Category Archives: Canoeing

AuSable River Canoe Camping, MI

On September 28th eight hardy souls departed for a paddling/camping trip to complete our journey of the AuSable River in the northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. A similar group paddled the first 60 miles of the river in June of 2013. The crew was ably headed up by Captain Bernie Weitekamp, and co-led by Doug Sherow. Jim and Bette Hanna were the only couple, and the balance of the crew was comprised of John Bredenkamp, Dan Harrell, Donald Weitekamp, and Donald Nelson.

While last year’s trip was on the first half of the river which is narrow, shallow and has a five mile current, the second half is quite different, with five ponds (lakes) and five portages, so the paddling was similar to that experienced in the Boundary Waters. As a result, the paddling was more challenging, but the crew was up to the task, following orders barked out by Captain Bernie. We stayed the first and last nights at the Mai Tiki Resort in two cabins on a large beach overlooking Lake Huron, which came complete with palm trees and a bonfire on the beach each night.

Our first campsite on the first day of paddling was hampered by the fact that one couple left their tent in the van, so we were forced to improvise. Fortunately, the Alcona Park campground took mercy on us and offered a cabin at half-price, which turned into a palace and card game location for the crew.

Card Shark Bette and Captain Bernie gave Jim and John an exhibition of Masters Euchre by soundly drubbing them repeatedly throughout the night. The following nights the couple improvised their accommodations by the effective use of rainflys as ground cloth and overhead protection from wind and rain. Two tents placed nearby afforded additional windbreak for protection.

Beginning Tuesday our challenge of the river increased as we were not aided by a flowing current. That situation prevailed every time we paddled through the five ponds and portages for the balance of the trip. Additionally, we were thoroughly tested by lower than predicted temperatures, rain and even fog one day of the trip. We were also tested by Ricky Raccoon one night while camping, and Captain Bernie engaged Ricky at 3:00 AM in a discussion of why he should choose another campsite instead of ours.

One bizarre twist to our paddle occurred on the last portage of our trek, as the hydroelectric plant went off-line for repairs just as we arrived at the portage location. The siren blasted and the flood gate was opened with a rush of water. We were unable to launch at the normal location. When we learned that the flood gate would remain open until the following Sunday night, we realized we needed an alternate plan for our launch. Once again, Captain Bernie’s great leadership shone as a beacon. He barked out orders to the crew and we carefully walked the canoes downstream to a safe location far from the turbulence and rush of the water flowing over the dam spillway. We all survived without incident thanks to Bernie’s quick thinking and great leadership.

Several miles from the terminus of the river, John and Doug observed a family of eagles. The male was spotted high in a tree on one side. Around the bend the larger female was on the other side with a three year old juvenile on a lower branch. We had invaded the family fishing area as they were watching for potential prey. (A family that preys together—stays together, according to John).

After finishing the paddle we all returned to the Mai Tiki Resort for showers and adult beverages,followed by a great dinner at Wiltse’s Brew Pub in Oscoda, Michigan. After dinner, it was determined that Don Nelson should be given a trail name, similar to the trail names given to Appalachian Trail hikers. He shall henceforth be known by the trail name of MIKEY—because Mikey eats everything! Nothing goes to waste when he is present. He was a great asset to the trip and was there to help whenever it was needed. All in all we were glad to have completed this river trek successfully and carry many memories of the challenges we overcame in mastering the AuSable.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Paddle

Trip participants: Bill Armstrong and Gary Boehle (Co-Leaders), Diana McClure, Cathy Schuler, Chris Jordan, Lukas Fakner, and James Kendall.

The trip started from Greenfield, Indiana. A stop was made in Wolcott, In. to pick up Chris and then on through Chicago, all
of Wisconsin, and through Duluth and up to Ely, Minnesota by 7:00 PM. The club van runs great!

Sunday morning found us paddling our Kevlar canoes east up Moose Lake to the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA). Lunch included fresh northern pike and bass filets caught by James. Five portages later (with Gary carrying about 3 packs at a time) we were in the west end of Knife Lake looking for our first campsite. Several good spots were already taken and we settled on one on top of a steep rocky climb that was just big enough to accommodate our
seven tents. Steak kabobs and veggies for dinner were enjoyed by all.

