Archive for the ‘canoeing’ Category

Since I’ve traditionally posted river-running reports and photos here, for lack of a specifically better place to do so, thought I’d provide a pointer now that I’ve gotten around to creating a specifically better place to do so. It’s called The River Road, and it’s henceforth where I’ll be posting river trip pics. Over time, I’ll also be repurposing old river material from this and other blogs over at The River Road, until ultimately that site should have a comprehensive river-running archive for at least as far back as I can find stuff. Until then, consider it a work in progress.

Thanks for checking it out, and be in touch.


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Black ice is that thin sheet of solidly frozen rain that refracts no light and so is invisible adhered to the road.

It also seems a fitting enough title for the photo above, which I took from my canoe on Ann Arbor’s Huron River earlier this month, below Barton dam, where the spillway had kept half a mile of the river from freezing completely over.

Black Ice is also the predictably cheesy name of the album behind which AC/DC was touring Dec. 6 when I saw them in Buenos Aires’ Estadia River Plate with 70,000 amped-up Argentinians. You have got to see this video. Check out the floor scene about a minute in. That’s where I was.

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Sorry, this is turning into a photo/river tripping blog. When in Michigan…
This is me on the Upper Peninsula’s Two-Hearted River, a twisty tea-colored little woodland stream that finally slips through a gauntlet of dunes and dumps into Lake Superior, which, as you know, is like God’s own birdbath. The Two-Hearted is the nominal setting of Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” which is collected in The Nick Adams Stories.
My friend Fred Maxwell says that he read on Wikipedia that it’s thought that Hemingway, like a true stingy-ass honey-hole-hiding fisherman, was actually describing the UP’s Fox River in his story, but gave it the Two-Hearted’s name, perhaps to throw off tourists and poachers, or maybe because Two-Hearted is just such a goddamn beautiful name for a river. I haven’t bothered to look it up. I’m not sure it matters to me.
I spent two days and one night on it, maybe 24 miles’ worth, the first day portaging 13 unstable logjams and the second day blissing the fuck out.
When I put in there was a guy walking down the bank fishing. About halfway downriver at the state campground where I camped there was another guy with an RV and an ATV who left in the morning to fish for steelhead. The night before he came over and looked at my anemic little sock-drying campfire and offered to let me borrow his chainsaw. I thanked him but no. I asked and he explained to me why there are salmon out there nowhere near the sea. It’s because they were imported to the Great Lakes purposefully to eat a smaller fish that was imported to the Great Lakes accidentally, and they started spawning up these little tea-colored woodland streams. More or less. They’re stocked as sport fish as well.
I threw a spinner out from the sand ramp for a while but I have yet to discover the finer joys of fishing, though I’m not through looking.
I did take lots of what came out looking like portraits of trees, among other things, and posted the better ones to flickr. The one at top links to Part 1. The one below links to Part 2.

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Last weekend I traveled with my fellow fellows to northern Michigan, in the neighborhood of Boyne City and Lake Charlevoix, for some quality time with the leaves. I stayed over on Sunday and paddled about four blustery hours down the Jordan River, Michigan’s first-designated Wild and Scenic such. Spectacular.

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I’ve been in Ann Arbor a week tonight. I went out on Barton Pond for the second time today. It’s dam-slacked water on the Huron River, and I can get my canoe on it in about 10 minutes flat, from garage to glide. It’s pretty nice. Two days ago I went downstream and back about an hour all told to Barton Dam, the little generator spillway that holds it back. Today I put in at the same little railroad bridge and went upstream, about an hour to where the current started running too riverlike to want to work against it, then turned around. I took some pictures. I’ve been thinking about putting together a series called “floaters,” of stuff floating on water, and the feather will definitely be in it.


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Right now this is my favorite photo from my recent canoe trip on the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwest Montana, even though it’s one of the few that wasn’t taken from the boat.

This is from the drive up, where the pavement stops, looking across the North Fork into Glacier National Park, maybe 20 miles south of Polebridge, which is about 16 miles south of the Canadian border, which is where we put the boats in.

We spent two nights and parts of three days on the river. THERE ARE MORE PICTURES ON MY FLICKR PAGE.

