June 2015


Paddling Bellaire to Elk Rapids – Day 2

June 1, 2015 – Today’s the day we were paddling from Bellaire to Elk Rapids, Day 2 of the Paddle Antrim Festival kayak event and I could not wait.  After paddling Day 1 two weeks earlier, I was eager to take on the new challenge of 27 miles, longer than I have ever paddled in the past.  The crew included Paddle Antrim president/COO of Short’s Brewing Company Matt Drake, other great folks from Short’s and another paddling friend, most who had done the route numerous times.  While in September there will be plenty of safety boats to point the way paddlers on the route, I was happy to have a crew of who knew the route well to keep us on track.

We met at the Ohio Street launch in Bellaire and were on the water by 8:30.  The sun was shining, it was a comfortable 60 degrees and as we set out for our adventure.  We quickly paddled through the Intermediate River and entered Lake Bellaire where a pair of loons greeted us by popping up right in front of our kayaks.  We stopped paddling for a moment and watched in wonder, having never been that close to a loon before.  They seemed completely unbothered by us as they went on their way.  We continued across the calm lake to the entrance of the Grass River Natural Area, a great place to hike and just as amazing in the water.  In Grass River, we watched as three deer pranced through the wetland and took a quick break near the mouth of Cold Creek to enjoy the tranquility.

The waters continued to be calm as we headed out into Clam Lake where we were greeted by swans this time.  After 7 miles and about 2 ½ hours, we decided to stretch our legs at the Clam Lake’s DNR boat launch.  By 11 am, we passed the Dockside Restaurant, Checkpoint #1, and entered Torch Lake.  The crystal waters were beautiful and only small waves lapped at our boats as we made our way down the shore.  At a little after 12 pm, we stopped in Alden, Checkpoint #2, for a needed rest and some lunch.  After 14 miles at a good pace, it was a great paddle so far.

After a great break, we were all refreshed and ready to continue down Torch Lake.  As the winds were picking up slightly, we put our spray skirts on to keep us dry from any small splashes.  We enjoyed the open waters of the southern portion of Torch Lake, Michigan’s second largest inland lake, ending in the shallow waters of the Torch Lake Sandbar.  At 2 pm, after another hour on the water, we passed the Torch River Bridge, Checkpoint #3, and the crystal waters continued into the Torch River.  The waters were calm as we chatted, enjoying the different docks and boats along the shore.  When we entered Lake Skegemog, we are once again alone in nature in the Lake Skegemog Wildlife Area.  We are careful to follow the boat channel as to not get stuck in the stumps as we made our way through.  We could feel the headwind picking up slightly as we make our way toward our last checkpoint.  As we did at every checkpoint, our group checked in to make sure we were all comfortable and ready for the next leg of the journey.  As an event to celebrate the water, our attitude is any day out on the water is an awesome day, whether you paddle 5 miles or 27 miles.  We were all still feeling good so at 3:30 we paused near the Chippewa Trail Extension boat launch, Checkpoint #4, to adjust our gear and stretch before the final six miles.  While we paused, we saw more amazing wildlife as a fawn peeked out through a tree and a swan with seven small cygnets swam by.

As we headed out onto Elk Lake, the winds and waves continued, making for a fun challenge.  We took our time and steadily make our way up the lake into Elk River.  At 6 pm, we make our way to the end in Elk Rapids.  As we stretched and loaded our boats in Elk Rapids, we are all tired but feeling good.  We talked about how each trip is such a different experience depending on conditions but every time amazing.  While tired, I was thrilled I was able to experience the entire route, each portion so different from the others.  Whether you are looking for a 5 mile or a 40 mile adventure, we look forward to sharing this amazing experience with you in September!

Deana, Executive Director

Paddling Ellsworth to Bellaire – Day 1

May 16, 2015 – As a kayaker who has spent the last five years doing short paddles with my two awesome future paddlers (ages 3 & 5), I was excited when we decided to “pre-paddle” the kayak event route for the Paddle Antrim Festival in September.  Today was the day to get out and do the 15+ miles of Day 1 which goes from Ellsworth to Bellaire.  Paddle Antrim’s president & COO of Short’s Brewing Company Matt Drake and I rounded up six other folks to join us.  It was a perfect mix of avid and recreational paddlers as well as friends and new faces.  We were all excited to enjoy a relaxing paddle as we headed out on our journey.

At just past 9:30, eight of us started our adventure on the sandy banks of River Park in Ellsworth.  I could already envision what the sea of colorful kayaks in September will look like as I got in my boat to begin.  The water was calm, temperatures in the 60s, and we all realized we were in for a perfect day of paddling.  We paddled slowly, enjoying the quiet waters and good company as we all got to know each other.  We meandered slowly the first 1 ½ miles through Ellsworth Lake in about 40 minutes as the clouds burned off leaving bright blue skies.  After passing under the bridge into Wilson Lake we passed a friendly fisherman but the only other company we had were some great blue herons fishing near the shore.

As we made our way through the narrow stretch between Wilson Lake and Ben-way we all quieted and enjoyed the wildlife around us.  On our left, we passed a goose perched on a large nest.  On our right, we paused from paddling to watch a beaver paddle around the shallow waters.  We counted thirteen turtles all sunning themselves on one small fallen log as we slowly passed by.

Paddling through the shallow narrow waters from Ben-way Lake into Hanley Lake, we carefully paddled around a swan who was swimming around in the water.  As we continued, we saw the first of many swans perched on nests, keeping eggs warm.  After two hours on the water, as we made our way into Hanley Lake, our pace quickened a bit in anticipation for our stop in Central Lake.

As we made our way into Central Lake, many friendly folks out enjoying the beautiful sunshine stopped and chatted with us from their docks.  After going under the Central Lake bridge, we paddled right and pulled our boats out on the sandy beach of Thurston Park to rest.  At almost the halfway point and after 3 hours in the water, it was a perfect spot to take a break and relax.  Still early in the day, we had plenty of time to enjoy the park.  With bathrooms and wonderful covered picnic pavilion, the park was a great spot to enjoy a nice snack and stretch before heading into Intermediate Lake.

As we headed into our last but longest lake of the day, we began to see a few motorboats out on the water but the water stayed calm as we picked up our pace energized from our rest.  Near the final turn before heading into the Intermediate River, the water shallowed and so clear we could see the fish swimming about.  Out in the middle of the narrow islands we saw more nesting swans enjoying the solitude.   As we headed into the Intermediate River, we knew our adventure was ending.  We slowed, enjoying the shallow waters and welcomed the current as it helped bring us to Bellaire’s Richardi Park in just under six hours.   And our day was only complete after we met  to enjoy a wonderful meal and beer at the Short’s Brewing Company pub.

As we talked, it was clear to me that this is the ideal day of kayaking for almost any paddler.  With smaller, calmer waters, a good length of time and distance on the water, and lots of beautiful nature, it is just about perfect.  As my husband and I drove home, he shared that 15 miles was a perfect paddle and he’d love to join me for the first half of the Paddle Antrim Festival Day 2 adventure.  As for myself, I was energized, and look forward to challenging myself to the full 27 miles of Day 2 from Bellaire to Elk Rapids.

Happy Paddling!
Deana, Executive Director