Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm Sorry Guy H, But the Sand River Is Not Kayak Friendly

     Well Company, it seems that summer has finally decided to arrive and I am excited.  And since I can now go outside in shorts and a t-shirt without becoming hypothermic, and now that inland waters have started to warm up a little bit I have been trying to commune with my kayak, The Miles Standish more often.  So the other day I decided to go out into the territory of my avid reader and good friend Guy H of Sand River, MI and kayak the mighty Sand River itself.  The reason I wanted to kayak the Sand River is because near Guy's house there is a dam that creates a small lake that is part of a wildlife refuge.  This spring and summer, for whatever reason, the dam has been open so far.  And because the dam is just one gate that opens and closes the river is simply flowing through the dam at one level.  It's not meant to produce power or anything so the river is simply lazing through the dam like no big deal.  So that means that I can kayak through the dam.  And that is a rare opportunity in a land of hydroelectric dams.  
     So I wanted to take the opportunity to kayak through the dam.  Off to Sand River I went, down the Sand River Road and to the boat launch.  It was a chore getting there though.  I have been to Sand River lots of times but I have only been down the rutted, overgrown, two-track road to the boat launch one time.  I knew that there was a house down the road to the boat launch so when I turned onto a rutted, overgrown, twp-track road with a mailbox at the end I wasn't too worried.  I got down a ways, and the road kept getting narrower and more overgrown.  I went past a driveway with a gate and went a little farther before I lost my nerve.  So I stopped.  And I backed up.  All the way down the rutted, overgrown, two-track road back to the main road.  I was convinced that I hadn't found the boat launch.  So I cruised back up the Sand River Rd. looking for the boat launch.  
     By the time I got to Guy's Mom's old house I knew I had gone too far.  So I turned back and went back the other way, all the way across the bridge to the rock quarry.  And the I still hadn't found it.  The only road along that stretch was the one I had already tried.  So I went back to it and turned back down the rutted, overgrown, two-track road.  And of course it was the one.  As usual I got it right the first time and didn't trust myself.  So I got down to the boat launch and parked and unhooked the kayak from the top of my Dykewagon, set my life jacket (always wear your life jacket) on the ground and then something inside of me said "Let's go take a look at the launch area."  So I did.  And what I saw was uncool.
     Obviously the lake was missing.  I was expecting that.  I knew that.  I mean, the dam was open.  I knew that there would be a slowly meandering river through a bunch of marshy area with the dam to my right and who-knows-what to my left.  But it was what was at my feet that brought me such unhappiness.  There was the usual DNR-style concrete boat ramp, but where it stopped there was a cliff.  If you stepped off the end of the launch you would step into thin air.  There was a drop of 6-8 feet from the end of the launch down to the muddy, murky bank below.  I couldn't get down there carrying a 14 foot kayak.  I looked to the left and right and found more underbrush than I cared to slog through, still with steep banks.  So I decided to try the dam.
     I strapped The Miles Standish down and started to drive away.  That's when I remembered that my life jacket was lying on the ground.  So I stopped and picked up my life jacket and started back up the rutted, overgrown, two-track road.  Soon I hear something scraping along under the Dykewagon.  So I stooped and got out and of course there was a piece of some branch lodged in the undercarriage, with leaves attached and the whole nine yards.  And it didn't want to come out.  So here I am, in the middle of the wilderness outside of Sand River, MI getting eaten alive by bugs and wrenching on this poor little brach, trying to dislodge it from the heat shield or whatever it was lodged into.  Once I finally got it out it was off to the dam site. 
     I feel bad about the people who live near the Sand River Dam.  For whatever reason, the county maintained road crosses the river and becomes their driveway.  So anyone who drives down the road ends up turning around in their basketball court.  Which is what I did.  As I was doing this I was dismayed by what I saw.  There was nowhere with good access to the dam.  Or to the river at all for that matter.  So topography had foiled my attempts at history.
     And that's okay.  I went to another lake on my way home and had a pretty good time.  But I am sad about my failed attempt to kayak through the dam.  I will figure it out eventually.  Some day when I don't have to work at all, and when I have a little more determination I will conquer it.  I have gone harder places through more difficult terrain just to putz around in my kayak.  But the bottom line is that the Sand River is not really kayak friendly.  Sorry Guy. 

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