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The end of the Blackfoot

The end of the Blackfoot



I’m in Missoula Montana at the moment, sitting on the front porch of my friends Al and Ginger’s house. It’s just as pleasant as could be. This is the 11.5th day of a 12-day trip, three quarters of that sick with an unseasonal head cold, one day deathly, the others just stuffy and fogged.

I’ve lost $120 over two nights playing poker and never once been in danger of winning. Goddamn I love it here.

I found and bought some sweet books but I don’t have the scanner with me so those will have to wait. I’m having two small boxes shipped back to me in Austin, so that I can pack them in a U-Haul and drive them to Ann Arbor in a month. Makes perfect sense to me.

There’ve been two river trips, a 2-night on the North Fork of the Flathead and a day raft on the Blackfoot. I got sick fast driving up to the North Fork and by the time we made camp on the river that night I thought I was going to die. My throat turned raw and my head clogged up and I got terrible heartburn and I threw up twice and I couldn’t sleep because the mucous kept trying to drown me and all things considered I think it was the worst night I have ever spent in a tent. I got zero rest and spent the next day in a small bad place floating through the middle of a very large best place.

The Blackfoot was as splendid and sunny an afternoon booze cruise as ever was launched.


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img043I probably paid too much for this first edition of A Moveable Feast, everybody’s favorite college book, but I really wanted it.

It looks like there’s a new version of the posthumously published (and edited) classic forthcoming, according to this story in the New York Times. I’m good with mine, which I bought at The Bird’s Nest, a used book store in Missoula, Montana.

img044Missoula, remember, is the home of Robert Jordan, the emasculated hero of For Whom the Bell Tolls, this slipcased facsimile first version of which I picked up at Missoula’s Book Exchange.

img045I didn’t pay anything for my paperback of Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories, which was recently gifted me by a friend who’s inordinately jealous that I’m going to get to spend the better part of the next year in Ann Arbor, not too terribly far from the Upper Peninsula Michigan haunts of titular Nick.

There’s even a blue canoe on the faux birch-bark cover, to match my blue canoe — one of two I’ll be taking with me when I hit the road in late August.


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P1010348This is Caddo Lake, in northeast Texas, near the township of Uncertain. You probably recognize it from the picture, which looks almost exactly like 48 quadrillion other pictures of Caddo Lake. It’s sort of a ridiculous place to take pictures.

But a friend and I went up there last weekend and paddled around and took some pictures anyway. Here’s another one.

P1010363This was a little sloughy connector between higher-traffic channels. It had some current in it, which I wasn’t expecting, and this was taken after we’d paddled upstream and intersected a waterway called Government Ditch, which was a mostly straight-edged cut through the swamp buzzing with bassboats and jet skis. Man I fucking hate jet skis.

We’d just turned around and were headed back downstream toward the main lake when I took that img040picture. In another 20 minutes we’d pass again an alligator that I’m putting at a considered and solid 10 feet. It just sank and swirled when we’d passed it coming upstream, and surprised us, since the local word is that gators are a rare backwater sight, despite the place being lousy with them. When we passed it going back we didn’t even see it, just suddenly heard it over our right shoulders on shore, thrashing like something very heavy trying to snap something else’s neck. That time put the heebie-jeebies into me.

At the flea market in Uncertain, headed out of town, I found this absolute score for the budding river books collection. The subtitle—”A history of the conquistadors, voyageurs, and charlatans who discovered, opened up, and exploited the Father of Waters”—is worth the $2 all by itself, even if it weren’t a first.

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Got back yesterday from a four-mile/three-hour float — miles and hours too short — on the South Llano River, near Junction (about two and a half hours west of Austin, if you don’t stop for sausage and doppelbock in Fredericksburg), where the Llano’s north and south forks converge into the plain ol’ Llano before continuing northeast to dump into the Colorado at Lake LBJ.

Don’t know that I’ve ever driven five hours for three hours of aggressively lazy paddling before. Wait — yeah, of course I have.

Never been on any bit of this river before. It’s a little river, and we put in and took out at little Hill Country low-water crossings. Pretty river. Good fishing I’m told, especially for a bass that isn’t really a bass. There wasn’t a lot of water in it, but there were some deep green holes, and I only had to get out and drag once, for about ten yards.

I posted some pictures on my flickr page.

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