Pardon my french, but there was just no other way to being this chapter of the story.
Things were starting to look up at the end of day 40. I had a huge guest room on Bill’s boat and a bed to sleep on. I was ready to get back into the swing of things waking up on Day 41 being well rested and rejuvenated. I paddled out of the Petoskey Marina, alongside the Little Traverse Bay Paddlers, a group off 55 and older paddle pros who were headed out for their morning zip around the bay.
More good news followed as Brent from Imagine Surf came to my rescue to bail me out. The cheap replacement fin I was hoping would fill in, definitely wasn’t cutting it. Imagine Surf really earned more of my love if they didn’t have it already. He said he would ship me out a replacement right away! Not only do I love their board…but you can’t beat that type of customer service, when it was my mistake to begin with. He easily could have told me I was out of luck. That’s why it pays to always do business with small family owned companies.
With my day looking up, and memories of my disaster behind me, I looked toward the horizon. Nothing was going to stop me now.
It had been a few days since I had a good long paddle day, and being out in the picturesque landscape of Michigan, helped restore my sanity. Out in calm waters, paddling along with just the sound of the sea and birds to accompany me, put me right back into a peaceful state of mind and my troubles were fading far behind me.
After another great night sleep, and one I didn’t really want to get up from, I knew I had to paddle a few miles on Wednesday day 43, even with the strong winds in the forecast, because I knew Thursday they were calling for worse. Storms were sweeping in from the mid west and all the junk was blowing up here.
Day 43 would turn into more of a job, than any vacation one may think I am on. The headwinds were brutal, my arms felt heavy, and my mind still longed to have stayed in bed for another few hours. To top it off, I soon would discover, the replacement fins little part by the screw snapped. A huge credit to the Outfitters in Harbor Springs, they refunded me over the phone no questions asked…but now my Imagine Surf replacement definitely can’t come soon enough. A little duct tape will hopefully make the other work till then…goes to show…always by the best you can afford.
With the winds beating me down…and having to work overtime to steer to pick up the slack from a broken fin..against every fiber of my being…I decided to stop at the Fisherman’s Island State Park. I knew I needed a good, dry place to stay possibly for 2 nights, so I decided to fork over the 26 bucks and camp up until Friday.
Wednesday night I figured I would hike into town to buy another loaf of bread to keep my mom from worrying if this fat boy was starving. It was a 3 mile hike into town, and 3 miles back. Both ways…especially with handfuls of groceries coming back, I had hoped for some good natured person to offer a ride…but I guess a tan, maybe slightly homeless looking person and Charlevoix really don’t go hand in hand together. I even passed a cop, and I noticed he pulled in a turn off a few spots behind me. “Great a ride”, I thought, quickly realizing he probably would have treated me more like Rambo from 1st blood, pushing me to move along. Well he got his wish…I kept walking and he eventually pulled away.
With a day off for Thursday Day 44, I found out a little public service bus will come and pick you up for 2 bucks a ride. I sure wish I had known about that 6 miles ago. Still, I figured I’d take a ride back into town. I was able to do a bit of updating of the blogs, respond to a few messages and even get a burger!
I was refreshed and ready to go. A good day off and I knew I had to set off and gain some ground Friday. After a great night sleep, even sleeping in till 9am, I was bound and determined to move south…not even caring that the weather report was calling for 4-7 foot waves and small craft advisories. Nothing I haven’t dealt with already.
After getting all of my stuff together, and making sure it was strapped down tight…I was off, as an old lady from shore looked on. I wish she would have warned me about what her fearful expression all but said. I knew the look…”Kid, You’re an Idiot.”…but I’ve seen that look already before, so I probably wouldn’t have listened, even if she did say something.
Instantly the waves told me I was in for a day. I was ready, eager and confident. Big waves…no problem.
I head out deeper. Trying to get passed the big breakers. I was reading the waves like a pro and sensing where one would start as the previous one ended. Some came at me in short quick burst, one after the other. Then you would get the bigger 6-7 footers you would have to paddle what seemed a mile up, to enjoy the ride down. Being out in that water makes you feel more alive then anything…your senses are on alert…every huge wave, your eyes get wide and it takes every ounce physically and mentally to beat it.
I was fighting off everything “angry” Lake Michigan could throw my way.
Then it happened. ..
My worst nightmare suddenly appeared…
Out of the depths of Lake Michigan began to rise a wave like I had never seen before. I’ve paddle oceans, surfed big waves in the Atlantic, but never have I seen a monster come at me like what was building my way.
I sat right in its path…
10 yards away…
It had to have grown to over 10 feet by the time it reached me…right at the time it would decide to start breaking. It was the wave of all waves!
There was no time for prayers…no time to paddle out of its way. Just an “Oh Shit” kind of moment and a valiant effort to try and scale the massive beast and get to its other side.
It was having none of that.
Next thing I knew, I was tossed under…I could feel the jerk of my tether pulling me back through the wave’s current toward my board. I broke back to the surface and caught my breath.
The board was upside down…the 1st attempt…no good in flipping it back over.
Another wave hit…a good gulp of water and I looked around and decided to give it another go…still no luck.
I grabbed my paddle drifting close by. I didn’t want that floating off…I could already see one of my 10 liter water bags floating in the distance alongside my sunscreen and food for the day.
OK Matthew…let’s do this…I submerged under the board to give me the best leverage…and with all I had against the still crashing waves on top of me…I flipped my board upright.
Tired, exhausted from the struggle, I decided to head to shore with the board and the Kaboose. I wanted to get them to saftey 1st. I’ll worry about my other gear later. Lucky for me…I had strapped most everything in tight. My sunscreen washed up alongside my food. My 10 liter bag washed in close enough with the waves, I could wade out to go and retrieve it. All that was lost in the ordeal were my 2 swiss 1 liter bottles and my GC Adventure Gear Bandanna I had worn for all 45 days of my trip. I had recovered it at one point in the water, but think I must have let go of it when a huge wave hit on the way back in.
The only other thing that was lost in the process was a bit of my pride. I was deflated. It was Lake Michigan 1 -Matthew 0. No way did I want to have to pay for a 3rd night of camping…especially in the same spot…especially after this.
After one more attempt in going back out…I soon thought better of it. Beached my boat and began the long walk back to the campground office.
I truly believe that there are few things that can test a person as much as nature can. It can reward you with ultimate highs with the beauty and underappreciated purity it can provide…but it can also humble you and bring you to your knees faster than anything else in life can.
This journey continues to test what I’m made of. To keep me digging deeper into my faith and looking to better myself as a person. I’ve been knocked to the mat…but no winner has ever stayed down on the canvas. It’s about getting back up…shaking off the dust…and fighting back.
If Enterprise had a truck, I can’t promise that I wouldn’t be on my way back to Ohio. Sometimes you may just need that day to break you down, put you back in your place and remind you that tomorrows another day.
The adventure continues!