The Good, the Bad and the Uncertain on the Grand

Joe Writes . . . 

Forgive us both for not writing of late. There has been a lot going on in our lives, and with winter approaching I am turning my attention to renovating a house near Dexter. Once finished my wife and I will put our current home on the market and move. There is still a chance Tom and I will get out on the river again this year, but only if weather and circumstance cooperate. We left off in Ada, and will finish our paddle of the Grand next summer.

That being said, I will be talking about our journey down the Grand at the Ignite Ann Arbor 11 event. This will take place on Friday evening, November 2, at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. My talk will focus on the theme of getting out of one’s comfort zone as illustrated by our quest. Please introduce yourself if you’re there, I’d love to meet you.

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Let the renovation begin! This was Linda’s dad’s house; needs a lot of work but has great bones.

The Good

Ottawa Sands, a 353-acre preserve of dunes which includes more than a mile of Grand River frontage and a pristine 80-acre lake is now open to the public in Ferrysburg, near Grand Haven. These are the dunes I hiked as a boy. Somewhere back there is a tree with JN + PS carved into its trunk at 12-year-old boy’s carving level, although I suppose it has  moved upward in the ensuing 50 years . I can’t wait to explore . . . for the first time in decades. Maybe Billie Koski and I can hike from North Shore Rd. to the Sag for some bass fishing as in days of old.

Upstream from the new preserve in Kent County a new kayak launch was opened in Grandville recently. Getting Michigan residents out on their rivers is a good thing.

The Bad

PFAS being found throughout the Grand’s watershed . . . in the Rogue and in the waters of Lake Michigan near Grand Haven. What hath we wrought?

The Uncertain

There is a plan afoot to make the Grand River navigable to larger pleasure boats from Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan. This would require dredging a 50-foot wide, 7-foot deep channel for 23 miles.

On the one hand I’m in favor of encouraging recreational use of our rivers in Michigan, and in this case that includes power boats. On the other hand, what will such dredging do to the fish and wildlife? What about pollutants which are currently buried? Will dredging release them once again into the Grand, from whence they can flow into the Big Lake and poison the entire region?

I’m not sure how to think about this yet. I lean towards returning the river, incrementally,  towards its “natural” state whenever possible – get rid of the dams and let ‘er flow the way God intended – but I’ll keep an open mind for now.

As always . . . 

I’ll take the river’s side. Industry and Big Agriculture have plenty of powerful friends in high places.

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Poetry on the Grand River

Not just any old conversation will do . . .

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An Inkling of Home

September 7 and 8, 2018 – Saranac to Ada, Michigan  

Tom Writes . . . 

Two lovely days on the Grand River. Recent rains have given us a strong current, in our direction. The Lords of the Winds have helped us, with winds at our backs, swift passages.

We are deep within West Michigan now. We are in Kent County, and beyond Kent County, we only have one more county to paddle through. That will be Ottawa County. Ottawa County will take us to our goal:  The mouth of the Grand River, Lake Michigan, Grand Haven, our family home.

Before this, we already have paddled through nine different counties. We found joy in all nine (Please read back in our blog), but our real joy will be in our goal, when we get home.

Joe already has posted great photos of mighty eagles from this stretch of our trip. I must tell you about a tiny eagle. It landed on my right elbow. A handsome dragonfly, black with large green eyes and light green decorations on its body and tail. It stayed on my elbow for about five minutes, even while I paddled. Then it flew away, fine and free.

Fly fine and free, all my friends!

dragonfly

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Thank you for visiting our blog, please share it with a friend. You may contact us by leaving a comment here or via email: joe@lenthofthegrand.com (Joe Neely) or tom@lengthofthegrand.com (Tom Neely). 

 

 

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Saranac to Lowell in Pictures

DSC_1229September 7, 2018

Water Temperature 70 F, Air Temperature 68 F

Joe Writes . . . 

For now I will simply post some photos from a great day on the river. I expect Tom will take up the slack and send me a written entry soon. The coolest thing was the two eagles in a tree; they allowed us to float right underneath their perch without spooking. Enjoy!

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A typical view from our canoe, here near to our put-in at Saranac.

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A comfy spot to watch the river flow; perhaps we’ll come back here in the next life.

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We were glad of the company of our spirit guide this day.

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I always take the river’s side; Industry and Big Agriculture have plenty of friends already. Thank you for visiting our blog, please share it with a friend. You may contact us by leaving a comment here or via email: joe@lenthofthegrand.com (Joe Neely) or tom@lengthofthegrand.com (Tom Neely). 

