Sunday, May 3, 2009

UHHC Progress Report - May 3

Yesterday Jon Holmes in his Eddyline Sea Kayak went straight across the Big Lake from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore just west of Michigan City and landed right by Chicago's Adler Planetarium. Read the story of his lake crossing below in this message.

Jon's trip was a Tour de Force and an accomplishment in its own right, but didn't trace Hugh Heward's route which was the whole idea of the 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge. So it is left to the Intrepid 3 to track around the southwest corner of Lake Michigan and into the Chicago River as the Heward Party did on May 9 and 10 1790.
According to Toby's Tracker the I-3 plus Coach camped last night just where Jon's Spotter showed he camped the night before. I hope poor Coach got a night's sleep. According to Mark's blog "...he froze his arse..." Friday night.
Coach Larry Hoff's journey across the Lower Peninsula is a special case. Although he left Detroit with the Intrepid 4 and will finish in Chicago with the Intrepid 3 Mouseketeers, his journal "Atlantic to Pacific Log" shows that his trip from the Huron to the Grand was entirely on streets and roads pulling his Sea Wind with his now-famous folding bicycle.
He paddled down the Detroit River, across Lake Erie and then up the Huron about to Ypsilanti, then took to the land. He by-passed the rest of the Huron, all of Portage (Hell) Creek, Heward's Portage, the Portage Lake Swamp and the Portage River. In bicycling along M 52 southeast of Stockbridge he actually crossed Heward's 1790 path.
Neither he nor I are sure where he got into the Grand since he used a State Highway map for guidance. He avoided the first launch site he encountered because of all the deadfalls in the channel of the Grand and entered at a second. I am guessing maybe he he got into the Grand about near Thompkins Corners in Jackson County.
I have already told the story of my family and Nancy Anderson picking him up at Dimondale and transporting him to Portland where we had an enjoyable meal at Jerry's. He interrupted his trek down the Grand and Lake Michigan to join in Chuck Amboy's luncheon at the English Inn and later to do the Ninth Annual Hugh Heward Challenge 50 miler.
I was having a good steak at my son's house when Dan called last night. I have difficulty understanding recorded phone messages but he confirmed that they were camped at Indiana Dunes (by a nuclear reactor) and that they could see the skyline of Chicago. If he said anything else important I will find out when Jim comes over and translates. He and his wife and daughter are going to canoe down the Grand starting from behind my house.

Jon's email to me upon completion of his journey:

On Sun, 5/3/09, <> wrote:
From: <>
Subject: The Challenge is complete!
To: "James Woodruff" <>
Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, 12:06 PM

It is done!  What a journey and it didn't end quite like I had envisioned it.  I was unable to provide information this week, as my cell phone didn't work out on the lakeshore so I was out of contact until Saturday morning when I had access to Rusty's phone.
The big lake was pretty kind to me until Thursday afternoon, when a sudden squall kicked up 4 footers with driving rain and forced me into Grand Mere State Park.  It was just plain luck I was there as most of  the shorline in that area was all rock rip rap the locals are using to keep their precious lakefront property from washing into the system.  Set up a hasty tarp and planned on making New Buffalo but the wind and rain kept up all evening, so I spent the night in the woods there.
The next morning I paddled in front of the Cooke Nuke Plant, opting to stay near shore rather than go around the bouys which went about a 1/2 mile out into the lake.  Within 2 miles of passing the plant, I was "boarded" by the Coasties for violating Federally protected waters!  The crew was super nice and after issuing me a verbal warning, spent 10 minutes questioning me on the jouney, the challenge, and SPOT technology.  I have nothing but the best to say about our Coast Guard-They are very professional, but personable at the same time, unlike some other marine law enforcement divisions I've had contact with in the past.
So Friday's paddle took me to New Buffalo, where I was to meet Rusty in the afternoon.  It took so long to get there I swear I must have passed it!  Around 2:30, as I was approching their little pier, a kayaker approached me from offshore on the lake.  Turns out it was Rusty, who had arrived early and was out looking for me.  Apparently our small craft are hard to spot!
We pushed on to the Indiana Dunes, set up camp, and were treated to a spectacular sunset right over the silouhette of the great city of Chicago.  Seeing those three tall buildings was like a magnet and I was jumping up and down with excitement at being able to see the end of the journey.
We awoke to very good lake conditions and a great forecast.  As you can tell by our track, we did the 36.4 mile crossing.  Started in light sw winds with 1 foot chop and at the halfway mark, were paddling about 5 mph on glass.  Around 15 miles from Chicago we began noticing small swells in the glass, and I mentioned to Rusty that I saw no boats to have made them and we wondered where they were coming from.  At about 13 miles out that question was answered.  For 4+ hours we paddled into 20-25 mph headwinds and faced 3-5 foot waves.   We had no choice but to go foward, and I am so thankful that my wingman was there.  Can't say there was ever a time where we were scared, but faced with weaking bodies and strenghthing winds, there were moments where options besides paddling on were considered.  In the end, we dug deep, swore loudly at the wind and at a city the apparently didn't want us, and in the end won the battle.
Came ashore at the planatarium at 7:15 pm-11 hours in the kayaks.  Rusty abandoned his boat as he climbed on the seawall and collapsed, dehydrated and slightly seasick.  I hooked his boat up and towed it around to the beach where I clumbsily exited, found my legs again, and with the help of my wife, got our gear up to the parking lot.  Utterly exhausted, we've slapped a few high fives, enjoyed a beer over dinner on the drive back to GR and parted ways at 2:00 am this morning.
I wish the intrepids the best of luck in completing their journey and would have liked to been able to stay to see them come ashore.  I hope we can all get together in the near future and toast this journey.  I have an endless amount of respect and admiration for explorers like Heward who took these trips without the luxury of weather forecasts, gps, cell phones, technical clothing and camping gear, etc...  What really blows me away is that I am ready to settle back into the comforts of my everyday life, while Heward just traded boats and kept right on going. 
Thanks for making this challenge available and I look forward to seeing you guys soon.  I should get some pics up sometime this week and will likely continue to send thoughts and insights on my expedition as they come to mind.
To the Intrepids!


Karl Geisel said...

You wrote: "Jon's trip was a Tour de Force and an accomplishment in its own right, but didn't trace Hugh Heward's route which was the whole idea of the 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge".

Was there an official UHHC route? The "intrepid" group seemed to have drifted 2+ miles out from shore around Gary -- something I highly doubt Hugh Heward did along his route.

Maybe I'm missing some inside information here, but as a fellow kayaker and friend of Jon's you seemed to have quite hastily dismissed Jon's efforts for the UHHC.

Karen Stock said...

Karl - you may not agree with the way my father expressed himself, but you should know he was impressed by Jon and his journey and enjoyed talking with Jon on several occasions along the way. He followed Jon closely and worried about him when he was in open water. I, too, enjoyed meeting Jon and will be visiting him at Bill & Paul's to purchase a kayak for my sons and maybe take some lessons myself.

The bias you perceive in his remarks is a result of his fascination with primary historical research - he was the one who read Heward's journals, figured out the route, and issued the challenge. Dad is not in charge of the event - he was merely reporting on it from his perspective as a more than casual observer - and he frequently couches his reports with an invitation to ignore or delete at one's option.

No one's route exactly matched Heward's, and all paddlers are free to enjoy the route in whatever way they see fit. I think if you met my father you would understand his particular quirks and the way he expresses his passions. At 87 - I think he's earned the right.