Friday, March 20, 2009

Charlie's 2008 Odyssey IX - Hugh Heward Challenge

Saturday April 26:
Charlie paddled in the 2008 Hugh Heward Challenge today. Put in at Dimondale and pulled out at Thompson Field at Portland at the canoe launch where Verlen's statue will be. We had about 80 canoeists and kayakers participating.

As part of the hoopla at Thompson Field I presented Charlie with a large Verlen Kruger Memorial brick that was inscribed : ULTIMATE HUGH HEWARD CHALLENGE   1790-2008  CHARLIE PARMELEE.

Son Jim and Granddaughter Jessica did a "Quarter Hugh" that day (Charlotte Road bridge to Portland). They are planning on doing a "Half Hugh" this year.
In 1990 as part of Grand River Expedition '90 my late paddling buddy George Voorhis and I did a "Half Hugh," but that was more than a decade before the Hugh Heward Challenge so we didn't know to call it that. We put in at Grand Ledge below the dam with the same 17' Grumman Eagle that Jim and Jessica used and camped that night in the Portland State Game Area maybe a mile or so beyond where Hugh's party camped.
The next day we passed through Portland. George and I were not the most skilled canoe team on the Expedition. The "sweep" canoe spent a fair amount of time shooing us along.
In the various backwaters we did a lot of zigging and zagging resulting from George's random switching of sides with his paddle and my not-so-alert responses to his switches. We did a little bank-to-bank wandering in the regular river stretches too. We got better as we went along.
The river was low and George was broad. I was always in the stern. Our deal was that when we were about to hit a boulder or ground on shallows George would point to the obstacle so that I could steer us around it. The trouble was that George was so broad that often I couldn't see where he was pointing and we would ground despite his semi-frantic directions. We aluminum-plated a lot of rocks on that trip. Sometimes we would completely hang up and have to get out of the canoe into the river to break it loose (aluminum canoes are very "sticky").  Royalex or Kevlar canoes would slide right over what would hang us up.
I had a neat University of Michigan "M" decal on the side of the canoe by my seat in honor of my childrens' attendance at that august institution. When rabid MSU Alumni George saw that he went out to East Lansing and bought a vulgarly large "S" decal and stuck to the side of the canoe by the bow seat (both decals are still in place).

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