Just made a pot of coffee by pouring water into a coffee maker that actually grinds the beans and a miracle occurs and a pot of coffee appears. I get to choose what cup I prefer and it doesn’t have sand in it and is actually a full-size cup. I am wearing clean clothes and just slept in a real bed with air conditioning (it is going to be 97 in Chicago today). I am resisting the urge to charge my marine radio and cell phone.
I dreamt about maps and routes and who I was supposed to meet where.
Wednesday and Thursday were vacation days in the Chesterton, Indiana Dunes area. On Thursday, Peggy and I went to the Porter County Fair after our stop at the library in Valparaiso and ate lots of unhealthy food and watched the slice of Americana that unfolded before us. Quite an experience: livestock, horse riding demonstrations, a hypnotist that did a group hypnosis of about 20 people and thunder storms that produced an enormous amount of rain.
Friday, Erik Sprenne met us at Porter beach. Peggy did a car shuttle with Erik to Whiting, Indiana and we took off about 10:00 am or so. We did a 22.5 mile moving avg 4.1 mph paddle to Whiting along coastline that was the most industrial of the trip. Erik let me know that this was the first time he had been in his sea kayak since we met before the trip to scout out the Whiting area for camping possibilities. You would never know it… He is a very strong paddler and we did the trip without coming to shore at all. We passed the Port of Indiana where we witnessed two large freighters going into the harbor and then passed more of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore including West Beach. Water quality was poor in some areas with some sort of sparkling specs on the surface of the water in some areas. Erik surmised that this might have been washed from the air with the recent rain. We were probably a mile off shore at this point. We also could see Marquette Beach near Gary, Indiana.
We then went around the large industrial peninsula of Indiana Harbor and then proceeded to the Whiting Robinsdale Marina. The paddling was extremely hot with air temps on the water in the low 80s and water temps in the high 70s. Eric thought that dipping into the water cooled him off. It felt like bath water to me and didn’t seem to cool me off at all. I guess after 800 plus miles of water in the 50s and 60s my body had adjusted to dealing with cold but not heat. It was a new experience. We landed at the boat ramp and moved our gear into a fenced in secure area and checked out the facilities. This was not a “fancy” marina, but it seemed luxurious compared to some of the parking lot campgrounds that I had stayed at! Erik had managed to secure permission to camp and use the facilities with the commodore and local authorities. He had a key to the facilities. What a great place to establish a local sea kayaking and sailing club. The beach just south of the marina was part of the BP refinery but is a favorite spot for surfers.
Erik and Lisa Matrejek arrived around 6pm or so. They were a welcome site – I had last paddled with them in Door County for the 40 plus miles from Jacksonport to Rock Island. We all headed into Whiting for the annual Pierogi-fest. We ate pierogis of all kinds, blintzes, cabbage and pasta, stuffed cabbage and other polish delicacies. Erik actually knew the polish names for everything. Lisa (Amato) Matrejek was looking for the Cannoli, but other than Italian Beef, she was out of luck. We watched the 100 mile long Pierogi parade that included lots of women (and men) wearing babushkas and pierogi pirates, pierogi dogs and pierogi everything. Check out: www.pierogifest.net/ Hometown Fest with Old World Entertainment
The event had a certain similarity to the Porter County Fair sans livestock and with much more interesting food and a much more ethnic feel including folks with strong Polish accents. I was starting to feel like I was coming home to Chicago… port of entry to immigrants from all over the world. It was a good feeling. We returned to our campsites that were on a small peninusla by the water… I didn’t use my rain fly for the first time since it was so hot and there was no forecasts of rain. Through my tent windows I could see the fire at the top of smokestacks as fumes were being burned off… the industrial area that looked so ominous during the day was actually quite a light show by night. We were a short distance from a railroad crossing and all night we could hear the train whistles of fright trains going to and from the mills and refineries and power plants to our south and east. We were also treated to sky rockets at about 1:30AM… The night actually cooled off and at about 5AM I actually got into my sleeping bag.
On Saturday morning Peggy Cipolla and Rich arrived at about 6:30am since we were shooting for an early morning launch to avoid some of the heat of the day and to do a leisurely paddle to the LPBC. Erik Sprenne drove to the local Dunkin Donuts and picked up coffee and egg sandwiches for all of us so we didn’t have to cook anything. Erik was quite the host for our stay in Whiting. We should definitely think about having a CASKA event each year so we can paddle and then go eat pierogis.
We were on the water by about 7:15am as Peg’s friend Rich took photos of our launch. We headed for the opening in the break wall at Calumet Harbor, avoided some barge traffic and headed for 63rd St. Beach.