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The Old Men and the River

August 16, 2018 – Ionia to Saranac, Michigan, 10 Miles

3.5 hours including lunch break

Tom Writes . . . 

CANOE and GRACEFUL never go together at our age.

My brother Joe and I are cute as can be, and strong. No ravages of age yet, no disabilities, still studly. Canoeing is easy for us. Our shoulders are strong; our hearts and lungs can take it.

 

Still studly, indeed. Notice how Tom takes after a young Walt Whitman here. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

However, getting into and out of our canoe is a challenge, sometimes. Think about it: Canoe seats are less than a foot high, so sitting on them is a low squat situation. And, canoes move around on the water. No stable platform ever, getting in or getting out.

Hours in a canoe: One’s legs are stretched out ahead, motionless. It is not like driving a car for the same number of hours. In a car, one uses the legs, the feet, for pedals, but in a canoe, no pedals, no leg or foot activity.

So, a couple days ago, at the end of our paddle, getting out of the canoe, I ended up on my knees in the water, because I could not exit gracefully. Joe almost laughed. (Editor’s Note: I did not.) And then, I walked funny, on nearly-paralyzed legs for a good half hour.

Brother Joe has this line, when stuff such as this happens. He says, “That’s why we’re doing this canoe trip in our sixties, rather than in our seventies.” Joe and I both are in our sixties now, and the first time he said it, it seemed clever, even somewhat wise. But, now Joe has said it nine or eleven times, and I am sick of it, especially when he uses it to highlight my embarrassing canoe exit.

August 17, 2018 was a lovely day on the lovely river, in West Michigan. And, we old guys had a great time. We paddled and sang and laughed. Maybe take a look at this web site about the Voyageurs.
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Thank you for visiting our blog. If you found your visit worthwhile,  please share this website with a friend. You may contact us by leaving a comment here or by email: joe@lengthofthegrand.com (Joe Neely) or tom@lengthofthegrand.com (Tom Neely).

 

 

 

 

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Ionia to Saranac

. . . or, All Hail the Mighty Fisherman

August 24, 2018

Water Temp a steady 70 F, Air Temp 69 – 76 F

Joe Writes . . . 

I finally caught a fish on the Grand. Most trips I’ll make a few perfunctory casts but our trip is all about paddling forward, while fishing requires that one not be in a hurry to get from one spot to another. My brother never cared much about fishing – even when we were kids – so there’s that, too. I start casting and he starts drumming his fingers on the fish pic joeBillie V’s gunwales and humming impatiently.

On this trip I had resumed my rightful place, as the strongest paddler, in the stern seat. I saw the resulting after-splash of a leaping fish, starboard and ahead of Tom’s subservient seat in the bow. My fishing pole – in its pink, floatable carrying case – lay at my feet.

“Thar she blows! Hold ‘er steady,” says I, quickly and quietly unsheathing my Zebco harpoon. One perfect cast and – wham! – the Leviathan hit my spinner like a rogue gator introducing itself to a curious Shih Tzu.

Pictures don’t lie.

Other thoughts: the river at our put-in spot for this leg of our journey – the Ionia Fairgrounds – is rather dismal. City Mothers and Fathers would do well to haul away the dead trees that line the riverbank, providing first-time visitors with an uncaring greeting  to their otherwise-attractive city. And we like Ionia; indeed we do.

We didn’t see a heron, our spirit guide, until we were four miles into our 10-mile paddle. That is most unusual and I was beginning to worry, thinking perhaps this stretch of river was cursed. Herons are usually sighted early and often, leading us down the river.

I love that Saranac has a sign geared towards paddlers on its bridge spanning the Grand. Makes a guy want to stop and spend some money . . . other river towns might take heed.

Joe (l) and Tom (r): two handsome River Rogues on the Road to Saranac

saranac bridge pic

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I always take the river’s side; Industry and Big Agriculture have plenty of friends already. Thank you for visiting our blog, please share it with a friend. You may contact us by leaving a comment here or via email: joe@lenthofthegrand.com (Joe Neely) or tom@lengthofthegrand.com (Tom Neely). 

We would love to have you join us on the river, but it’s BYOC.

 

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Who’s the True Patriot?

After extensive consultation with our legal, financial and spiritual advisors we have decided that the Billie V – unlike the DeVos yacht – will sail under the American flag.

Billie V flag pic

In case you missed the news.

 

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