Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coach finished his Wisconsin River trip

I got a message from Coach yesterday (Tues Sept 29) that he was back from Branson and headed back to the Wisconsin River. His plan was to drop his canoe and gear at Muscoda, drive his car to a park about a mile down the Mississippi from it's confluence with the Wisconsin (Wyalising State Park), then hitch hike back to his canoe.

I got another message this evening (Wed Sept 30) that he had put in and had finished paddling down the Wisconsin. He arrived at the Mississippi about 2:15 PM then spent time trying to find the right channel to get to his car. Confusion at the end but success overall.

He will render a final report and send some pictures in a few days. He sends his regards to the Ultimate Kruger Challengers.

So he has done it (and by himself). All the way from headwaters at Lac Vieux Desert at the edge of Michigan's UP to the Father of Waters. As I predicted he turned left at the Mississippi but he did not head for New Orleans. A gutty performance from a man who has earned my ultimate respect. In my prime I don't think I could have kept up with him.

He and his performance reminds me of that old joke about the guy who was proud of always doing things the hard way. One time his son asked how he was conceived. The father replied proudly "Standing up in a hammock!"

Ultimate Kruger Challenge - Report #2

I'm sitting here feeling sorry for the Challengers. They have been facing more brutal canoeing conditions than anyone I know since Charlie Parmelee started upstream into a tough current on the Huron River at the end of March the snow.....after a cold night's the snow..

I am following closely Brian's Weber's reports in Mark P's "Kruger Canoe Adventures".

Team Bradford made it to Grayling last night, having passed the Tres Amigos early on. There are pictures on the blog of their new racer. It is one mean looking skinny black Crozier canoe named "Bushwhacker". They are now doing the 7 mile portage up M72.

The Tres Amigos (Mark P., Dan Smith and Jack Murgatroid) have not yet reached Mio Pond where they face a nasty walk after they portage the dam since the DNR and/or Consumers Energy decided to pull down the pond level 8 feet for dam repairs. That is apparently affecting the AuSable's current also. Yesterday's brutal headwinds and rain made for a tough day but I understand they had a good fire last night and slept good.

Be sure to look at the new Spotter displays. Mark's Seawind and the Bradford's "Bushwacker" are both sending signals which allow you to chose backgrounds of maps, satellite images or "terrain", the latter being very good for tracking waterways.

Chuck Amboy is hustling the newpaper Grayling Avalanche for coverage. He has issued a "press release". We are going big time!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ultimate Kruger Challenge 2009

The Ultimate Kruger Challenge 2009 is underway.

The Challenge, a project of the Verlen Kruger Memorial Association, is to paddle and portage all the way across the Lower Peninsula from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan starting at the mouth of the AuSable River at Oscoda. The Challengers will go upstream on the AuSable to Grayling, then make a 7 mile portage-on-wheels via Highway M72 to the Manistee River where they will put back in and paddle the rest of the way to Lake Michigan, a total of 271 miles.

The "Tres Amigos" - Mark Przedwojewski, Dan Smith, and Jack Murgatroid - started up the AuSable yesterday afternoon about 4:30 with the intention of finding a high and dry campground before the storms hit. A message from Mark at 7:15 PM said they had pulled off and set up camp.

They are paddling Kruger Seawinds. Mark P. has a new Spotter on his. You can follow their progress on Mark's Kruger Canoe Adventures blog, of which Brian Weber of Wisconsin is the Blogmaster.

Bob Bradford and son Mike in their tandem racing canoe planned to start this morning. A message from Bob last night said they saw "three bums" heading up the river. I'm trying to find out more about the Bradfords' canoe. They also have an active Spotter.

I think there is a 100 miler in-one-day on the Manistee on October 1 involved with all this. I'll let you know when I get it straight.

No word from Coach yet after his Branson trip.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coach is off the river

On Sunday Coach went to the Packers game then returned to his takeout place at Prairie du Sac. Stayed in a motel. He was pleased that he had no more dams to portage but was concerned about low water.

Monday he paddled to Muscoda. I don't have details. Camped out Monday night. Woke up at 4 AM. Raining outside. Also raining inside since he did a lousy job of re-water proofing his old fly. He got soaked. I'm thinking of taking up a collection to buy him a decent tent and fly and a Verlen Kruger-type comfortable mattress.

Here is how he described some more of his miserable day Tuesday: "I did not have a confirmed ride back to Prairie du Sac, so I hid all my gear in some brush and went to a local gas station to see if anyone stopping for gas would give me a lift. The first person took me about 10 miles. Then at another gas station I got a ride for about 20 miles and at a third I got a ride back to my car. I quickly hurried back to Muscoda, packed up my stuff and headed for my sister's all the time thinking how I was going to finish this trip." Then he tells a garbled tale of missed phone calls and wrong dates but he finally got home and went to Branson, Missouri, as scheduled.

On the way home from Branson he intends to put back in the river and finish the trip to the Mississippi. I'm afraid he will turn left and head for New Orleans.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin - Day 6

Coach reported to Karen Friday morning. He talks fast and we have trouble spelling some Wisconsin names but here goes.

He spent the night near the Petenwell Dam. On Friday morning, as planned, he biked around (rather than paddling/portaging each) three dams with one trip when he arrived at Wisconsin Rapids downstream of Stevens Point. After the third dam as he was about to put back into the river a native told him the channel he was proposing to put into led not to the river as Coach had believed, but yet another dam. With that information Coach abandoned the river route and bicycle portaged about 9 miles to Nekoosa on roads that ran along the river.

He put back in the river south of town and paddled downstream into the Petenwell Flowage - I think the second biggest reservoir on the Wisconsin. As he was standing in the water to enter his craft, a passerby advised him to "Get out!" of the water because what he was standing in was a toxic algae bloom. Once in, it was an easy paddle across the flowage.

