Dimondale to Grand River Park in Lansing

Sept 1, 2017


from Chicago by Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Joe Writes . . .

Carl Sandburg loved Chicago. The first stanza of his poem by that name provides evidence of that affection and a vivid description of Lake Michigan’s great city in 1914, when the poem was published.  Read the entire poem here. Chicago is a wonderful, accessible poem. So much poetry now seems to be written by one graduate student for the exclusive comprehension by and enjoyment of other graduate students . . . but I digress.

I once I taught high school English and we referred to Sandburg’s technique as a “stacking of images.” Students seemed to enjoy stacking images of their own creation about a place that they loved. Tom and I have been toying with Sandburgian  images of our own , stacking images of the Grand. So far the results have tended towards the silly (Carp Grower for the Big Lake, Heart Breaker of Paddlers, River of Fallen Trees, Provider of Comfort to Mediocre Restaurants) but I am beginning to think this a worthy exercise, deserving of more serious effort as we continue down the Grand.

I downloaded a new app (Downloader of Apps) called Map My Hike which, along with measuring the distance we paddle and creating a map thereof, purports to calculate the number of calories burned on each excursion. Yesterday the app reported we traveled 7.88 miles in about 3 hours and 20 minutes of active paddling and that I burned 1,420 calories while doing so. Lord, I hope that’s correct! By way of comparison, the display on the elliptical machine at Planet Fitness tells me I burn 10 calories per minute at level 5. If that is accurate, it would take me 2 hours and 22 minutes to burn 1,420 calories on the elliptical machine but I would be dead long before I reached that goal. I am on a program to reach a certain weight by Thanksgiving and I need all the calorie burning I can muster as I am already falling behind schedule.

Trump Territory: Danger Ahead?

After our next outing we will have traveled all segments of the river from Eaton Rapids to Grand Ledge. From Grand Ledge on we will be traveling through Trump Territory and communication may be sporadic. At night we will form a triangle with our canoe and the two vehicles and sleep in the protection of that enclosure, so access to the internet is by no means guaranteed. While government agents assure us the plains are peaceful, we have learned from experience that caution is always advised and that the situation can change in a heartbeat. All it takes is for Sean Hannity to report the inane utterance of one Hollywood liberal – or for someone to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” – and the marauding and plundering begin again. Pray for us.

circle wagons

Tom Writes . . .

September 1, 2017 – Dimondale to the southern border of Lansing

It was a cold morning for this time of year, about fifty degrees Fahrenheit, which equals about 10 degrees Celsius. Definitely autumn morning temperature, even though it still looked like a summer morning.

We got started without getting very wet. We paddled and made progress against the breeze. The river is wide in this section, widened by the dam up ahead, in Lansing. That dam makes the river spread out, into a shallow lake-like configuration.

You can read a little about that dam in one of our previous posts. One thing about that dam in Lansing is that it actually stinks, in an olfactory sense. In general, Joe and I advocate removal of that particular dam, and all dams along our Grand River.

Today’s paddle from Dimondale to Lansing is mostly suburban Lansing. Many houses along here. Some of them are magnificent littoral mansions, but most are just regular American homes. However, there also are half a dozen parks in this section. It is a good mix of civilization and wild.

If you have read us before, you know that we particularly like the herons on the river. This stretch appears to be wonderful heron habitat. We saw maybe twenty Great Blue Herons, plus an Egret, maybe.

A small dragonfly got into my car, and rode all the way back from Lansing to Grand Rapids with me, seventy-five miles. I let it out of the car when I got home. I hope it finds friends and lovers and a happy life over here.

grand at lunch on sept 1

Our view across the Grand to Woldumar Nature Center

Contact Us: Joe@lengthofthegrand.com; Tom@lengthofthegrand.com

Join Us: BYOC/K (bring your own canoe/kayak). Our next trip will be from Grand River Park in Lansing to the dam/fishladder downtown, after which we plan to close out the season by backtracking to a few spots we skipped last year in Jackson County.


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On to Dimondale: the quest continues

Riverbend Nature Area to Dimondale

August 18, 2017

Tom Writes . . . 

You guys may or may not know that we do our canoe trips backward, in a certain sense. We always need to leave a vehicle at our ending places, and then drive back to the starting places. (Clear as a muddy river?)

So… Yesterday, our ending place was the cool little river town of Dimondale, Michigan. We parked my car there, next to the river. And then, before we went back to the starting place with Joe’s truck, we ate lunch at Mike’s Village Restaurant in Dimondale.

joe fishing

Joe had no luck fishing at the weir in Dimondale.

Mike’s is a genuinely American place, in a genuinely American small town. If you get visitors from other countries, please take them to Mike’s in Dimondale, to show them what the USA really is like, and to meet, or at least see and eavesdrop on, actual Americans.