Monday morning sunrise through the fog was enjoyed by the early riser, Cathy. We all packed up after a breakfast of freeze dried eggs and bacon and moved east to Thunder Cliff. A beautiful overlook of Knife Lake was viewed and a short yoga session on the cliff edge was performed by Bill, Diana and Lukas. The Blueberry picking was also great up on the cliff. We then proceeded to the south arm of
Knife Lake to a fantastic camp site with a wrap around beach and a rocky point for sun bathing. A warm sunny day encouraged all to wade and swim to cool down. The first of three homemade dehydrated meals prepared by Chris were devoured
by all, with another sampling of fresh caught bass.

Loons with their fluffy, downy babies were seen on every lake. Many Bald Eagles, ravens and seagulls filled the skies. One beaver and a few mergansers were seen but no bears nor wolves. Pesky
chipmunks and red squirrels scampered about the camp sites trying to steal a bit of food and a small rabbit, (or hare) lived at one campsite. Mosquitoes and biting flies were only a minor nuisance

Monday sunset and Tuesday sunrise were both beautiful with clear starry skies overnight. James provided stories about the constellations that had us all spellbound. We spent the next day at the same site. Cliff jumping, swimming, fishing, book reading and exploring waterfalls (Eddy Lake) filled up the day. Gary’s dehydrated bar-b-que and more fish then filled us up for dinner in the evening.

Hard rain and strong winds woke us up in the night but only one tent was slightly damaged and by morning the weather cleared for another hot sunny day on Wednesday. After pancakes, we reluctantly packed up and left this 5-star campsite and headed out of the south arm of Knife Lake to another fantastic 5-star site looking out over Knife Lake toward the West. More swimming (watch out for the leaches, Cathy), fishing, napping and firewood gathering were done and Lukas (“Put Another Log on the Fire”) provided us with plenty of fire in the evening. What a beautiful view of the sunset could be had while sitting high on the “throne“ up on the hill from the camp. The forester that dug that pit must have been laughing the whole time about the site placement.

After a restful night and an oatmeal breakfast, we packed up and started to head in over the portages again. What proficiency and skill was shown in our mastering of the portages this time! No triple trips were needed by anyone. An unsuccessful attempt was made to find the root beer lady’s memorial rock prior to the portages. Lunch was enjoyed on Carp Lake Point and several fish were caught, including two at the same time on one plug. After the final portage, another fine camp site was located and we all settled down for our last evening in the “wilderness”. Thimble berries, red currants, and
some kind of high bush blueberry (or were they huckleberries, I don’t know?), were picked at this site. Bill managed to pick up a water snake along the shore for all to see, maybe a little too close for Cathy though. Chris’ spaghetti dinner with James’ bass filled us up again in the evening.

On Friday morning a short “shopping” trip was made at Prairie Portage, including viewing the waterfall, and then we all headed down to Moose Lake and back in. The afternoon was spent cleaning up in the showers, touring the town. Some went to the International Wolf Exhibit before pizza at the Italian restaurant. More shopping and some cold, locally brewed blueberry ale at the Boathouse ended the evening.

Saturday’s trip home started at 5:00 AM. A morning drive along the north shore of Lake Superior was followed by an afternoon tour of Chicago with former tour bus guide, James, providing the commentary. What a great unscheduled addition to the trip!

Chris left us at Wolcott and the rest of us got to Greenfield on August 9. (Just 137 days till Christmas). Sunday morning came early as Lukas had to catch a plane to South Dakota by 7:00 AM. Lukas came over from Germany to take our canoe trip and the go work with a church group with American Indian children for three weeks before returning to his first job as an electrician in Germany. Good luck Lukas, glad you could join us!

What a wonderful trip! Everything worked like clockwork. No one got stuck with jobs that they didn’t want to do and everyone cooperated with all the tasks needed for a smooth camping/canoeing trip. Thanks to the CIWC for providing the van, equipment and the opportunity to go on this wilderness trip.

Intro to Canoe Camping, Chain-O’-Lakes State Park, IN

Participants: Emma Castator, Marvin Pribble, Nick Fullenkamp, Paula Hartzer, Pam Thompson, Gloria Danielson and her granddaughter Kayla, John Carlson (co-leader) and Bob Hart (co-leader)

The purpose of the trip was to give campers some experience with canoe instruction and paddle skills practice and to experience the differences between canoe camping and backpacking. Due to tight
timing and canoe rental policy we only had 24 hours to accomplish our goals. All participants met in the overnight parking area and we checked with everyone on water-proofing their most critical gear items.

Once we checked out the canoes John Carlson gave some basic instruction on terminology, proper packing of the canoes, how to safely enter and disembark and demonstrated each of the basic
strokes – both for bow and stern positions. Then it was time to head to camp. The paddle from the canoe launch area was about two miles and we traversed through three small lakes and three sets of channels. We arrived at the remote “canoe camp” about 2:30 PM. All paddlers learned quickly.

The first order of business at camp was to select tent sites and pitch the tents. We were anticipating some overnight rain so care had to be
taken to stay out of holes and areas that might have heavy drainage. After that there were a series of demonstrations with some ”show and tell” discussions. Those included: SPOT safety signaling device usage, various footwear options, canoe lift and carry, proper overnight positioning of canoes, protecting food from critters (including bears), tarp erection and some general information.

Campers then had some free time before supper to enjoy the solitude of camp, go for a hike on nearby trails or to practice their newly learned paddle skills. Meanwhile a second tarp was erected “ just in case”. Supper was a group effort and then there was the traditional campfire with many “tall tales” about real wilderness paddle trips. We went to bed early anticipating some rain before daybreak.

Sure enough, rain did develop in the pre-dawn hours and that second tarp came in handy. Breakfast was prepared under acceptable conditions. We learned how to make an egg casserole in a zip lock bag which was a really neat idea. Shortly after breakfast the rain stopped so we packed up and paddled back to the launch area. The week end was declared successful and everyone received a handout to take home.



Boundary Waters Canoe Area Paddle, MN

Trip Participants: Bob Hart (co-leader), Bill Beville (co-leader), Drew Dickerson, John Carlson, Tim Calahan, Chris Jordan, Bill Farrar and Bill Armstrong.

Lakes – Kawishi, Square, Kawaschong, Townline, Polly, Koma, Malberg, Phoebe, Hazel, Knight, Phoebe, Grace, Beth, Alton and Sawbill

Our group met up in Indianapolis in the afternoon with the plan to drive straight through to the outfitter. At one point we stopped at a rest stop to sleep for a few hours. When we arrived at Sawbill Lake, we spent the first night camping on their camp grounds so we could have an early start the next day.

First day on the water: The morning looked like it was going to rain and it did. We entered at 37- Kawishiwi Lake. Our group was excited to start. Our route took us through the 2011 Pagami Creek fire area. New growth is back in the area but you can still tell there was a fire. On one of our longer portages of the day, we ran into a couple portage angels. Two young women traveling the opposite direction carried a couple of our packs back when they headed back to pick up their remaining gear. We didn’t learn their names, but I will think of them as a couple of angels.

It rained most of the day and, on some of the portages, the mosquitoes were so thick we either had to portage in our bug nets or end up with a mouth full of bugs. Our first day ended on Koma Lake. The camp site we picked was not big enough for our group. The eight of us used six tents and two hammocks. Half of our group picked another site on a small island.

The next morning the fishing crowd decided to check out Malberg Lake. Tim and I decided to get out of our campsite and explore north to Malberg Lake. We checked out a couple camp sites; one was taken by a couple that passed us the day before. The other was a beautiful spot, but would have been too small for our group. When we headed back to our campsite on Koma, the group decided to break camp and head to Polly Lake. There was a great view and enough room for all of us. The guys sleeping in hammocks found trees on the water on which to set up. They had a wonderful morning wake up view. The only negative on this site: as soon as it got dark the mosquitoes swarmed; it was like a cloud. We all headed in for the evening.

