In the spring of 1680 the intrepid French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, together with four other Frenchmen and a Mohegan Indian, walked from his fort on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan at present day St. Joseph to the site of present day Dexter, there built an elm-bark canoe to float down the Huron River but abandoned it five days later because of all the floodwood in the river, then walked the rest of the way to the Detroit River where it flows into Lake Erie.
A few of us who have been following the Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge are toying with the idea of a similar LaSalle challenge. Among us we have considerable experience in historical tours by automobile, long distance bicycle touring like the annual DALMAC tour from Lansing to the Big Mack Bridge, and organized canoeing on the Huron River.
Encouraged by the success of the 2009 UHHC and widespread interest in it, I have been cogitating as to what could be done to remember LaSalle's feat.
Try this for an itinerary:
1. Walk or ride golf cart from the LaSalle/Ft. Miami Historical Marker in St. Joe south along the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan past the LaSalle Memorial boulder to Broad Street. Then go down Broad Street to Clementine's restaurant at the Pier 33 Marina on the St.Joseph River.
2. Ride salmon fishing cruiser up and across and down the St. Joseph River to Riverview Drive marina in Benton Harbor.
3 (a) Automobile tour from Benton Harbor to: (a) Sarrett Nature Center on the Paw Paw River (briars and brambles in river valley) (b) boat launch site north of Lawrence on Paw Paw River (more briars and brambles) (c) Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery (more open woods) (d) Grand Prairie Golf Course (Pottawatomie Indian encounter) (e) Kalamazoo Nature Center (river crossing) (f) Gull Prairie at Richland (burning grass to hide tracks) (g) Battle Creek River at Pennfield (wading marshes) (h) Turkeyville. About 90 miles.
3 (b) Automobile tour all the way from St. Joe to Dexter. About ___miles.
4 (a). Bicycle tour from Turkeyville to Waterloo Farm Museum via Duck Lake, Springport, Tompkins Center, Rives Junction, Grand River (Berry Road bridge or Maple Grove Road DNR launch site--Mascouten Indian encounter) and Pleasant Lake. About 40 miles.
4 (b) Bicycle tour from Richland to Waterloo Farm Museum with meal stop at Turkeyville. About 70 miles.
4 (c) Bicycle tour all the way from St. Joe/Benton Harbor to Dexter. About ___miles.
5. Hike from Farm Museum across Portage Lake Swamp in Waterloo State Recreation Area to Lyon Center and via North Territorial Road and Island Lake Road (Indian trails) to Dexter park at Mill Creek. About 16 miles.
6. Erik Vosteen and Kevin Finney display their elm-bark canoe at Dexter park and maybe put it in the river.
7 (a) Canoe down Huron River from Dexter to French Landing with a stop at LaSalle's statue at Belleville portaging all dams. Two day trip. Possible camping or shuttle arrangements at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor.
7 (b) One day canoe trip down the Huron from Dexter to Gallup Park.
8. UHHC Challengers put their canoes and kayak into the water at Portage Lake and paddle downstream on the Huron River far enough to cover all sections wheeled around going upstream last spring.and do it all in one day.
9 Hike through Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Park system to Lake Erie MetroPark. About 18 miles.
At first this wouldn't have to be done serially or totally or with many participants. Various LaSalle and historical reenactment enthusiasts could do it in uncoordinated bits and pieces. Eventually one would hope for a coordinated, scheduled publicized annual affair like the annual Hugh Heward Challenge 50 miler (which has grown in 10 years from about 5 paddlers to well over 100).
I would sure like to hear anyone's reaction to these ideas. Meanwhile I'll keep cogitating and trying to con people into joining the project.
It occurs to me that this proposed LaSalle Relay is pretty much the reverse of the 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge only commemorating an event 110 years earlier and on foot rather than by canoe and using the St. Joseph and Kalamazoo River valleys instead of the Grand.. Thus I think you-all who followed the UHHC Challengers would be interested in following the LaSalle Relay if I can pull it off. What do you think?
Son Jim is already planning to do the bicycle thing and is trying to hook some DALMAC types into the project. I have been communicating with Ron Sell on the canoe part.
I would expect to have brief recognition ceremonies at St. Joe, Dexter park and LaSalle's statue in Belleville.
My reporting would include extracts from LaSalle's Setember 1680 letter in the same way I included extracts from Hugh's journal in the UHHC coverage.