Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Following Verlen and Valerie-II-Lake Erie

When Verlen and Valerie rode the current of the Detroit River out onto Lake Erie they were each paddling a Kruger designed and Kruger built Sea Wind expedition canoe. The two 17' 2" canoes could be catamaraned into one stable watercraft which could be paddled and guided by one person if convenient or necessary. Each had a sailing rig.

Kruger Sea Winds look like rugged kayaks with large cockpits but they are propelled by single bladed paddles and steered with a foot-controlled rudder. The Sea Wind was an experience-based improvement of the Kruger Monarch, which in turn was an improvement of the Kruger Loon. Steve Landick used a Monarch for the last half of the Ultimate Canoe Challenge. Verlen used his Loon for the entire 28,000 miles.

The Krugers had started in the Arctic Ocean in June of 1986 and had gone upstream on the Mackenzie River about 1,800 miles, all the way across Canada, through the Boundary Waters to Grand Portage, across Lake Superior in the winter time to Au Train from where they paddled and portaged across the Upper Peninsula to Lake Michigan, then through the Straits to Lake Huron. After Lake Huron it was through the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.

Verlen and Valerie were married shortly before they started this trip which they sometimes called an extended on-the-water Honeymoon. They eventually divorced and both remarried, Verlen twice.

In All Things Are Possible author Phil Peterson describes what is next: "After paddling past Detroit, the team will head into Lake Erie to Toledo, up the Maumee River to Fort Wayne, overland into the Wabash and south across the state of Indiana to the Ohio. Paddling up the Tennessee River, the team will follow the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Mobile, Alabama. From Mobile, the team will paddle east around the Gulf of Mexico to Miami, Florida." I intend to follow Verlen and Valerie at least as far as Mobile, maybe farther.

Jon Young has loaned me his precious find, a hard-bound (in red) book containing all of the Two Continent Canoe Expedition Newsletters. It has been signed by both Verlen and Valerie. Many of the Newsletters are addressed to Milton Owen of Jeffersontown Kentucky so I assume he is responsible. I will try to find a way to thank him as I have thanked Jon for the loan.

Take note, I am trying to follow the Krugers' path. In no way am I trying to relate any part of their untold story of the expedition.

Coming out of the Detroit River after you turn the corner, so-to-speak, around Pte. Mouille which shelters the mouth of the Huron River, it is a straight shot across the west end of Lake Erie to Maumee Bay, never far off shore. The main onshore physical features in view would have been the various power plants, nuclear and coal fired..

At Monroe, the River Raisin flows into the lake. That is of interest since its headwaters in Hillsdale County, Michigan, are very close to the headwaters of two tributaries of the Maumee about which I will comment later. The headwaters of the Raisin are adjacent to the headwaters of the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers, and not far from the headwaters of the St. Joseph River. All three of those rivers flow to Lake Michigan.

Paddling by Monroe they were passing the site of the Battle of Frenchtown during the War of 1812, and American defeat known as the "River Raisin Massacre." Look it up.

As you enter Maumee Bay after passing the end of Woodtick Peninsula (one of my favorite geographical names) you leave the blue waters of Lake Erie and enter the mud-colored water of the Maumee River and shortly you are in downtown Toledo.

The only mention of the Lake Erie crossing in the Newsletter was Verlen's comment "We left Michigan by crossing the west end of Lake Erie and then headed up the Maumee River."

Next: The Maumee

No comments: