I just got word from the folks at Naturally Superior Adventures that trip I'm guiding this summer enough people signed up to ensure that it's a go. But I'm on the hunt for 1-2 more people to make it even awesommer.

Taking place July 31 to August 8, we are going to catch a boat shuttle who will drop us off our on the elusive, mysterious and hardly ever visited, Michipicoten Island on Lake Superior. Over the course of seven days we will circumnavigate the island then make the 16 kilometer crossing north between the island and the north shore. Once that adventure is complete we will turn right, keeping shore on our left and paddle back to Wawa.

So who is this trip for? Well, due to its extreme remoteness and long crossing, this trip is aimed towards the intermediate and above paddler. You should have a firm grasp on self and group rescue as well as the physical stamina of a crossing of this nature.

The thing that makes this trip unique is that it's a self-sufficient trip in that you are responsible for your own camping gear and meals. I won't be cooking for you but instead we will work as a group on decision making, risk management and route planning. It's perfect for those who have kayak tripping experience so doesn't need a guide to pamper them but appreciate the extra security blanket of somebody who has paddled the route before a couple of times.

Wreck of the Billy Blake on Michipicoten Island.

So what's out there to see? On a scale of 1 to wicked awesome, I would rank Michipicoten Island in the high fantastic to super cool awesome range.

It's got:

  • Wild Caribou
  • Shipwrecks (at the water's surface)
  • An abandoned fishing camp to explore
  • Three lighthouses
  • Sea Caves
  • An abandoned copper mine from the 1880's.
  • Extreme remoteness

So for me the two real gems of the place are the wild caribou (which there are about 100+ head) and the abandoned copper mine on the northwest shore of the island. Back in the 1880's the mining company packed up and went home leaving behind a large collection of mining equipment to rust. We will spend a good part of an afternoon exploring the site while at the same time avoiding the open mine shafts scattered around the now grown up forest.

Michipicoten Island copper mine.

Interested and want to come? You really should. To be quite honest, this is a very exclusive experience as only a small handful of people visit the island each year. The numbers are so low that a commercial trip (with the crossing) was only done for the first time when we did it two summers ago.

Here is a photo gallery of the trip I guided two summers ago.


More info: http://www.naturallysuperior.com/michipicoten-island-advanced.html

Published in Trips

A new episode of Ken Whiting's online TV show, Facing Waves just got posted their and this time it focuses on my buddy and fellow team P&H Kayak paddler, Ray Boucher from Wawa, Ontario.

This episode focuses on rougher water paddling on Lake Superior. The cinematography looks great and I think you will agree that the camera really brings out Rays eyes.

Published in General News

Facing Waves is a new paddling and travel web TV show that you should check out on the YouTube. Hosted by Ken Whiting, Facing Waves highlights some of the awesome places to paddle around North America such as the Ottawa River, up north on the Hood River, Georgian Bay and Baja.

I was really excited to hear that their latest episode features my buddy, Ray Boucher who was working for Naturally Superior Adventures last fall when the episode was shot. In the latest segment, Ken and Ray head out to explore the gorgeous coastline of Lake Superior Provincial Park but along the way they ended up having an encounter with a bear which almost cut their trip short.

Published in General News

Ocean Paddler Magazine Visits Lake Superior

Thursday, 27 February 2014 12:33

I was really excited to get an email late yesterday from Richard Parkin, the editor of Ocean Paddler Magazine announcing that the latest issue is hot off the press and available for download (print copies were going out in a day or so).

I have been waiting for this one as I had a feature article on kayaking around Michipicoten Island on Lake Superior. Since nobody except my mother would be ever interested in reading a pure trip diary type article I decided to talk more about the history of the island and why I think it’s one of the best places to paddle on Lake Superior. I wrote from the perspective that if somebody from the UK is looking to visit Canada and paddle a challenging route, Michicipicoten Island needs to be on your bucket list.

Published in General News

Hey all you paddling dames,

Looks like it could be the last year for the infamous (it's not just famous, it's IN-famous) Ladies of the Lake symposium. A note was posted on the organizers website (Down Wind Sports) that due to dwindling participation and rising costs, it's proving to be a difficult event to run.

Gladly they announced that they are going to give it another kick at the can for its 10th anniversary but for it to run it's going to need 100 registrants for their deadline of June 1.

This year the Ladies of the Lake Symposium will be taking place in Munising, Michigan on August 14-17.

If you have never attended before (and you are a lady) you really need to add it to your calendar. Over the weekend they offer a huge boat-load of kayak instructional clinics for beginners to experts in a super low-pressure environment. Ladies of the Lake is perfect if you are the type of person who gets intimidated by the macho-man image that sometimes comes along with the sport or even these types of events.

The pirates of the ladies of the lake.

This year they are doing some sort of cowboy theme and they should have more details shortly on their website. I know last year it was all about pirates and I have a foggy memory of seeing photos of some sort of 1930's flapper dinner party a couple of years ago.

Though it is titled, "Ladies of the Lake", you are welcome to drag your man along. To keep him from getting bored, there is a separate Man Camp program taking place on Saturday. The website describes it as, "Man Camp gives those without the proper gender specific equipment needed to attend Ladies of the Lake a way to have some fun on the water and fine-tune their own paddling skills."

Ladies of the Lake is one of the very few woman-specific kayak symposiums taking place in North America so if you have considered it in the past, show your support and get yourself registered early. Remember, the deadline is June 1.

More info: downwindsports.com/lol/

Flickr photo credits: bill_yumi

Published in Events


Well I'm off to Lake Superior for the next two weeks to guide a sea kayak trip with Naturally Superior Adventures.

We are going to be circumnavigating Michipicoten Island then making the 18 kilometre crossing to the north shore before working our way back to Wawa. If you want more details, I wrote about the trip earlier.

The whole adventure should take eight days if everything goes well.

delorme inreach-se

I'm really excited as inReach Canada sent me their new inReach SE to test while we are out there. The inReach SE is a two-way satellite messenger with a built-in keyboard to easily send and receive custom messages. It's a nice improvement from the older model as it doesn't require me to pair with a smart phone.

If you want to follow along with our adventure, I will be posting regular updates to the Paddling Headquarters Facebook page. You can also follow along via the DeLorme map page here.

Have a great couple of weeks!


Published in Trips

Over the past two weekends I had the pleasure of attending both the Gales Storm Gathering in Wawa, Ontario as well as organizing the Georgian Bay Storm Gathering in Parry Sound, Ontario.

Gales Storm Gathering
This was the second year for the Gales Storm Gathering and since it rotates around Lake Superior from year to year this was the first time that it has run in Canada. That made for a bit of a challenge for organizers as it also happened to take place over Canadian Thanksgiving so sadly there were not a lot of Canadians registered. That was ok, the enthusiasm and excitement from gang who was there more then made up for the lack of Canucks.

The Gales had an absolutely stunning set of instructors brought in for the event including Nick Cunlife (from the UK), Shawna Franklin & Leon Somme (from Washington state, Christopher Lockyer (from Nova Scotia), Keith Wikle, Ryan Rushton, Sam Crowley, Erik Ogaard and well, the list is to long you should go to the website to see everybody.

Gales Storm Gathering at Naturally Superior Adventures

Anybody who says that the Great Lakes don’t get ocean conditions has clearly never been to Lake Superior in October or November. Throughout the weekend we were under a gale wind warning with winds around 25-35 knots and surf coming in around 4-8 feet for almost the entire weekend.

Because of the extra large surf at the mouth of the Michipicoten River on the door steps of Naturally Superior Adventures, we were able to make use of the several neighbouring beaches where the surf was a more manageable height of around 2-3 feet.

A couple of highlights for me included co-instructing a beginner surf clinic with Shawna as well as tagging along for an ACA Level 4 instructor assessment with Ryan Rushton and Sam Crowley. For the assessment we went on a downwind run south from Wawa to Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park which was about 22km (13 miles) long. While out on the trip we experienced almost every type of weather condition including 25 knot winds, sunshine, clouds, rain, and sleet and finally snow.

As soon as I got home after driving 12 hours, I threw all my laundry in the wash with just enough time to pack it up again and head out on the road again. This time it was north to Parry Sound to the event that I run, the Georgian Bay Storm Gathering. Now in its fifth year the Gathering has become a southern Ontario tradition for intermediate kayakers.

Georgian Bay Storm Gathering
Now I’m totally biased but I always look forward to the Gathering as one of my favourite events of the year. This year we had instructors from across Canada and the US including Gary Doran (from Victoria, BC), Kelly Blades (from Michigan), Ray Boucher and Dave Wells (both from Wawa, Ontario). We also had a huge pile of other amazing instructors so check out the website for the full list.

The annual dock launch.

Weather wise, we had pretty good winds throughout the weekend but because the direction was from the NE, we didn’t have the largest conditions (not like the Gales that’s for sure). That being said, there was more than enough lumpy water to run clinics on surfing, rocks, rough water rescues, etc. Though I would have liked slightly larger conditions, it was ok as we know how to make our own fun. Highlights included the annual dock launch, paddling in pea-soup fog and a serious match of pumpkin polo. If you haven’t seen pumpkin polo before, picture a large group of kayakers driving over each other while tossing around a medicine ball. It got pretty heated at times.

So for me that ends the organized paddling season for 2012. We still have plans to get out and do a lot of paddling in November and December but I can finally take off my teaching hat and paddle for myself for a change.

See you out there.

Top photo credit: Karine Boucher
Middle photo credit: Meg Garnett

Published in Events

Last week I had the pleasre of attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium which took place in Grand Marais, Michigan. It’s a fantastic sea kayak symposium that attracted 146 students and instructors this year from across the US, Canada and international.

