Gr8LakesCamper: Are you ready for a good paddling?
After years of being a canoeing expert – and by expert I mean I’ve canoed about four or five times – the last two summers during our annual Camping & Canoeing Extravaganza I switched to kayaking.
A quick aside: Like many, we have an annual trip each summer with a group of family and friends in which we camp, canoe and do our part to stimulate the economy of the local party stores. Ours we call the Camping & Canoeing Extravaganza, and besides my family it also includes my brother-in-law and his family. Our oldest kids also now bring a friend; it’s not too big compared to some groups, but it’s big enough for us. (Click here to read Parts I and II of last year’s monsoon of an Extravaganza.)
As I said, I am a canoeing expert. But the last two years of our Extravaganza, I switched to a kayak.
So now I am a kayaking expert – and by expert I mean I can zig zag from bank to bank with the best of them. (In all honesty, I found the kayak less likely to tip and much easier to steer.)
So it was with collegial eagerness that I was able to rub shoulders with a fellow paddling expert (paddling – that’s what we canoeing/kayaking experts call what we do). And by rub shoulders, I meant I was part of the audience who listened to Doc Fletcher, author of a handful of paddling books on Michigan and Wisconsin rivers. Fletcher was the guest of my local library, and he also happened to be a 1972 graduate of our local high school. So for him it was a homecoming, and for us in the audience it was nice hour-long paddle down some of Doc’s favorite rivers.
Doc’s books include “Weekend Canoeing in Michigan: The Rivers, The Towns, The Taverns,” “Michigan Rivers Less Paddled: The Rivers, The Towns, The Taverns” and “Canoeing and Kayaking Wisconsin: The Rivers, The Towns, The Taverns.” The titles kind of give you an idea that Doc is one of us. He’s not a stuffy, scholarly type. He’s simply a guy who, after retiring from a career selling batteries, pursued his life long love of paddling.
Each chapter of each of his books features a paddling trip down a segment of one river. Chapter information includes: River name; how long the segment is; about long it takes to paddle the segment; skill level; recommended livery and contact information; landmarks; and two maps, one that’s a detail of the river segment and the other to show where the river is located in the state. He also writes about the history of the nearby town and provides a narrative of the paddling trip.
Two other items of information he also includes deserve special mention: what local radio station carries the Detroit Tigers (or Milwaukee Brewers) broadcasts; and what local tavern is worth a visit, especially if it serves Doc’s preferred beverage – Pabst Blue Ribbon. (”You can only be young once, but you can be immature all your life,” he quipped.)
You can probably find Doc’s books at your local library, but they’re also online at Amazon and at Doc’s website.
During Doc’s talk at the library, he took us down four rivers, two in Michigan and two in Wisconsin.
The first river was a 7-mile stretch of the Mecan River in south central Wisconsin – “One of the most enjoyable rivers I ever paddled,’ Doc said. “It’s a spirited river with deceptive quickness. There’s a lot of tight turns, and it was very cool and a lot of fun.”
A second river was the Jordan River in the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula – “It’s my favorite 35-minute stretch of any river,” Doc said. “There’s plenty of fast water and it sort of has a dark beauty about it; it takes you through medieval forests.”
A third river was the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – “There’s no other two-hour stretch as exhilarating as this six-mile run,” Doc said, adding it includes seven Class II rapids and the incredible beauty of nearby Bond Falls.
The fourth was the portion of the Milwaukee River that ran through downtown Milwaukee. The urban setting with its architecture and three breweries and five taverns located right on the river were a nice change of pace, Doc said.
I was jealous of Doc and his experiences. His slide show of snapshots he took along each trip showed nothing but smiling faces, beautiful scenery and some great tales that would only grow better with each telling. As I said, Doc seemed like a regular guy, enjoying what he likes to do, and just happens to write books about it in the process. The kind of guy you’d want to go with you on a paddling trip, and the kind of guy who’d happily accept the invitation.
“Paddling is such a good activity because it’s a sport that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike,” Doc said.
And a sport enjoyed by us experts, too.
From the companion blog: I continue to add at least one post per day, usually about travel destinations such as Benzie County, Michigan and Bluffton/Ft. Wayne Indiana KOA’s offering a free night of camping. I even came across a new bungee cord that is said to be a huge improvement on the classic bungee.
However, what you most might be interested in is my post about the Ohio State Parks online reservation system being hacked. I’ve placed a call to InfoSpherix, the third-party vendor which operates Ohio’s state park reservation system, and will update the post as soon as I can.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
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