tired but safe at a dinner in Grand Marais, MI.