A couple of highlights for me included helping to lead a day-trip to the fabled Picture Rocks on the south shore of Lake Superior . If you haven’t been there before, it’s well worth the journey as the 200 foot tall sandstone cliffs have leached out iron, copper, manganese causing the rock face to be streaked with many different colours. It’s gorgeous.

Erik in the Cave

As a paddler, you would like the pictured rocks due to the numerous sea caves and arches scattered throughout. Some were only big enough for one person while others could handle 30 or more kayaks no problem. The weather was on our side that day and with little wind we were able to get in really close to the rocks.

Friday, Saturday were typical classes that you would find at symposiums and they were all really fun to teach. Friday I got to help out with an all-day rough water kayaking clinic with Danny Mongo from Werner Paddles, Mark Pecot from 41° North Kayak Adventures and Ray Boucher from Naturally Superior Adventures. Even though there was absolutely no wind we decided to make our own fun and with a lot of imagination, the water was really rough...

Two People, One Kayak

Saturday I had the absolute joy to teach with my new found friend, Andrea Knepper who runs an at-risk youth program in the Chicago. We had a great time running several, stability and bracing courses on Saturday. I’m not sure if the students in our classes had fun or not but we sure did so I guess that’s what really matters.

Here is a quick slideshow from Flickr highlighting some of the shenanigans that we got up to this year.

Published in Events

Bing just rolled out a huge stockpile of new high resolution imagery for their mapping software so I decided to click and zoom around to see what new areas I can see.

They rolled out updates along the north shore of Lake Superior which is nice because the old images used to be pretty low quality. Not sure when it was taken but looks like earlier this spring just as the ice was breaking up. At least with the lakes frozen they really stand out and it’s easier to follow the rivers.

The particular map area above is False Dog Harbour where I got wind bound once during a trip. Good memories.

Things were looking good until I discovered a problem. Sorry Naturally Superior Adventures, you got covered up by a cloud. Don’t worry, Google Maps has you uncovered here.

 Feel free to explore yourself and take a tour of all the new areas just added.

Published in General News

I’m really shaken up. This morning I got this email from my good friend and teaching partner-in-crime, Bonnie Perry:

Is the paddler who died just the other day [on Lake Superior] the same fellow from Madison who was in our Paddle Canada Level 2/3 and BCU 3 star [last August]?

I clicked through to Dave Olson’s always entertaining blog, The Lake is the Boss where I confirmed what I had been fearing; that Robert (Bob) Weitzel was a student on the advanced kayaking course that Bonnie, Erik Ogaard and I taught at Naturally Superior Adventures last August (2011).

The news hit me like a sack of bricks. This wasn’t some yahoo paddler out in a short, fat recreational kayak in jeans; this guy knew what he was doing. He was prepared.

Bonnie Perry teaches a towing clinic at Naturally Superior Adventures.

I have been reading regular drowning and accident reports in the press since this site went online six years ago and I have probably read what seems like 200+. I feel bad for people but it has never really hit me like this one did as I taught him some of the skills to get out there.

It’s not that I have survivor’s guilt or that I’m second guessing our teaching by asking myself, “Did we do everything we could for him?” In this case I believe we did. The course went really well and we worked through all the required skills for the certification.

But still, I’m shaken by the news in two different ways.

Firstly, Bob was a good paddler. I remember when he first came on the course he was in a very twitchy Greenlander Pro. That’s a crazy boat that only 3 people in the world can paddle with confidence so it’s no wonder he looked nervous on that first day. Once we got him in a different boat Bob’s confidence increased and his skills quickly developed over the week which was great to see.

All day today I have been asking myself, “If it could happen to Bob, could it happen to me?” Of course it could. As we move up the ladder of paddling competence, we sometimes feel that we are more invincible. The problem is, as we get better, to keep things interesting, we push the envelop and go out in bigger conditions or take different risks. There is nothing wrong with that of course. Paddling (and life) would get boring but we need to remember that risk management is just as important to you today as it was on the first day of your paddling career.

Out paddling with Bob Weitzel.

In Bob’s case we will likely never know exactly what happened. We do know the reported weather conditions which were roughly 30mph wind, 42F water and waves around 2-4'. The conditions were up there for sure but he had also good skills. It’s impossible to say what was going though his head when he was standing on the beach that morning deciding to go out or not.

The other part that has had me shaken today is the realization that as an instructor, it’s critical to make sure that you teach the skills to the highest possible standard.  You owe it to them to teach the paddling skills for their level but even more importantly show them how to critically evaluate their skills as well as the conditions they can paddle in.

If you have a student on your course that just isn’t getting it (but maybe just enough to pass the certification), you owe it to tell them that they passed but they still have a long way to go before going out in slightly rougher water. Your students don’t know what they don’t know and it’s our job to show them the way as well as set proper expectations for when they are on their own.

I just feel terrible for Bob and his family and I want to express my deepest sympathies for their loss. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

PS - Bryan over at Paddling Light also wrote a very good article on risks in the outdoors that you also need to read. It's very good.

Published in General News
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