Monday, August 4, 2014

North Country Redux: Living on the wild side!

July 21 2014

This is me setting out on Lake Superior in my kayak shortly after sunrise. Yep, that’s right, I'm tackling the very same Lake Superior that has over 500 shipwrecks to its name!

The nearest land out there over the bow is the uninhabited Canadian island of Ill Parisienne, 17 miles away. If I miss that it's Batchawana Bay, 32 miles away near the mid point of the Trans-Canada Highway, longest national highway in the world.

OK, admit it. For just a moment there I sounded like a bad-ass adventurer (Or a dumb-ass tourist!), but the truth is I only paddled out into the lake far enough to get the bits of shoreline you see here out of the photo; and, unlike any self-respecting bad-ass adventurer, I was wearing my lifejacket the whole time.

Adventure photo in the bag, I turned around and retreated with relief to the mouth of the Tahquamenon River. My real plan this morning was to paddle up the river for a bit of peace and quiet before packing up and leaving the area to start the long journey westward.
 You can paddle upriver here because there's not a whole lot of elevation change in the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula so the Tahquamenon is a lazy river, making it's way towards the lake slowly. Of course that also means you have to paddle back downriver too if you ever want to get there, wherever there is.

One of a pair of Sandhill Cranes nervously guarding a nest. I left them alone and let the zoom get me in close.

Back in the day there used to be some 15 logging companies up in the 850 square miles of woods drained by the river. In the winter loggers would cut trees and stack them on the banks then in the spring, when the river was swollen by snow-melt, the logs were dumped in and floated out of the back-country.

Because the river is so slow it would take up to a month or so for the logs to make it all the way to the lake. During that time men would patrol the river from sun-up to sun-down for $4 a day breaking up any log-jams, by hand wielded pike and peavey most of the time, by dynamite when they had to, and then prodding the behemoths on their way. Booms would be set up at the river-mouth to capture the logs where they were sorted by the marks ‘branded’ into the ends with specially shaped hammers, each company having their own unique shape or brand.

Some would then be lashed up into large rafts and towed to ports on the lake, but others didn't travel much farther. Just south of the river mouth there used to be a saw mill and the town that grew up around it. That’s all gone now, as far as I could tell completely gone, but there’s still a few stray big-ol' old-growth logs hanging around, such as the one lurking on the bottom at the present-day boat-launch at the river's mouth.

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