Tuesday, May 29, 2012
This past weekend we took a family camping trip to Richard Bong Recreational Area just over the boarder in Wisconsin. There is a decent sized lake there called Vern Wolf Lake. Now that the pink kayak has a permanent home in the truck, we were all ready to hit the water!
We spent the weekend with some other families, so there were a few more kids in the mix. When I pulled the lil yak and the canoe out to the water, all the kids came ripping across the beach. Of course EVERYONE wanted to go. With limited life vests and a few of them new to paddling, we went in shifts.
The water was very clear in Vern Wolf. There were a lot of plants to see and a handful of fish here and there. There were also a few swans floating around. The littlest paddler liked looking at the passing water plants and touching them as we floated over them. She spent more time with her face in the water than she did looking at what the other kids were up to.
And what they were up to was pretty interesting. I don't think they realized how impressive it was, but I was pretty proud that we were able to do it. With the little pink yak pulled up along the canoe, the kids were able to swap spots with out us having to head back to solid ground. The yak is really stable in the water and I have enough weight on my side of the canoe to cancel out any shifts the lil ones made.
They swapped spots a couple times, then we headed back to the beach to let the other kids have a chance to paddle. The next round went just as smooth as the first. We all had a blast and the kids got to try something different. While we didn't paddle the whole lake, we got to explore about half of it with both boats.
The next morning we hit the water early and made a family trip out of it. Both boats hit the water and we made our way around the entire lake. The water plants took over a lot of the shoreline, so we were not able to really get into the cove at the far southeast side of the lake. It looked like it would have been a cool spot to hang out.
This was a nice lake to hit with the family. If you are out that way, I would say that it was worth the paddle. A park pass is required so if you have one already... hit it!
Friday, May 25, 2012
I made a new addition to the paddle vehicle today. I always have the canoe with me, but we don't get much use out of the pink yak because it seems to always be in the garage while we are at the lake. I decided to change that. I swapped out 4 of the bolts that hold the roof rack to the capper with eyelet bolts. I ran 2 steel rods through the eyelets and strapped some bungee cords to them. The kayak tucks up into the previously unused space and keeps my bed open for everyday use.
I am going to figure out a little better way to hold the paddles up there, but right now a bungee seems to do the trick. Tomorrow will be the road test, so I hope everything stays where it is! Now we are ready to hit the water when ever we decide to.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
We made it out the the 55th Annual Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon this past weekend. This was our first race and we had a blast. I was nervous getting out there, not knowing how it all worked. I didn't want to be the "new guy" that didn't know what was going on. It was so easy to fall into the groove of the race. The organizers and volunteers were very helpful and it was run very smoothly. There was almost no chance of a participant goofing up.
We got to the start line and unloaded about 2 hours before our start time, but by the time we parked the truck at the finish (half hour drive down river), jumped the 2 shuttles back to the start, got our number on the boat, it was time to hit the water and sit in the staging area.
The volunteers and other paddlers were very helpful in getting everyone ready to start. The put in process and staging area were way less confusing than I was expecting. We inched our way to the start and when our number was called, we grabbed the starting rope and waited. 30 seconds to start.....10 seconds......5..4..3..2..1.......GO!
We had started out 18.5 mile adventure down the Des Plaines river. Our longest paddle trip to this date was the trip down Nippersink Creek at about 16 miles. We kept a pretty good pace on this trip though. While we enjoyed the scenery and chatting with other paddlers, we were racing the clock to the finish line. We paddled strong.
We rode over a couple of the dams and portaged at the mandatory take out. There were volunteers at each dam to make sure that you made it over with out issue. It was nice to have the support. We had never shot a dam before so it was comforting to see a helping hand standing there waiting for you.
The last 3-4 miles were the toughest. The wind was headed right at us and with the wide open turns in that section, we got spun around a couple times. Fighting the wind slowed us down at the end, but we teamed up and finished strong. It was a great feeling to paddle across the line with my daughter. It may have been because I was so drained from the 5 hour paddle, but I got a little teary eyed when we paddled across the line and were welcomed at the take out. It was a great memory that we had just shared. I am so proud that we completed it together and can't wait till next year!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Yesterday, I was on the water by 6 am. I hit Miller Riverfront Park in Mchenry and headed North on the Fox River. It is still early in the season (barely) and early enough in the morning, so there was no boat traffic on the water. It was a little chilly, but nothing that was uncomfortable.
I paddled up through downtown Mchenry. There are some great buildings to look at in that area. You have Miller Dream Marine that is an ancient cinder block building, the docks of the old Joey T's that burned down, and the old water tower of Water Tower Marina.
This section of the river is all homes and boat lifts. It is interesting to see what every one has though! There were a lot of kayaks and canoe hanging under boat lift roofs and laying on docks. The powerboats that line the shore range from new 30 foot cruisers to sinking ski boats from the past. There is even a pirate themed boat house, complete with pirates climbing the trees and a waterall.
