Something I’ve been longing to try was canoe camping. The last time I was in a canoe was at camp when I was 10. I recall being in a lake, having to swamp our canoe and then flip the canoe over another in the middle of the lake to dump the water and get back in. The girl I was in the canoe with started crying while we were doing it. I wanted to swamp her.
There was a trip posted on Meet-Up for a canoe camping trip down the Flint River. Fortunately, the organizer had extra equipment (and patience) to paddle with a newbie like me.
The directions were a smidge confusing. TomTom was confused. Ditto with a guy at a gas station. So I had a unplanned tour of Montezuma.
I met John, his son Jay, and fishing pal Elmo at the put in. We got our vehicles situated at the take-out and off we went. Jay was a fabulous canoe captain.
Our plan was to paddle about 7 miles day one, find a nice sandbar to camp on, and finish up another 7 miles the following day. We pushed off around 11am to a gorgeous blue sky and gentle breeze.
The section of the Flint we did was very calm – no rapids – biggest challenge was dodging downed trees and some occasional shallow areas. The current was moving nicely so we didn’t have to paddle if we didn’t need to avoid any trees.
We took a couple of ‘sand bar breaks’ to stretch our legs. I was constantly on the prowl for paw prints and interesting features.
I was trying out the Fuji XP waterproof camera – it only had a 5x zoom, so it was difficult to get decent shots of critters in the distance.
Lots of tiny turtles who often plopped off before we got close.
There was a beautiful white crane that we repeatedly encountered. It was beautiful to see it contrasted against gorgeous blue sky. (Again, camera zoom issues)
On Sunday, we encountered a tree full of buzzards… one had its wings spread – not sure if it was dry himself off or was doing something more territorial.
We finally selected a sand bar that was suitable to everyone – we didn’t want one with 4×4 access, one that was a bit shaded, and on the eastern side of the river. We had paddled 7.66 miles,
And then I learned that canoe campers really do take a lot more stuff with them than backpacking. Chairs, tarps, grills, lots of ice, big air mattresses… (pic courtesy John W.) I was packing identical to a backpacking trip, except without boots, & a lot more sun screen and dry bags.
I set up my tent down the beach, where I noticed a lot of raccoon prints. I wasn’t sure if my presence would invite trouble or not. Lots of sand and mud. Not a fan of either.
It was a new moon, the stars out were amazing. Lots of owls hooting, foxes howling, and frogs ribbeting.
I woke up early to watch the sun rise. The fog on the river was mysterious and neat to watch.I broke down my sandy gear before everyone was up. (By ‘broke down’, I mean I put my tent & footprint in a garbage bag to hose off when I got home) The guys enjoyed a breakfast of coffee, biscuits, grits and more. They take their camp grub serious! They discussed hearing a buck nearby “huffing”. I found a fresh pile of deer scat & tracks a few feet behind my tent in the morning. (I didn’t hear a thing – I fell asleep with my headphones on.)
We packed up the canoes and started paddling again around 9am.It was leisurely. We were noting different sand bars for their future trips that were suitable. Some were rocky (which means less clean-up). Some were trashed – it was sad. The views of the blue skies again on Sunday were equally gorgeous.
John demonstrated his canoe skills by standing on the sides of the canoe. Later he showed me limestone with mussels dating back several hundred thousand years.
We pulled up to the Montezuma boat ramp about noon. It was a fun trip. I’m ready for a longer trip with a bit more challenge.
Here’s the GPX file of the entire trip:
Here’s a Google Earth Download: http://goo.gl/4SUpG