2010 Camping & Canoeing Extravaganza Part II


This is the second of two posts. To read the first post, click here.

After an enjoyable Friday night by the campfire and a great breakfast Saturday morning, we made our way to Wilderness Canoe Trips in Mesick, Michigan. We would use them again. They service both the Pine and the Big Manistee rivers, and their staff was wonderful. They showed great patience with confused customers (that would be me) as well as others who obviously had already started their imbibing (not me).

On the way to our drop-off 10 miles upstream, I asked the driver for the latest forecast. "Should be like this all day," he said, gesturing to the overcast skies and steady drizzle still falling.

Not ideal, but nothing to be concerned about, we all agreed.

Our driver delivered us without incident, so we set out into the river (cold!) and were soon on our way. The Big Manistee was wide, deep, not too fast and not too slow. Except for the last mile or two, there was nothing on the banks except trees and other vegetation – no cottages or docks or anything made-made in sight. We enjoyed the scenery as much as the antics of other canoeists.

About 30 minutes into our two-hour trip, the rains started coming down. Soft at first, but steady. Steady enough that we decided to beach the kayaks under the cover of overhanging trees and eat our picnic lunch.

Just a quick summer shower, we all agreed. Nothing to be concerned about.

After a solid 20 minutes in which the quick summer shower turned into a steady downpour, we realized that our idealistic Saturday afternoon on the river was not going to happen.

I had my youngest, Ben, in the kayak with me. He was already shivering uncontrollably. My other son, Luke, said his teeth were chattering as much as a "nerd on a typewriter." The rest of the group was just as wet. The smiles were quickly fading.

You know that feeling you get when you have to do something you don't want to do, but it has to be done so you grit your teeth and do it? It won't do any good to get mad about it. There's nothing you can do to change the situation. So you just suck it up and get it over with. That was us. Without saying much of anything, we all simply set off, intent on not stopping until we reached our destination.

About 14 hours later (a slight exaggeration), we finally made it back to Wilderness Canoe Trips. Soaked to the bone, we made the sad, slow walk up from the riverbank, drenched clothes hanging off our bodies and wet hair clinging to our foreheads. It all added up to one thing: that was no fun at all.

That night we were supposed to cook corn on the cob, potatoes and steaks (which had been marinating since Thursday night) over the campfire. Mother Nature made sure that was not going to happen. So yet another eagerly anticipated activity was being crossed of our fun list.

But, you know the old saying about when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Mrs. Gr8LakesCamper made lemonade out of all this.

She and her brother Craig, as kids, would spend a week vacation with their mom in nearby Manistee every summer while growing up. Mrs.Gr8LakesCamper suggested we take a drive to Manistee, see the old landmarks they remembered as kids, and enjoy a nice dinner inside a warm, dry restaurant.

That was a GREAT idea, we all agreed.

That's exactly what we did. Craig and Mrs.Gr8LakesCamper saw the sights, checked in with the U.S. Coast Guard station (Craig's a retired Coastie) and ate a fabulous dinner at House of Flavors. Andrew even didn't seem to mind too much when Ben spilled his root beer, soaking his flip flop and foot.

So, despite all the rain, we had as good a time as you can expect. We're already looking forward to next summer's trip (white water rafting in West Virginia?).

But if it starts to drizzle on the way there...