Deleted Scenes

Grand River to Lake Erie Canoe Trip — Part 5

Remember how we hated being forced to watch slide shows of our friends’ and relatives’ vacations? But then we were generally a captive audience — if only because we were too polite to say rude things about their photos or claim that we left the stove on at home with a cauldron full of kittens on the burner.

This is a 21st century version of the vacation slide show. Don’t feel obligated to watch. If you’ve got a pot full of kittens sitting on the stove, I understand.

Here then, in chronological order, are photos omitted or deleted from previous posts on my recent Grand River canoe trip.

Base camp at Lake Erie Bluffs — before the tornado watch

Base camp at Lake Erie Bluffs — before NOAA issued  the tornado watch.

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Another view of the Lake Erie Bluffs campsite. Talk about deluxe accommodations — fire pit, grill, benches, two picnic table and a stack of firewood.

Another view of the Lake Erie Bluffs campsite. Talk about deluxe accommodations — fire pit, grill, benches, two picnic tables and a stack of firewood.

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Bathe on the beach? On second thought ...

Bathe on the beach? On second thought …

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The welcoming committee at Grand River Canoe Livery. Always a fun and interesting place to visit.

The welcoming committee at Grand River Canoe Livery. Always a fun and interesting place to visit.

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No shortage of bald eagles on the Grand River. It’s not unusual to see a half-dozen clustered together.

No shortage of bald eagles on the Grand River. It’s not unusual to see a half-dozen clustered together.

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A visitor at my Riverview Park campsite catches up on his reading.

A visitor at my Riverview Park campsite catches up on his reading.

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Tanks of the memories. Old hot water heaters “repurposed” as a guardrail along this old road.

Tanks for the memories. Old hot water heaters “repurposed” as a guardrail at Baker Road Park.

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Tree cannibalism!

Tree cannibalism! More from Baker Road Park.

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Not sure what caused this in the bark of a maple tree at Baker Road Park.

Not sure what caused this in the bark of a maple tree at Baker Road Park. Bite marks from another tree?

 

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A little pyromania makes for an interesting campfire.

A little pyromania makes for an interesting campfire.

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One of two young deer I saw on a bluff downstream of Baker Road Park.

One of two young deer I saw at the base of a bluff downstream from Baker Road Park.

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One of two side-by-side graves or shrines I found on an island upstream of Painesville. They were 3-4 feet long. Too short for a human. Most humans, anyway. And the beer bottle “headstone” marking one would indicate it wasn’t made for a dog.

One of two side-by-side graves or shrines I found on an island upstream from Painesville. They were 3-4 feet long. Too short for a human. Most humans, anyway. And the beer bottle “headstone” that marked one would indicate it wasn’t made for a dog.

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Grave marker or shrine? Whoever it was had good taste in beer.

Grave marker or shrine? Whoever it was had good taste in beer.

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Detail from really cool railroad trestle in Painesville.

Detail from really cool railroad trestle in Painesville.

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From wilderness to industrial waterway — freighters at Fairport Harbor.

From wilderness to industrial waterway — freighters at Fairport Harbor.

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One of two lighthouses at Fairport Harbor. My friend Becky tells me this one is privately owned.

Old lighthouse at Fairport Harbor. My friend Becky tells me this one is privately owned.

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Another old lighthouse inside the harbor.

Another old lighthouse inside the harbor.

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Another bucket list accomplishment — 25 years of canoeing, four trips to the Ohio River, and this is my first river trip that ended with a Lake Erie landing.

Another bucket list accomplishment — 35 years of canoeing, four trips to the Ohio River, and this is my first river trip that ended with a Lake Erie landing.

 

 

 

 

 

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You’re spoiling me, Lake MetroParks

Grand River to Lake Erie canoe trip — Part 4

The grill at Baker Road Park had ramps growing next to the grill and several healthy colonies nearby.

The grill at Baker Road Park had ramps growing next to it and several healthy ramp colonies nearby.

Canoe-in campsites complete with picnic table, firewood, grill, benches and a toolbox filled with life’s necessities (TP, bug spray, lighter). What more cold I ask? How about a tasty cluster of ramps growing right next to the grill? No problem. About the only thing missing was a mint under my pillow.

For this trip, one of my objectives was to try out the Lake MetroParks campsites accessible by water and recommend possible float trips for other paddlers.

Two of the parks offer canoe-in camping, Riverview and Baker Road. A third canoe-in site is in the works. On a good day, add Lake Erie Bluffs into the mix. Literally on a good day, because the six-mile paddle over the open waters of Lake Erie requires a few hours of calm weather. That’s six miles as the crow flies. Following the contours of the shoreline would add a mile or so.

