Thursday, May 14, 2009

UHHC-Final Thoughts, Summary and Thanks VII

A reminder: You can see my 1790 narrative on line. Google "Across Lower Michigan by Canoe 1790".
Thanks again to the eminent Bob Bradford for honoring the Challengers at the Belle Isle start. His photos of the Challengers touching the wall at Hart Plaza over where Hugh and his crew started on March 24, 1790, give me particular satisfaction. Those and the photos of the Intrepid 3 paddling in the Chicago River really close the loop. With Neil Miller and Brian Prodin carrying a canoe and pack across the portage and swamp on the same day as the Challengers' start, nothing is left undone but to tell the stories. Verlen would have been proud.
A week ago today I joined son Jim for the soup bar at Mike's in Dimondale. I hobbled out into the kitchen to shake Mike's hand and thank him for feeding the troops the morning of the 50 Miler. He has a Hugh Heward Challenge T-shirt coming.
In the afternoon Pat Harrington and Robin Barfoot put Pat's ugly "stolen Winona" (he can tell you it's story) in the river behind my house for a run down to Grand Ledge. It was pretty funny to watch. To put it as kindly as I can, Pat's canoeing outfit is "colorful". His dog is shakingly averse to canoes and water so the launch involves getting Robin into the bow seat (with a double-bladed paddle and the bow pointing upstream), then Pat throws the dog in and Robin grabs his (or her?) collar. Then Pat tries to avoid doing the splits as he pushes off and jumps in as the current grabs the canoe and makes it do a 180. They're off!
Pat and Robin were responsible for setting up the refreshment stand at my landing on the day of the 50 Miler. The cluster of DALMAC flags that still decorate my river front are from Pat's garage. As I sat down there observing all the activity some canoers would stop and some would look over curiously but keep on going (the racers wouldn't even look up). Robin was acting like a sideshow barker trying to get them to come ashore. She would shout "strawberries"...."lemonade"...."Coors Light"...or "This is Jim Woodruff who started the Challenge..."  I kinda felt like she was calling to reluctant canoeists  "...come on in and see the old freak who started all this foolishness..." Again I thank them both.
Sincere and loving thanks from GPa to Karen's husband Ken and Jim's wife Deb and daughter Jessica for giving up the time and companionship it cost them to have my two kids supporting me in this great endeavor. 
I have about run out of thanks. Have I forgotten anyone? 
Coach is telling his story on his blog and as of this morning he has only to tell of paddling into the Chicago River to finish it.
Jon has told his story in three chapters that Karen has Emailed to you all, #3 going out yesterday morning. A compelling tale full of good information. I thought as I followed his spotter day by day from April 17 on that his lone-wolf approach would cost him much of the fun of the journey, but reading his story you eventually realize he wasn't in it for fun but rather as a test of himself, his chosen watercraft and his high tech gear. In my opinion he, his Eddyline sea kayak and his gear passed with flying colors, as the saying goes.
I had a long call  from Dan about at the end of happy hour last evening. He is anxious to tell his story but he is going to do the Bushwhaker 150 with his nephew first. He says he has some stories to tell about Toby's doings. I hope that motivates Toby to speak for himself.
Toby's tracker shows that he is paddling down the AuSable right now.. I think Charlie may be with him.
As of today, I don't know what Mark's plans are with respect to telling his story. As one of the "Big Dog" Intrepid 3 Challengers who made it all the way to the Chicago River we want to hear more than what is on his website. For example, did they really camp at Warren Dunes when Toby's Tracker stopped at Grand Mere State Park miles up lake? Tell us about the Marina/Casino campout at Hammond and about the Kruger Sea Wind parade to and into the Chicago River and its canyon. I heard pieces of the stories at our party at Frank's Press Box but I want to hear more.
One more guy I want to hear from is Mike Smith, the guy whose bad back kept him from becoming a Challenger. He bird-dogged the Mouseketeers around lower Lake Michigan and  is the one who arranged for the legendary Hammond Campout. Tell us how you did it, Mike. 
Final thoughts: As I sit at my computer the night before this is sent out I am thinking of Verlen. The leaves have come out so I can no longer see his gravesite from my place like I can in the winter. There are some special ties between some of the participants in the 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge and the legendary long-distance canoeist. 
That includes myself. He and I shared the special comradeship of the members of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation"...children of the Depression...veterans of World War II. We both had a special love for canoeing, his physical, mine intellectual.
Dan Smith had a special paddling relationship with Verlen who took him canoeing in the Canadian wilderness and had him along on his 80th birthday cruise down the Yukon. Dan can tell us more.
Mark P was the canoe-designing-and-building wizard's apprentice and is his successor in the Kruger Canoes business. He can also tell us more.
Charlie Parmelee is Verlen's successor as the Rivermaster. He is Rivermaster of Grand River Expedition '10 and will be "herding cats" for 13 days down the Grand next July.  While I had to keep track of only five or six cats during UHHC, and they were all experienced paddlers, his herd will consist of 50 or 60 various and sundry watercraft, many with inexperienced paddlers...but at least he will have them confined to a single river.

Have I left anyone out?
And so it ends, everybody safe and somewhat amazed at what we pulled off. 

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