This past Saturday, Emily and I participated in the 12th Annual Hugh Heward Challenge. We paddled the 25 mile "Half Hugh" from Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge to the Verlen Kruger Memorial at Thompson Field in Portland, MI. We had quite a bit of rain preceding the event, so the river was high; not quite at flood stage, but it was really moving!
We were again thankful for the "carspotting" services of Trailspotters of Michigan. Using this fantastic service, I could drop the boat off in Grand Ledge, drive the trailer to the finish in Portland, and Trailspotters drives me back to Grand Ledge. The only issue was that Emily had to wait around for a while in Grand Ledge and got kind of chilly (it was about 45 degrees). A few boats left while I was carspotting; Mike Smith among them:
Here are a couple shots of the water coming over the dam just above the launch point:
Some of the other boats at Grand Ledge:
We finally got on the water at about 9:50am. The current below the dam was very strong, and I was not used to paddling without the rudder. We just barely got past the tree on the left bank; we took out a few branches, oops! The paddling was very fast and fun!
Before we knew it, we were at Charlotte Bridge, the start of the 13 mile "Quarter Hugh"
At about 20 miles (5 miles to go) we were caught by a fellow Watertriber "Cliffjumps" He was paddling the full 50 mile route, and was the first (and only) 50 miler to pass us:
We chatted a bit, and then he pushed on ahead. There was no way we were going to keep up with him in his Epic 18X. We finished about 20 minutes later, with a total paddling time of 3 hours, 38 minutes. Our average speed was 6.8 mph and we didn't stop once. Our only breaks were to munch some snacks and drink. Our maximum speed was 9.1 mph below the last bridge, were I saw some kayaks catching up to us and was determined to not let them pass us!
The finish was fun, chatting with other paddlers, checking out the boats, and cheering for the finishers as they continued to arrive. Some highlights:
|Gabacouache, a 26ft Vouyager canoe|
|Jon Holmes and Larry "Coach" Hoff, veterans of the 2009 Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge|
|Verlen's "Old #10" racing canoe|
|A little something Mark P picked up out of the river...|
|The memorial statue of Verlen Kruger|
Well, that's all for this year. Emily and I are hoping to paddle the full 50 mile route next year, probably in our folding kayaks. More to come on their progress in the next couple of days.