It rained during the night and everything was calm. The sky was clear and the morning water was like glass. The day’s plan was to paddle to Phoebe Lake. Most of the route was upstream. There was little current and the portages had some beautiful small waterfalls. The only incident was when one canoe in our group became hung up on some rocks at a put -in point and overturned. A small beaver dam and slippery rocks made for a tricky put- in location. There were a few bumps and bruises but everything dried out eventually that night. We reached Phoebe early enough to check out our campsite options. We settled on a small island that didn’t seem like it was used much. It was a great spot with few mosquitoes but large ant colonies on the island. As the sun began to set I watched a large bald eagle checking out a canoe from our group that was fishing. The group were catching very small fish and tossing them back. The eagle decided that was a waste of good fish and snagged a couple from the water when they were tossed back in. I wish we could have stayed at this campsite a couple days. The only complaint was that there were no good trees for hanging our bear bag. Instead, we went to plan B and found a spot in the woods, away from our campsite, to put the bags under a tree.

Day 5 on the water: We had heavy rains during the night. The morning discussion mostly focused on the portages we were facing that day – a 285 rod portage from Grace Lake to Beth Lake and another 140 rod portage from Beth Lake to Alton Lake. The plan was to find a campsite on Alton and have an easy last day. The 285 rod portage tested all of us. We planned to portage halfway, lay down our gear and go back for the second load. We stopped on Beth Lake for lunch and began the discussion. Should we go with the original plan and stop in Alton Lake or push on and camp at the outfitter and get an early start to get home? Even the suggestion came up to push to the end, take a shower and find a hotel somewhere near Duluth. Just as we were about to push off, it began to rain; it was one of the hardest storms I have ever been in. During the middle of the storm the decision was made to push to the end and find a hotel. We had about three inches of rain in our canoes after the 30 minute storm. Worrying about another storm rolling in, we pushed hard across Beth Lake to our last long portage, 140 rods. As we were pulling into the portage take-out, a family on a day trip was sitting there. Their canoes were on the Alton side of the portage. We must have looked like a group of drowned rats. The adults each grabbed a pack and carried them over to Alton. Of course, they didn’t take mine; it was the heaviest pack.

Alton was a large lake, with lots of camp sites but most were filled already. Just before we reached the last portage our canoe hit an underwater rock and we were stuck. Luckily, we freed ourselves before we went for a swim. The portage to Sawbill Lake was a short 25 rod trip. We were through the portage and at the take- out point in no time.

After hot showers we were on the road home. We stopped in a small town north of Duluth to eat. We checked our electronics and noticed we missed a massive storm that night in the BWCA. That was good news, then some bad news. All the hotels in the area were booked for a convention in Duluth. We eventually found a small motel in central Wisconsin around 1AM.

Saddle and Paddle

Participants including leaders: 4

Horseback riding at Salt Creek Ranch is some of the best I’ve experienced so far in Indiana. The Ranch has over 100 horses and owner Ronnie Adkins takes great care in matching the skill level of riders to horses. We started our two day trip with a one hour ride on Saturday morning after a short one hour drive from Indianapolis. Once saddled and properly mounted up, we rode up and down the hills and valleys of rural Laurel (near Metamora) on the 600 acres owned by the Ranch.

After a quick lunch, the next phase of the adventure was a four hour paddle down the Whitewater River. We arrived at peak time on a hot, sunny afternoon. The river outfitters were busy matching up people and boats and just about everything that could float was going in the water. We were outfitted with two Old Town canoes and headed down the river. With a two month draught in process, the river was surprisingly floatable except in a few spots where we had to get out and drag the canoes. Here and there were deep pools sporting some large fish and a few easy rapids.

The next morning was our scheduled two hour ride. After a tasty breakfast provided by the ranch, we mounted again and trotted off into the woods. The horses were fresh from an evening’s rest and ready for several canters through the woods. At one point we gained quite a view of the countryside after a long climb and then rode through a beautiful hay meadow. We all agreed we would definitely return to Salt Creek Ranch for another visit and a ride through the woods.

Many thanks to Mary Ellen for writing our trip report and Kathy for taking so many great pictures! More Saddle and Paddle trip photos will be posted on the CIWC meetup page as time permits. If you missed the trip and want more information about our outfitters, go to

Paddle and Saddle