“A Little Taste of the Big Adventure” Photos and post written by Sam Bales
So I decided to come do some paddling with my best friend Matthew, as he makes his way down the western side of the Michigan coast in Lake Michigan. The timing for my vacation from work was perfect because he had just recently took a hiatus to switch from paddleboard to his kayak due to unfortunate circumstances. I thought it was going to be just like one of our many other adventures, but was I wrong.
Lake Michigan ain’t no joke!
It’s not like paddling around some river lake in Kentucky. Lake Michigan is the whole enchilada and then some. I was immediately nervous upon setting out into the water day one. Not because I had never seen Lake Michigan or other big water, but because I had never been sitting in my angler kayak planning on spending the next three days on it. Luckily for me my amazing wife must have been at home praying for us the whole time because we had flat waters and smooth paddling for most of the trip. On a side note, anytime Matthew and I go on one of our adventures she always makes me and Matt promise that we won’t die or she won’t let us go. But back to the paddling.
We shove off the first day from Frankfort Marina where the awesome harbor chief let us camp in the park the night before. We head out past the break walls and start paddling for our first half of the day. Within the first half hour of paddling my nerves got to me and I left Matt behind as I made a dash to our lunch destination. Kind of defeats the purpose of paddling with a buddy if your gonna freak out and leave him. We made land and had our lunch, and my nerves calmed down. I’m like a dog on a bone when I get locked in on something I can’t stop till I accomplish that task.
The second half of the day was slightly more choppy with about two foot rollers making the second leg of the paddle feel like it took forever. We made it to Arcadia, Michigan at just before four pm. In Arcadia we found one of the coolest boat launches I have ever seen specifically designed for kayaks and canoes. There we decided to stop for the day. We walked into town to have dinner at Big Apple restaurant and bar. The food was great and the owner after hearing the Bigmanbigadventure story offered to let us camp behind the restaurant.
On our way back to the park we ran into Kristen, who we had passed in a sailboat earlier. She told us to stop by her dad Ken’s house, that he would love to talk with us. So we stopped by and talked for awhile with him and his wife Anne. We signed his log book, snapped some pictures, and shared some stories and then set off to find where we were going to sleep for the night. We settled on the park pavilion because the beams were just too perfect for the hammocks to pass up. We figured if someone wanted us to leave we would just head back to the restaurant and pop the tent if need be. Then right as the sun went down Ken and Anne pulled up with some homemade cheerio and rice crispy treats made with peanut butter that she just made for us to have for breakfast. Anne was having a mom moment, even though Ken said clearly we hadn’t been missing any meals.
With a beautiful sunset and the hammocks hung it was off to sleep for us.
Day two was much of the same calm waters with a couple of breaks for food and swimming. We covered fifteen miles before deciding to set up camp on the shore line of Lake Michigan at the Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary. There we ran into Wayne and Shelley who were there celebrating their second wedding anniversary. They told us to feel free to set up camp if we wanted, that no one would be down to bother us. We talked with them for awhile and after some left leaning political commentary they were off. They then came back and said they were heading into town and asked if we wanted anything and offered to get us a pizza. We declined but it sure was temping. It just goes to show that not all democrats are bad people.
The third morning was when it hit me. I was done physically and mentally spent from paddling just under thirty miles in two days.
How in the world has Matt been doing this for the last 63 days?
I was done!!!
If I could have went and walked to my truck right then I would have. But I couldn’t. I had to finish the next day to make it to our final destination just south of Manistee, Michigan, where my truck was parked. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity, I had finished my leg of paddling. I don’t think I had ever been so happy or so ready to be off the water.
In conclusion to my short stint with Matthew on his big adventure is this. Life is too short, Lake Michigan is too big, and there are still really great people in the world. Everyone was extremely pleasant along the way, and showed nothing but love to a couple of big guys out paddling around the Lake. At the end of the day no one remembers what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of car you drive, or how big your house is. They remember if you were kind to them. Coming from me that means a lot cause I’m a bit off an asshole. And lastly my best friend Matthew is a crazy person. I would have packed it up and went home after the first week. I was glad to join in for a week, but I am glad it was only for just a week!