This was lunch time, not breakfast time or supper time. But, the people at Mike’s apparently offer a full breakfast menu AND a full supper/dinner menu, all day long. This, I believe, partly, is a throw-back to the days when rural Americans used to eat their big meals at noon-time, rather than at night. In the USA, dinner used to come at noon. Joe and I opted for the supper-ish menu. Joe ordered a burrito, and I ordered perch with mashed potatoes. ( Note that in most of Michigan, they put beef or chicken gravy on the mashed potatoes, even when you order fish.)

Mike’s has a lot to offer, a wide menu selection; they bake their own bread, and, Mike’s still seems to be the center of community life in Dimondale. Plenty of customers there at noon yesterday.

We had good service. An interesting fact about Mike’s: Every time an order is ready, some cook pushes some button that causes a version of our national anthem to play. The first two lines of the Star-Spangled Banner, in bell tones. This, I suppose, is to alert the servers. It also alerts the customers. We heard it at least twenty times while we were there. (Editor’s note: Tom is too nice to say so, and I also liked Mike’s, but the Star-Spangled Banner chime quickly becomes annoying.)

We left well-nourished for our time on the river. When we finally got out on the river, we encountered rocks and rapids, more than ever before. We saw a pair of eagles. I will leave it to Joe to write about our paddle time, since I have used up my writing allowance on Mike’s Restaurant.

Joe Writes . . . 

There is not too much to add about Friday’s paddle, although I think we made good time for a couple of old codgers: just under five miles in two hours flat. There was no one else on the river, which is always a bit disappointing for me. The Grand is such a great resource, but few of its co-owners (the citizens of our fair state) get much use from it. The river is low from lack of rain and we twice had to get out and pull the Billie V through the shallow areas., something we have not had to do since last summer in Jackson County. Two immature eagles were spotted just as we left the Riverbend Natural Area, but I didn’t have either of the cameras (my iPhone or the GoPro) ready. I will insert some video of a heron lifting off and a few photos, below.

Top: Video concludes with blue heron taking flight.

Photos: (L) Stone monoliths as we approach Dimondale, MI appear to be old railroad bridge supports; and, (R) the stone weir in Dimondale where there used to be a dam. The weir creates some fast water which would have been more fun if water levels in the river had been higher. The trend on the river is to remove dams and allow the river to return to a more natural state. Eaton Rapids and the Village of Lyons have both removed dams recently.

We would love to hear from any who may stumble across this blog: Tom Neely can be reached at tom@lengthofthegrand.com; Joe Neely can be reached at joe@lengthofthegrand.com. If you have a kayak or canoe we would love to have your join us for a day. Our next trip is likely to be Dimondale to one of the parks in Lansing.

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McArthur Park in Eaton Rapids: Why We Care

Tom Writes . . . 

August 1, 2017

Gale Road Landing to MacArthur Park

Do you remember that “MacArthur Park,” is my brother Joe’s favorite song? Do you remember that he sings it at the top of his lungs often, while we paddle down the Grand River, even though he is not totally sure about the correct lyrics?

It was a hit back about 1968 CE. Please note, however, that many Americans believe “MacArthur Park” is the worst song ever, worst in the century, silliest, least comprehensible song.

Jim Webb wrote the song, and Richard Harris recorded it. It was a hit. Joe used to own the Richard Harris album, way back when.

Well, my friends, today, Joe and I paddled to a real place named McArthur Park. It is a real place on the right bank of our beloved Grand River, on the outskirts of the lovely river-island town of Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

Part of the lyrics of “MacArthur Park” are:

Someone left the cake out in the rain… All the sweet green icing flowing down…

 So! I brought a great cake from the Nantucket Baking Company. Nantucket made me some great sweet bright green icing. And, I put the green icing on the great cake, flowing down.


We cut into that iconic cake on a picnic table near the outhouse at McArthur Park, and ate! Today. Joe has video and audio of this momentous event. I hope he will post it here.

I don’t think that I can take it

Cause it took so long to bake it

And I’ll never have that recipe again…

 If you are over the age of about 45, you may remember the song, and you may get the joke. If you are younger, or if you just do not get it, sorry. Maybe google the song. But, I am sure Brother Joe will add to this post, and give you a chance to listen, and to make up your own mind about how absolutely hilarious Joe and I really are.

(Editor’s Note: Donna Summers had a disco hit with the song in 1978, but we don’t do no disco, never did. I learned something cool just now, and that is that Waylon Jennings recorded this song, too; you can find it on Youtube. One of the comments says, “Waylon sang the shit out of this song, but Waylon sang the the shit out of everything.” I like that sentiment. To me, Waylon’s version starts strong but fades . . . Richard Harris still the best with this song.)


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The Grand River, Jackson County

Joe Writes . . .

It’s been hard for us to get started this year – our mother is failing, among other family health issues – but we remain enthusiastic and will be out on the river next week and most weeks, I hope, until mid-October. The big news is that we now have email addresses attached to this blog. We’ve apparently had them for a year, truth be told, but didn’t know how to access them. If you see something you like, or want to join us on the river, or feel like contacting us for any reason whatsoever (unless we owe you money) you may reach us at joe@lengthofthegrand.com and/or tom@lengthofthegrand.com . Hope to see you on the river!