I paddled up to the Chapel Hill bridge. Just downriver of the bridge is a cove on the west side that is all cat tails. There are some channels in there that are fun to explore. The carp are out in full force, so don't be startled when the water starts flying and fish tails are everywhere.
Lake Atwood is becoming a part of the family memories. Yesterday, my 7 year old and I brought out the lil one for a paddle trip. She is 2 and loves the water so I was a little nervous that she would just jump ship and want to float around. She grabbed her vest, jumped in the boat, and had a seat!
Atwood is a great lake for kids because the water is so clear. We spent our time paddling the shore and looking at the fish. It was like a back stage pass at the aquarium. Our new mate was very excited when a fish swam by.
It didn't take long for her to want to take a swing with the paddle. Even though the paddle was twice her size, she had the right idea. She even took a couple bumps to the noggin with the handle end. She was a trooper.
The canoe is nice and low on the sides so she was able to sit on the floor of the boat and still hang over the side. She splashed and drug her hand through the water as we scooted across the smooth lake. Her sweatshirt was soaked by the time we got off the water...... but it was worth it.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
I love this section of the Nippersink. This is why I started canoeing. This section of Nippersink Creek winds through Glacial Park. I dropped in at Pioneer Landing and headed up stream into the park. This is a very popular area and most people go with the current from Keystone Landing to Pioneer.
Since the last time I was out on this section (last season), conservation started a wooded area rehabilitation and cleared a lot of undergrowth and it seemed like a lot of trees. The area looked a lot different than I remembered.
It didn't take long before I started seeing wild life on this trip. I watched a muskrat swim by almost right at the launch. Then I saw a raccoon run under some exposed roots and there was a total of 4 deer on this trip. It was pretty exciting.
The water felt like it was towards the higher level. It was moving pretty strong and there were a few spots that I really had to fight to get up current. There were a lot of large stones and fallen trees just under the surface in some spots too. I passed over one large tree trunk with just milometers of water under me. I was expecting to feel the back end bump over it, but it didn't. I am also pretty sure I bumped a fish with my paddle. I felt my paddle hit something and then there was splashing a muddy water everywhere. The carp were all over the place, so I think I may have startled a fat one.
There is a little inlet that I have not noticed in the past. It is right after the bike path bridge if you are headed up stream. The water was deep enough to enter and it was very very calm water. There were 4 drainage pipes that led under a path.....and the canoe technically fit in the largest one.... but I didn't feel like exploring too hard. I tucked the front in for the heck of it and then pulled back out to the creek.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
We had the whole day open and we were ready to hit some new water. We talked about going up to Lake Geneva, but didn't feel we had the time to take on the whole lake in one shot... so we looked towards the Rock River in Rockford. We picked out our put in, checked the weather and loaded up.
There were bad storms on the radar, but they were way out at the Iowa border and headed northeast slowly. With the 6 hour prediction on the radar, I didn't see it hitting Rockford. We made the hour trip out to the river and hit rain about 45 minutes in. We were in and out of rain till we got there and the sky looked nasty once we saw the river. The wind was steady, it was chilly, and the sky looked unpredictable. As much as I wanted to be on that water, I had to call the trip off. Instead, we spent the day at the childrens museum. Sometimes 'Plan B' works out better than the original plan could have ever been.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Well the rain went South, so I went North and had a great time on the water. This was my first trip on Nippersink Creek this season. I launched at the Canoe Base on rt 12 and headed up stream. I was the only one at the base...in fact, I didn't see another person for the 2 hrs that I was out there. It was great!
The creek had a nice current going, so paddling up river was slow moving. It wasn't a hard paddle though, just constant. This section has some shallow spots and a lot of fallen trees, but if you watch the current, you can find the deeper water.
This section winds all through the Preserve and then exits into a prairie section. The creek just winds back and forth on it's self, so you are constantly guiding yourself around turns. In the prairie section, the banks are very steep. It is a unique area.
Every time I paddle this section, I imagine coming around a bend to see a fat alligator sunning in the mud. The landscape just has that feel to it. With no trees and high, muddy banks, you don't feel like you are in Illinois at all.
As usual, the wildlife was the star of the show. A muskrat popped out of a hole and raced along next to me for a little section of the creek. Then, just as fast as he appeared, he disappeared into another hole. He swam really close at one point. It isn't uncommon to see a muskrat swimming in the local water....but a raccoon? That's a little unique. As I was coming up to one of the last bends, I saw something swimming across the creek. It sat higher in the water than a beaver or muskrat and as I got closer, I saw that it's tail was out of the water. It was a raccoon. He hit the bank and hauled off into the forest. It just goes to show you, you never know what you are going to see on the water!