This is part two in a series of articles covering my adventures of 2018. Part one can be found here. Part 1 Gaylord MI to Mackinaw City
On the bike trail between Gaylord MI and Mackinaw City little did I know my next adventure was developing before me. Even though I was officially on ‘vacation’ from work I was in contact with my company, talking with them about sending me to a new facility for a few weeks.
The place they wanted to send me was in Escanaba Michigan. The only thing I knew about Escanaba is what most Michiganders know… It’s located in the Upper Peninsula and it’s the title/setting of a Jeff Daniels movie, Escanaba in da Moonlight.
That will mean my first day back from vacation would be hundreds of miles from home, in a city I knew absolutely nothing about and working with people I never met before. And, I’ll be there a minimum of three weeks. Talking on the phone, stopped on the side of the trail, I said; “SURE! Sounds like fun. Let’s do it!”
That first week in Escanaba I quizzed my new coworkers on places to explore in the area. Even though I already had my bike with me and was ready to explore when the weekend finally rolled around, I was more interested in making the 10-hour round-trip drive home to bring back some toys. Really wanted my paddleboard because the area has many beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan.
My second weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is when I loaded the bike and paddleboard in the car and set out to explore. One such exploration spot recommended to me was driving to the other side of Little Bay de Noc and paddleboard along the limestone cliffs of Stonington. After following the directions given to me of where to launch my board, discovered I was directly across the bay from Escanaba. After paddle boarding in the near calm bay waters for a couple of hours, I went on to other spots recommended to get the bike out to do some exploring by peddling.
One thing that kept going through my mind is how cool it would be to paddleboard across the bay from Escanaba to Stonington, then get a ride back. The distance across the bay appeared to be about the same as the Straights of Mackinaw, which I knew growing up in Michigan, is five miles across. A five-mile paddleboard trip in open water was becoming very intriguing to me.
The day after my exploration of the surrounding area was a Sunday and by suggestion, I found a nice community church to attend. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and sitting in church, I couldn’t get my mind off the idea of paddle boarding the bay, but had no one to run shuttle and pick me up on the other side. Then the crazy thought occurred to me, maybe I can do it round trip on the board?
Once the church service was over, went back to the place where I was staying and used Google maps to measure the actual distance across the bay. 3.5 miles is the definitive answer… “OH!!!! It is on!”
Within the next hour, found myself paddling from the beach in Escanaba on a heading that I loosely calculated to be toward the boat launch I used yesterday on the other side. About halfway across on the first leg, a sailboat came up from behind me. The guy piloting the boat said he came to ask if I needed help. By his words, he said; “I see you’re doing just fine and don’t need any help”.
What an awesome trip it turned out to be. The weather was absolutely perfect. The return trip took about twice as long because I kept stopping to take it all in. Being in the middle of that bay, all by myself, gave me a sense of being truly blessed.
By the time my three weeks were up in Escanaba, my bike had several more miles on it and my paddleboarding time exceeded last summer’s total.
Back from my temporary Upper Peninsula assignment, I jumped right into making the most out of summer on the weekends. My first weekend back was an outing with my kayak. Drove to the tip of Michigan’s ‘Thumb’ to Port Austin MI to make the 3.5-mile offshore excursion to visit the geological formation of Turnip Rock.
This trip was to be a bit more than just kayaking seven miles. The timing concurred with the Perseid meteor shower and of course, the bike went too. Heck, the bike hadn’t been out of the car since Escanaba.
Found a campground on the shore of Lake Huron, figuring its remoteness will be perfect for meteor watching. After doing a little exploring of the area by bike, I waited on darkness to take hold to set up a chair out on the pier next to the boat launch.
Getting comfortable in the chair with my head back and my eyes looking directly overhead, all of a sudden I think… Did it just get brighter here? Hummm? Went back to star-gazing, thinking I’m just imagining things. About half-an-hour later I determine not much meteor action happening so it’s back to the tent to settle in for the night. As I’m walking the pier back to the campground I realize, no, it’s not my imagination there are streetlights in this campground and they came on while I was sitting on the pier. What the heck? Never seen a campground with streetlights. This is stupid!
Get back to my tent and my so-called “rustic camp spot” is directly under one of the streetlights. How in the heck did I not notice that the pole I parked next to was a freaking streetlight? Climbed into the tent to discover it might as well be high noon on a cloudless day. Fortunately, I still had a thick moving blanket in my car that was used to cover my bike when traveling to Escanaba. Put that blanket over the tent to make it feel more like night.
When morning came, and it was hard to determine when it was morning due the all the light peeking around the blanket all stinking night, I packed everything away to make the short drive to the Port Austin. Got some breakfast then headed to the boat launch to begin my kayak trip to Turnip Rock.
Was nice little excursion to check out this unique sandstone formation and shoreline. Just about anybody with the ambition to paddle a total of seven miles can rent a kayak to make the trip. And trust me just anybody does. If you go on a nice summer weekend expect to share your scenery with about a hundred other kayakers.