The Grand in Jackson County (a prose poem in progress)

Here near the river’s beginning,
upstream from the mill pond,
we bottom out in the muck
long before we reach the dreamed-of source
river nymphs dart under our bow
disappearing before proof can be had.

gr spider bridge july 24

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

A year later I resume the quest
and at last explore the source,
permission required from a property owner
to launch onto this lake we all own.
Water could scarcely be cleaner than this
issuing from springs buried in the deep lake’s floor.

across grand lake

A low bridge stops us from entering the river
where it leaves Grand Lake to the north,
intended, I’m certain, as much to
keep paddlers from reaching the lake
as to provide safe passage across
the nascent river at its birth.

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

At Loomis Road the river is small, more a creek,
and a high school long jumper, boy or girl,
could soar across, from bank-to-bank
if solid footing were to be found,
but that’s seldom the case on this day.
Later the river widens as we press on,


press on towards Vandercook Lake.
Other travelers briefly share our road,
paddlers and sunburned couples on tubes,
cradling cheap beer in floating coolers,
the kind of beer my dad bought on summer Sundays
so uninvited guests could not question his hospitality.

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

Few are we who paddle, float and fish
this river we own, this river we love.
We make no demands on the Grand,
here near her source
and the journey is not easy
here where the journey begins.


At the end of her journey, at the Big Lake,
the river is overwhelmed by demands
for freighters must fill their holds
and pleasure boats promenade
the piers, but here unencumbered,
she gathers strength for her run.

– Joseph Neely, July 2017

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Daylillies in Southern Michigan

July 11, 2017

Tom Writes . . . 

Canoeing in Michigan requires a lot of driving in Michigan, out on the country roads, to get to the canoe launch sites and pull-out sites. As Joe and I drive through these back road places, we see lots of flowers.

And, especially, we see daylilies everywhere, all across the southern part of the state, from Detroit in the east to Grand Haven in the west. These are the large, tall, orange version of daylilies. People plant them in their yards, but these lilies also just seem to grow on their own, and they are lovely this time of year (around the Fourth of July).

Daylilies seem to like to grow along roadsides, out by the country mailboxes, all along the roads. I believe some people cultivate them, but I also believe daylilies just like to spread on their own, and glorify the Michigan countryside.

Please come here, and drive our back roads, and enjoy for yourself. Here is a picture Joe took of some daylilies near his home. I do not have pictures of the beautiful large roadside daylily stands, but I will try to get some such pictures, for my next post.

IMG_0527 (1)





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New Camera Portends Fun on the Grand

Joe Writes . . . 

I bought a GoPro Session Hero 5 and attached it to the front of the canoe on a recent paddle near Eaton Rapids. While I am only beginning to scratch the surface on how the camera works and what can be accomplished, it looks like we can have some real fun with the camera. This was taken at a spot known as Petrieville Dam (Rapids?) about an hour downstream from downtown Eaton Rapids.

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Bunker Road to Riverbend Natural Area

Tom Writes (Joe adds photos and editorial notes) . . . 

Monday, July 3, 2017

(Started north of Eaton Rapids, pulled out south of Lansing)


Columbia Creek entering the Grand in Eaton County, immediately north of the point where Curtice Rd terminates at Waverly Rd. Waverly constitutes the boundary between Eaton and Ingham Counties.

The theme for today’s paddle was Human Beings. We saw dozens of people paddling canoes and kayaks today, and we saw fisherpersons on both river banks. We did not see as many animals as usual, on our paddle days. We heard birds, but did not see them much. Joe says he saw big fish, says he wants to return to this stretch of the river, and catch those fish, and fry them, and eat them. I saw one biggish fish, but no hawks or eagles, or even butterflies today. I wonder whether the humans on the river might have chased away some of the wildlife.


Yes, lots of people on the river this holiday weekend. It could be like this throughout the warm season if Michigan kept its rivers cleared and encouraged their use.

When we encounter other humans on the river, my approach is to say, “Ahoy,” and to smile… Because, river paddlers usually have both hands on their paddles, and waving would be inconvenient. We usually get nice positive responses from the other humans.

dragon fly

A dragonfly lighted on Tom’s hand and stayed until he eventually shooed it away. Do kids still say that a dragonfly will “sew your mouth shut!”?

An example of nice humans: We pulled into the Riverbend Natural Area after four hours of paddling. The people who were fishing there helped us land, and helped us pull our boat up the steep bank to where we needed to load it onto Joe’s truck. They were not obligated in any way. They just were regular nice Michigan people.

Somebody out there, please help me with my blogging here. Please tell me how to attach graphics and photos and charts to my posts. I am old and not techy. I need help.  (Editor’s note: probably a lost cause, Tom just recently figured out Facetime after many false starts.)

This is the song we sang today. An interesting fact is that the song never appeared in the movie nor on its soundtrack.

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