Tuesday, September 24, 2013

9-24-2013 - 9-29-2013 - Michigan Paddlers Rendezvous

For the past 5 years we have attended the Michigan Paddlers Rendezvous that a great guy named Mark Spurrier and the group Michiana paddlers puts on.  There are a bunch of reasons why this event really kicks ass!

  1. There are tons of great clean rivers to paddle in the area
  2. There are tons of great people to help you pick great rivers to paddle and to help you shuttle to them
  3. There are lots of opportunities to talk about rivers and exchange info on rivers
  4. This is past the peak time and that means less paddlers.  Some of the rivers need permits to paddle on.
  5. Did I mention all of the great people?  Well I often see these people once a year at this event and to me that is in keeping with the concept of a rendezvous.
Here is a map you can save as your own that has all of the Pine access points on it.

View 2012 michigan paddlers rendezvous in a larger map

The stars aligned this year and we were the first ones there and we arrived at about 9 in the evening on September 24.  We setup our camp at Coolwater Campground which is on top of a bluff with stairs heading down to the Pine River.  

The event didn't start until Thursday.  All day Wed. we just chilled out and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

On Thurday at about noon we rallied and put on the Betsie River.  The river was very clear and nice.  We encountered no obstructions.

On 9-27 we paddled the Manistee River.
These are the steps down from the parking lot

Looking upstream from the putin

Looking downstream from the putin

The weather cooperated the whole weekend

The leaves were just starting to turn

This is the Takeout

On Saturday 9-28-2013 we set out for our long trip on the pine river.  The trip is about 30 miles and you can reference the map at the top of the post.  The trip we took was Edgetts to Coolwater Campground.

This is the parking spot at Edgetts where we put in

This is the putin at Edgetts

The Trees were really popping

On our trip we never had to get out of the boat for an obstacle

There were about 12 people that paddled together on this trip

Pine River 9-28-2013.  On the second day of the Pine (the last day of the trip) we walk down the stairs at Coolwater Campground and our boats are waiting.  We paddle from the campground to Low Dam.  This is a faster and fun trip and many people say this is one of their favorite sections of the Pine.  There are a couple of really fun Play holes too!

this is the access point at Coolwater Campground

Fall Colors were just starting

Great resting point at Peterson Bridge access point

We always seem to paddle with this great group from Kalamazoo

She did great and was new to paddling

this is the takeout at low bridge access point

on the way to the parking lot at low bridge access point

this is the parking lot looking back

We stayed one more night at Coolwater campground before heading off to Traverse City.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

9-17 to 9-19-2013 South Dakota to Indy

We decided to drive through South Dakota on our way back to Indianapolis because we enjoyed it so much our first time (in 2005).  Our first stop was Custer, SD.  We happened to park right in front of Naked Winery, which I remembered seeing in Oregon when leaving the state.  So, we went in to sample and found that they also sold and sampled beer.  Cara tried the dry red wines and found them good, but expensive.  Eric sampled the two beers they had and liked them.
Naked Winery in Custer, SD
We walked around the cute little touristy town, then looked for a place to eat lunch.  Black Hills Burger & Bun had good ratings so we figured we would try it.  Eric loved his buffalo burger, and Cara enjoyed a nice homemade veggie burger called "The Lousy Hunter" (hilarious name). 
the main street of Custer, SD
Next we drove through Custer State Park.  It was during the heat of the day, so we didn't see as much wildlife as we had hoped, although we did see some of the "friendly" mules sticking their heads in cars begging for food.  We also saw pronghorn antelope young and old.  We stopped at the scenic overlook with the view of Mt. Rushmore, and as we were leaving the parking lot filled with a 50 motorcycles.
beggar mules
Pronghorn antelope
Pronghorn antelope
Bikers at the Mt. Rushmore overlook
View of Mt. Rushmore from the overlook
After Custer State Park we took the scenic route north, driving through Deadwood (looked like it could be kind of interesting to walk around in next time) and Sturgis (not much going on there) before deciding to stay the night in Rapid City, SD.  After checking into our hotel we walked around downtown and then had a really nice dinner at Firehouse Brewing Co.  The next day we walked around again and looked into the shops.  We found a lovely public area with a water feature, shaded seating, and music.  There was also a really nice museum about the (sad) history of the buffalo.
public area in Rapid City, SD
Museum of the American Bison in Rapid City, SD
Museum of the American Bison in Rapid City, SD
We also learned that Rapid City is known as the City of Presidents because of the many life-size bronze statues of presidents that populate the downtown area.  Following are just a few of the ones we encountered.  Do you recognize the Presidents?