At 63rd St. Beach/Jackson Harbor Paul Doughty came out to greet us with his young daughter in the rear hatch of his Prijon Kodiak. It was great seeing Paul again since he had paddled out of Montrose Harbor at the first day of the trip to offer his encouragement for my trip. Now he offered his congratulations!
He let us know that a BCU 3 star class was being conducted by Bonnie Perry in Jackson Harbor and that Wendy (from New Zealand) was there as well. I had run into Wendy on my first day of the trip at Wilmette Harbor so I thought it appropriate to stop by the class and say “hello”… Andrea K. from Northwest Passage was also with the group.
We followed Paul to shore at 63rd St. Beach which was closed due to e.coli counts… we had a snack and a short break and continued on to 12th Street Beach (which was also closed to swimming due to bacteria levels). At about 42nd Street a flotilla of kayaks came out to meet us including Tom Bamonte, Rick Issacson, Russ Johnson (Wisconsin Russ), Bill Burton, Pierre Kornak, Pat Lutsch, Emily Rutkoski, all of whom I believe paddled from the Lincoln Park Boat Club to meet us. We were probably a mile offshore at that point and could see McCormick Place and Soldier’s Field as well at the planetarium and Millennium Park in the distance…
We all landed at 12th Street Beach for a break and to make sure we didn’t get to LPBC before 2PM since more kayakers were supposed to be launching from there to meet us. We launched from 12th street and headed through the busy harbor and lock area east of the loop and south of Navy Pier. We tried to keep the group together to deal with the very busy boat traffic in that area. We passed within a few yards of the tip of Navy Pier and then worked our way towards the break water opening that was to be our route to Diversey Harbor and the Lincoln Park Boat Club.
Again, we tried to stay our of the way of the large boats and paddled towards the North Avenue Beach pier. Eric (my son), Tim and Humberto (my friends and neighbors), John Schubert and Leslie in their tandem as well as John Latecki (6500(!) miles into a “Fighting M.S. Across America… One Canoe Trip at a Time” www.fightingms.org ) paddled out to meet us. I am sure I missed some folks in the flotilla of kayaks coming into Diversey Harbor (I think there were 22 kayaks in total). Cheers from the LPBC dock came from my wife, Helga Woodford, House manager Steve Quinn and wife Lisa Schumacher and others who’s names I don’t know. My friends John and Marie Corcoran as well as Kathryn Carr also showed up later on. Peggy, my wife, ordered dozens of subs from Potbelly’s so there was plenty of food for all and we had a party at the LPBC… Steve Mullin’s “Welcome Home Tom H” sign made a re-appearance as well as signs welcoming home Kermit that my son made… I had a conversation with John Latecki about his 6500 multi-year canoe trek… he was paddling a Kruger designed canoe that he could actually sleep in… He was going to spend the evening at the boat club and then head North to Green Bay where he was going to take the Fox River to Lake Winnebago and then get on the Wisconsin River and go back to the Mississippi in his cross country journey to raise funds for M.S. I shared waypoints with him with some potential camping opportunities along the lake up to Green Bay. Wisconsin paddlers check out his site. He was doing a very different trip than mine… long days of paddling and using his canoe as a kitchen, tent and mode of transportation. Made my trek seem like a walk in the park.
Well as I sit at my laptop in my living room I just watched the lake change from calm to whitecaps with lightning and thunder and then a downpour all before noon. In my 49 days of paddling that never happened to me. I was always off the water for really bad weather (except for the high winds doing the Grand Traverse) and there was amazingly few days where it rained and stormed in the morning.
I told John Latecki to call when he was close to my place so I could hand off some leftover food (he was amazed at the whole concept of leftover food). Speaking of food, I got on the scale and realized I had lost 10 pounds. Amazing. Given all the food people had given me or cooked for me and all the ice cream and pierogis and you name it, I am amazed that I didn’t gain 10 pounds. Let’s see if I can manage to change my diet back so I don’t gain 20 pounds in the next week!
The trip took 49 days… including three “vacation” days so I could be sure to finish on a Saturday and three weather/rest days… 865 mile total for about 20 miles per day average when I was actually paddling full days. This trip started out very challenging and got easier as I got into the rhythm of the paddle and figured out how much and what types of fuel my body needed. I was very lucky with the weather and the friends, family and strangers who supported me along the way was nothing short of remarkable. I plan to write an article for Sea Kayaker magazine and will collect my thoughts over the next couple of weeks. It has been a great adventure and I have learned a lot… I plan to share the experience with all of you who have shared so much with me. I will probably continue to post to the blog a few more times as I gather my thoughts regarding my trip.
P.S. apologies to those of you who have sent me e-mails… I will start checking them once again… don’t think I have looked at my e-mail for the last 30 days…