Extended Offer

Since I love the outdoors and do one to two backwoods trips a year, I thought it would be fitting to offer the following service. If you manufacture gear for the great outdoors and are looking for someone to test a product that you manufacture, I may be able to help. Please contact me using one of my contact forms at Northern Branches. I am well versed in GPS’s, mapping software, solid modeling (currently a design engineer), wood canoe/kayak building, and digital photography. My plans for a spring ’08 trip into the Boundary Waters are underway. The route will be a 35 to 50 mile loop probably in the northeast corner of the park. Again, contact me via Northern Branches with any questions.

NorthernBranches Photos

Since we have received such a positive response to my wifes BWCA give away I have decided to create my first photos available for purchase. You will find the page here I will be adding more this weekend as well as my paypal account.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Are We On The Map Yet?

Post Started on July 16th

This will be a long post and I will continue to make additions to it 'till it is done!

Day 1 July 12th

Clear sky
Rain dripping from the trees hitting my back
Fire in my face burning my knees.
I pine for the cadence of the paddle.
Chided by the invisible shanty calling me.
Still awaiting nature to paint the shadows with color.

This is a poem I wrote well sitting by the fire Thursday night.

The trip was from Thursday July 12 until Sunday July 15, 2007.

I left my house at 5:30pm after a long hot shower because I knew I may not get one later. I arrived at Jim and Brad's (names changed) house, loaded their gear up, and we were on the road at around 6:00pm.

The beginning of the trip was quite mundane. After passing the Newago exit about 30 minutes north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, an awesome gray, all-encompassing front moved in heading southeast. I called my wife and she informed me that www.weather.com seem to indicate that it was just a "lake effect" band and it would end quickly. Sure enough, after stopping for a while down the road at the Big Rapids exit for some awesome breath-altering-wife-repelling Doritos and a soda, the rain subsided and quit.

And, on the road trip went.

All of a sudden, the GPS piped up "exit ahead on right point eight miles." Exiting on a not-so-good paved road, I thought to myself - this isn't right! It doesn't look familiar. But with my complete trust in all things techy (especially GPS's), onward we plodded.

Driving through some of the prettiest farm land I have ever seen, we saw a full double rainbow form. It was spotty at first. Then, it presented itself to us in all of its untouched glory. I couldn't control myself - stopping the car as quickly as possible to take some photos. I took one with pine trees on the left and a tall grassy meadow on the right. In that grassy meadow, a faint two-track disappears off in the distance. All this framed on one side by this awesome rainbow. We followed this thing for 20 minutes. I have never seen anything like it.

Remember the road? Well, it got worse. The pavement ended and the gravel began...luckily only for about five miles. After passing The Old Log Resort where we were going to bed for the night and then receive one of their high-speed vehicle portages to our entry point in the morning, I did a police-style flip-flop on M115. Twelve-year-old Brad was impressed anyway.

Arriving at the Old Log Resort, we met with Jeanette to square away the money for our little adventure. I purchased a pair of water shoes and Jim and Brad each bought a hat and one bundle of firewood.

I still wasn't sure of the route we wanted to take so she took out her Canoe Michigan guide and we queried the different trip descriptions - looking mostly for times and miles. They were pretty vague. She told me that it was 12 hours from Jonesville Rd. Bridge to M61. Unfortunately, I didn't hear her mention the subsequent 3 hours from M61 to M115. So that actually would be a 15 hour trip. But, I had 12 hours in my mind. Here was my thought on that - 12 hours is nothing we need something longer.

I asked about the longer route which I thought I had most of routed on my GPS.

"Well, that would be Cadillac Rd. Bridge."

"What do you think, Jim?" I said

"I don't know are you sure?" he said with trepidation in his voice.

"Well, it is a river and we have some current to help us. Sure!' I responded. So we signed up for the second longest trip they offer. Then, it was off to the campground.

We then arrived approximately where Jeanette told us to. We unloaded the canoe, pitched our tents, unfurled our sleeping bags, and wow! Instant home.

After lighting a campfire, we stayed up and talked 'till 2 am. Just before turning in, I shined my flashlight out in the woods, scanning it for black bear. What was that!? We were treated to a white-looking creature trudging through the bush. Upon further inspection and a few animal noises from me, it stood up. Okay, this is not raccoon! It was all white. Not a opossum. Oh my! It was a large river otter, eyes all aglow.

Clambering into bed, I set my alarm for 6:30 am. As Jeanette told us we would need to be at the office at 8:00am.

Day 2 July 13th

Morning came earlier than the alarm was set for. I didn't sleep very well and was rousted by the excitement of another canoe trip. I dressed and headed out to see about taking another one of my last showers.

With only one eye open, thoughts of fresh coffee filled my mind. I remembered a gas station convenience store on the way in not too far up the road so i cleaned a spot off in the car. And, after asking Jim if he needed anything, I headed out to get some coffee.

I arrived at the store at around 6:00 am just in time for it to open. I chatted with the owner long enough for me to fix my 20 ounce coffee. Then, I was on my way back to the livery.

I arrived to find Jim riffling through his gear. I started to pack up some of mine. Then, I headed up to take a shower. Now the word "shower" - that is an understatement. On a rating of one to ten, I'd give it a two. And that is not because of the 25 cent per minute charge. I think that's probably is a good idea because I would have been in there for twice as long. It is because of the extremely low water pressure. I probably wasted the first two quarters on the water heating up. However, the shower ended up being a great pick-me-up for the morning and, at a cost of $2.25, it was worth it. After my shower, I dressed, donned my new sporty water shoes, and headed back to camp.

Arriving back at the camp site, I found Brad starting a new camp fire and Jim packing gear. I opened the food pack and we choked down a couple of granola bars and some chocolate. After our ad hoc breakfast, we loaded up all the gear and Jim help me put the canoe on my back. I portaged the canoe up to the office with Jim and Brad in tow. I met Jeanette and her husband up at their van. I helped move a canoe off the roof of their van and then load an Old Town 15-6 Discovery which we rented for the weekend which made a nice partner to my 16-4 Discovery.

As we loaded the boats, I pulled my Inuit paddle from inside the hull and showed it to the owner. I explained to him it was in fact a paddle that works really well with a kayak. And that my brother had always bugged me to take a kayak paddle to use canoeing. Well, I finally was willing on a last minute decision to take his advice and loaded it up.

For the non-paddler-kayak folks, an Inuit paddle was traditionally crafted from a long piece of drift wood collected on the beach. Its proportions are derived anthropomorphically i.e. custom fit to your body. They are almost never wider than 3 1/2 inches the stock width of a common 2 x 4. So, it actually looks like something that you would burn or pry against things. Anything but a paddle. I explained to him that to buy one cost around $200 and I made mine in about 4 hours with some instructions I downloaded from the net for a grand total of about $8.

Once the canoes were secure, they opened the van up and we stuffed it full of gear. I moved my car and we were off. As we pulled out on the highway, Jeanette anounced "I hope you don't mind but we are going way into the booneys so I need to get gas."

Well, with one more chance for coffee, I was in jubilation.


I place what I thought maybe my last phone call to my wife.

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