We planned to do a cannonball run back to Indy from here.  We set up the back of the car with our camping pads so somebody could fully stretch out and sleep while the other drove, and we planned to switch off driving and sleeping to keep the car going through the night.  It worked like a charm, and we were back safely in Indy Thursday morning.

Monday, September 16, 2013

9-14 to 9-16-2013 Adventures in Red Lodge, Montana

Leaving Yellowstone we decided to take the Northeast exit and hopefully get to Billings, Montana to have dinner and stay the night.  We didn't know at that time that our chosen route (Hwy. 212) is also known as the "Beartooth Highway" - a very fitting name, indeed.  Of course, we made the mistake of leaving the park in late afternoon on a Saturday.  (We know now to leave much earlier when planning on tackling a mountain pass.)  It had just started to get dark, when we arrived at the start of the switchbacks and a pea soup fog set in.  You couldn't see very far in front of the car at all, so Eric was only going about 10 or 15 miles an hour.  We did start to see small rocks on the road, which were no issue, but then we nicked a football sized rock and blew out our front right tire.  Amazingly, we quickly found a place to pull the car off the road (at the outside of a switchback curve).  Fortunately, road construction we encountered earlier had stacked up several cars right behind us, so almost instantly two cars pulled off and offered assistance.  There was no cell phone coverage, so we hopped a ride with a very nice couple from Boston who were headed to the nearest town anyway.  They took us to Rock Creek Resort (a few miles outside of Red Lodge, Montana), where they had a reservation, and we had a lobby with cell phone coverage for Eric to call our roadside assistance service.  Cara walked over to the resort's Piney Dell Restaurant, which was closing, but a super nice worker named Lauren Hunter took pity our situation and gave Cara a nice dinner salad and rolls for free.  Eric got the tow truck lined up for the next morning, and we got the resort's very last room (which was reserved for emergencies).  Glenn from Red Lodge Towing picked Eric up early Sunday morning to retrieve our poor, disabled vehicle from the side of the Beartooth Highway.  On the return trip Eric was treated to some of the views that make the road famous.
Glenn from Red Lodge Towing hooking up our disabled car
View from the Beartooth Highway in Montana.
(You can see our car being towed in the side mirror.)
The tow truck picked up Cara on the way into Red Lodge, where the place that could look at our tire was. Of course, it was Sunday, so nothing would happen to until the next day.  We were dropped off with our car at one end of town, and our new hotel was at the other end of town, but Eric had made friends with Glenn, the tow truck owner/driver, so he had to make another tow run, but then he came back after that to give us a ride with all our stuff to the hotel.  So, since we were "stuck" in Red Lodge for a day we decided to walk the town.  It is really a cute little town, with basically all the businesses located along their main street.  We looked into many of the shops.
This statue greets you at one end of the town of Red Lodge, Montana.
The main street in Red Lodge, MT
The ski store had an ingenious bench outside their store made from used skis.
A motorcycle is also called  an "iron horse", but this one looks more like an "iron buffalo".

Glenn had also told us that there was a microbrewery at one end of town, so we felt we had to check that out.  As we got closer we could see tents in the back, but the brewery's sign for their Octoberfest had the previous days date, so we thought the tents just hadn't been taken down yet.  However, as we got closer we could hear music.  We arrived at Red Lodge Ales and learned that we weren't the only ones who had a crappy Saturday, so they had to postpone their Octoberfest until Sunday - lucky us!  So, we got to enjoy some good local beer, live music, and great food.  (I guess we missed the big events, like a keg toss.)  Eric loved the bratwurst he got from a booth at the festivities outside, while Cara enjoyed a yummy panini from the brewery kitchen.  We also got talking to a couple at the bar (fellow Hoosiers, from near Fort Wayne, believe it or not!), and we made fast friends.  What a blast we had in Red Lodge, Montana!  We couldn't have asked for a better place to be "stuck" for a weekend.
Octoberfest at Red Lodge Ales
Octoberfest at Red Lodge Ales - many people came dressed in German garb.

Rocky Mountain Tire looked at our car first thing on Monday morning.  Fortunately, we hadn't bent the rim and had just blown the tire.  Unfortunately, when you blow a tire on a car with full time 4-wheel drive you must replace all four tires, not just one (yikes$$$).  Fortunately, they had four nice new tires in stock for us, and we were on our way by early afternoon.
Rocky Mountain Tire got our car fixed right up