Nov 20, 2013 at 9:02 am #1310046
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
It was a bad day to be out on the water without underwear. Winter had come early to northern Michigan, bringing sub-freezing temperatures, snow, and heavy wind. Somewhat inscrutably, I had decided that it might be fun to run the big Two-Hearted River in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Now, as the frigid water ran freely through places where it clearly didn’t belong, I wasn’t so sure.
Popularized by Ernest Hemingway in a story about the healing properties of nature, the Two-Hearted River flows swiftly through spruce and hemlock forest across the eastern UP and into Lake Superior. I came in search of its legendary trout, and its much-needed restorative powers.
The aforementioned underwear was tucked safely into a drybag at the bow of my raft along with a dry set of hiking clothes and assorted gear. I had yet to find a pair of paddling pants that would reliably keep my seat dry, so I usually just planned on doing without until I reached the safety of a warm camp where they would be more appreciated.
Since the big fire a few years ago that had burned down the only lodge in the area, the river was obviously not often paddled. One sweeper followed another, and I was in and out of the boat often.
A snowy sweeper at the tail end of some rapids necessitated a quick exit
Soon sweepers were replaced by log-jams. Portage was made difficult by the thick willows growing bankside. It would be easy to become frustrated by this sort of slow travel, but as with all new relationships, acceptance goes a long way here. You need to get to know the river for who she is, and not who you would want her to be.
Typical Two-Hearted logjam
Out of the boat again
Trailside willows make for yet another difficult portage
I danced briefly with Medusa when I slid off a high bank while trying to re-enter my raft following a challenging portage. The shock of the cold water had me instantly porpoising back into the boat, but now it became a race to reach my planned take out before my legs turned to stone. Thoughts of fishing vaporized, and I paddled hard to keep warm, monitoring myself frequently.
People talk about avoidance of dampness as a winter priority, but this is not always realistic, particularly when water travel is involved. An equally useful skill is knowing just how cold you can get and still be fully functional, and what to do when you cross the line.
A cold camp on the river bank
Tucked warmly into my bag, I scarfed down a bag of spicy angel hair pasta with chicken and broccoli and a hot drink before falling asleep. When I woke briefly at midnight, I was happy to be able to feel my toes again.
Predictably, it began sleeting later that night. The next morning, I walked out in the freezing rain, 27 miles along the North Country Trail back to my car. I left the camera safely tucked away in my pack, not in the mood to take dreary photos. This trip would be enjoyed more in the recollection then in the actual doing.
F** You, Ernest Hemingway
Post-Trip Comments: It is always hard to know what to do with these types of reports. Our failures rarely elicit the same sort of response as the trips that went really well, and my inclination is usually to just bury them and move on. In the end though, I decided to write it up as a reminder that not every adventure comes off as planned, and if you don't have a stinker every now and again, maybe you're not putting yourself out there enough. And as is often the case, a week later the memories are all good.Nov 20, 2013 at 10:09 am #2046521
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
Always did enjoy the Nick Adams stories. You may enjoy this short article collection. It was free for kindle a month or two ago, but looks like it is up to $4 on Amazon:
In Search of Hemingway's Meadow: A Return to the Big Two-Hearted River [Kindle Edition]Nov 20, 2013 at 10:30 am #2046530
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Anther fan of the Nick Adams stories here. However, he wasn't up there in November!
Great trip report, Ike!Nov 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm #2046574
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Always look forward to your adventures, Ike.
By the way, this line really must be the only words on your tombstone someday:
"It was a bad day to be out on the water without underwear."
Nothing else, just that.Nov 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm #2046581
"It is always hard to know what to do with these types of reports. Our failures rarely elicit the same sort of response as the trips that went really well, and my inclination is usually to just bury them and move on."
I fail to see the failure here. You went out. You came back. All body pieces still attached and functioning. Sounds like a win to me!
Thanks for the TR, and the warning…. :-)Nov 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm #2046623
deletedNov 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm #2047746
@dsherryLocale: Mi Upper Peninsula
thanks for sharing. I paddled that I believe spring of last yr, which would have been just a few weeks before the fire I think. I forgot the impact the fire would have on the river and the logjams falling in.
Glad to see you were able to laugh it off.
DanaNov 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm #2047751
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
… I would have very few stories to tell.
I have completed exactly two long backpacking trips on schedule, in 45+ years of off-and-on backpacking. And I still had too much Type 2 fun on one of those trips, with several parts I will not ever repeat.
Thanks for your TR.
— RexNov 25, 2013 at 3:21 am #2047825
@leighbLocale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Agree with Doug…."I fail to see the failure here. You went out. You came back. All body pieces still attached and functioning. Sounds like a win to me!"
Great line…"You need to get to know the river for who she is, and not who you would want her to be." I'll keep that in mind the next time my friends up in MI suggest another "exploratory river trip"….fortunately for me I can only go in the summer :-)
Always enjoy your reports, Ike.Nov 25, 2013 at 7:28 pm #2048103
Thanks for sharing Ike. Beautiful time of year.
"An equally useful skill is knowing just how cold you can get and still be fully functional, and what to do when you cross the line."
Excellent point.Nov 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm #2048142
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Ike, this was a good report. And your point about the cold-function relationship is well-taken.Nov 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm #2048144
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
There is always something valuable to take away from defeat, perhaps more than when a trip goes off without a hitch.
Thanks for the honesty Ike in sharing your ups and downs.Nov 26, 2013 at 9:48 am #2048251
Anybody can have a problem-free trip in August! Big props for continuing to get out and get after it in the wet and cold, and sharing your trips with all of us.
p.s. At least there are no mosquitoes.Nov 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm #2048300
@lopezLocale: San Gabriel Valley
Too many great lines here to quote. I've had several notable failures along the way, each of which I value equal to many successes. This one of yours is especially cool Ike, a proper failure, a failure to be envied by all those of us who merely succeeded.Nov 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm #2048327
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"if you don't have a stinker every now and again, maybe you're not putting yourself out there enough."
+1 I grew up just outside Indian River, not far south of the Big Two Hearted, back in the 40's-50's, and remember to this day how unpredictably, predictably nasty the weather could get this time of year. My compliments on your ability to handle tough conditions solo and keep it together when the chips were down. Your odds of having Type 2 fun were about 50/50 at best, and you pulled it off in style. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Another great trip report. And yes, without the occasional stinker, you will not have anything to calibrate the really great ones against, so here's to the stinkers!
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