He planned to go through the Wisconsin Dells (Portage, WI, approx. 300 mile mark) but we do not yet have a report.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin - Day 5

When he arrived in Stevens Point last night Coach did not stay in a motel as planned. Instead he ended up camping after dark in some park. Awoke this morning to find he was laying next to a "No Camping" sign in a wet sleeping bag.

Four more dams yesterday plus he wasted an hour not realizing he was circumnavigating a large island. He thought he was still going downstream until he saw the same two fishermen for a second time. I'm confused just trying to describe it. Maybe it is because he Emailed me directly instead of using the Karen connection.

In a late morning call to Karen he said he was looking at maps of what he was facing downstream, the second largest flowage on the entire river plus 3 dams at Wisconsin Rapids. Thinking about wheel portaging all three in one long trip. We will have to wait for the next report to find out what he decided.

There may be an interruption coming up since he says he's going to go to the Packers game Sunday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin - Day 4

Noon call from Coach. He is at the Rothschild Dam on the south side of Wausau. That means he paddled late again because he is far beyond yesterday's goal of getting south of Merrill. He camped at Gilbert Park on the north side of Wausau.

If you are following Coach on Google Earth or Google Maps you will see that the river and the highways are never far apart on this stretch.

He had to portage five dams yesterday. He says the dams are driving him nuts since it takes so long to get around them. The portages are 1/4 to a mile long and he's glad he has his traveling junkyard folding bike portage rig.

He's dreading the portage at the paper mill at Mosinee where he hears he will have to call the mill and wait for an escort to arrive and take him across their property. I sympathize. I looked at the papermill complex on Google Maps Satellite. It's a big and complicated beast. The Wisconsin is an industrial river many places. Also spectacular other places.

The weather is a bit cooler and he has a tail wind.

He plans to stay in a motel at Stevens point tonight (River Mile 205).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin - Day 3

Noon call from Coach from Tomahawk. He said it was absolutely gorgeous there. I assume he meant the river and environs not the town.

Last night he camped in the woods at Kings Dam upstream from Tomahawk. That means he got through Rhinelander yesterday afternoon and portaged the dam there. He says he has portaged "5 or 6 dams" which also means that he has lost count already. There are 26 total on the whole river.

He hoped to portage 3 or 4 more today and get south of Merrill which is River Mile 138. Then he intends to slow down a bit. He didn't say how late he paddled last night. Karen doubts that he will really slow down. We'll see.
Merrill is about as far south as Northport at the top of the Leelanau Peninsula (the "Little Finger") in the Lower Peninsula.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin - Day 2

Another call from Coach just before noon today. He said it was a long night. Ended up throwing his sleeping bag on somebody's dock.

He has gone through the Rainbow Flowage (pictured above - they call backwaters behind dams in Wisconsin "flowages") and has made the portage. The Rainbow Dam is about 12 miles southeast of the town of Woodruff, my favorite Wisconsin town.

Lovely warm day, no breeze yet, nice lazy river. Intends to make Rhinelander this afternoon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin River - Day 1

Coach called Karen at noon to say he was on the river and paddling. He had first put in at the US 45 bridge because he had been advised that the first five miles was impassable but then he ran into some canoeists who said that it was fine so he pulled out and went back to the beginning at Lac Vieux Desert. He put in at the dam and is now going downstream.

I looked for the dam on Google Maps and Google Earth. I couldn't positively locate it but there is a nice photo of the beginning of the Wisconsin on Google Earth. I entered "Lac Vieux Desert Wi" to search.

Coach called again at about 8 PM. Said he was getting close to Eagle River. Beautiful day, nice winding creek, great weather, trees changing, nice current. Sounded like he was going to keep going. He doesn't pause to smell the water lillies.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coach on the Wisconsin River - Preliminary Report

Larry "Coach" Hoff plans to launch his Kruger Seawind expedition canoe on Lac Vieux Desert (from French for Lake of the Old Clearing or Old Garden) on Sunday September 13 2009 and go all the way down the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River by September 22. As usual, he will look like a traveling junk yard with his folding bicycle portaging rig stuffed in behind the seat.

Coach, shown here with his gear during the 2009 Hugh Heward Challenge. Nancy Anderson looks on.

Lac Vieux Desert, the head lake of the Wisconsin River, is a relatively large and shallow lake which lies astraddle the UP/Wisconsin State Line southeast of Watersmeet. It's drainage area is one of only two places in Michigan in the Mississippi watershed. (The other is in the Lower Peninsula in Berrien County at the Indiana border.) Thus if you put some used beer in the woods up there it will eventually flow into the Mississippi, down the big river past St. Louis and New Orleans and end up in the Gulf of Mexico....a long trip.

The Wisconsin is that state's longest river at 430 miles, some 160 miles longer than the Grand, Michigan's longest river. Quoting from Wikipedia: "It flows south across the glacial plain of central Wisconsin, passing Wasau and Stevens point. In southern Wisconsin it encounters the terminal moraine formed during the last ice age, where it forms the Dells of the Wisconsin River. North of Madison at Portage, the river turns to the west, flowing through Wisconsin's hilly Western Upland and joining the Mississippi approximately 3 miles south of Prairie du Chien. Although the river was originally navigable up to the city of Portage 200 miles from its mouth, it is now considered non-navigable beyond the lock and dam at Prairie du Sac."

The Wisconsin exits Lac Vieux Desert at its southwest corner the promptly turns northwest almost reaching the Michigan border before it turns south again approximately paralleling US 45.

Coach anticipates some problems with low water at the beginning. We'll see whether he does the upper river by canoe or bicycle.