My Riverview Park campsite.

My Riverview Park campsite.

Harpersfield to Painesville would make for a good overnighter with a stop at Riverview or Baker Road park. Riverview Park is eight miles downstream from Harpersfield and Baker Road Park is four miles further.

It’s a long haul from Baker Road Park to Lake Erie (even without the six miles of open water). However, I found a good number of spots for low-profile, low-impact “wild camping” in that stretch. So it is possible to make a four-night trip of it, spending the last night at Lake Erie Bluffs.

It's an easy climb from the beach to the campsite at Lake Erie Bluffs.

It’s an easy climb from the beach to the campsite at Lake Erie Bluffs.

The latter makes for a great destination spot. In addition to an easy takeout — the beach and an gentle climb on a gravel path to the campsite — paddlers can bathe in the lake and enjoy ideal birding conditions. In addition to open water habitat, with eagles and osprey, there are mature woods, successional forest, edge habitat and open fields.

For this trip, I opted to stay at the bluffs on the first night, then put in upstream and work my way down to Fairport Harbor, where Lake MetroParks has a well-appointed beachfront facility.

Camping is $20 a night, $10 for Lake County residents. Campsites must be reserved in advance by phone or online.

Park district employees were very helpful. Educational programs director Brian Fowler gave me a detailed rundown over the phone on what to look for along the river. As mentioned in a previous post, while I was camped at Lake Erie Bluffs, one of the park rangers called me on my cellphone to advise me of hazardous weather.

The only downside to camping at Riverview and Baker Road parks is the persistent highway sounds. However, at Riverview Park, the traffic on State Route 528 tapered off in the evening. At Baker Road, I-90 is far enough away that the traffic sounds weren’t too terribly annoying. In either case, a quality set of earplugs can make for a good night’s sleep. My personal recommendation is Leight Sleepers, made by Sperian Hearing Protection, LLC.

Right now, some of you are thinking, “If you’re wearing earplugs, you might not hear a bear trying to sneak up on your tent.” That’s a tradeoff some of us are willing to accept — being eaten by a bear for the sake of a good night’s sleep.

One of the waterfalls at Baker Road Park. Mighty inviting after a hot day on the river.

One of the waterfalls at Baker Road Park. Mighty inviting after a hot day on the river.

I particularly enjoyed Baker Road Park, where the campsite is about 3/4 mile from the parking lot. It’s a great place to explore, with mature forest, vernal pools, waterfalls and large open field for nighttime stargazing. Riverview is much smaller and situated at the terminus of a dead-end road.

Regardless, I’d highly recommend either park as well as Lake Erie Bluffs. Even without a mint under the pillow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Anxiety for Paddlers

Grand River to Lake Erie Canoe Trip — Part 3

Covered bridge at Harpersfield Dam

Covered bridge at Harpersfield Dam

Canoeing is not a spectator sport. When it is, it’s inevitably a disaster.

That became abundantly clear on this trip. While portaging the Harpersfield Dam, I scouted the river from the bridge, spotting what appeared to be a good downstream V. (An indication of an unobstructed path through a rocky course on the river.)

The view from the bridge at what looked like a good downstream V.

The view from the bridge at what looked like a good downstream V.

With both banks of the river lined with anglers, I guided my canoe into the V — only to find a three-foot sheer drop at the end of it. This hadn’t been visible from the bridge. I had to jump out of my canoe, drag it to the bank, guide it into a chute, plop myself into the boat and let the current take it through the chute.

A touching scene at Harpersfield Dam. I could easily imagine Coco romping along the river.

A touching scene at Harpersfield Dam. I could easily imagine Coco romping along the river.

That part wasn’t graceful either as the boat rocked while settling into the chute, taking on water.

From there on, the day was uneventful, and there were no spectators. Until I was ready to land at my campsite at Riverview Park. A fisherman on the opposite bank watched as I stepped from my canoe, slipped in the mud and fell on my ass.

I followed through with a well-honed maneuver from my “cabrewing” days — rolling sideways onto the bank. It’s an effective maneuver, but not very graceful.

There are days like that on the river. Regardless of how experienced or skilled you are.

Later in the trip, while en route to my Baker Road Park campsite, I came perilously close to capsizing. I narrowly averted disaster after getting swept into a downed tree. I jumped out of my swamped canoe, dragged it to a gravel bar and dumped out the water. Fortunately, the water hadn’t penetrated any of my dry bags.

I needed a bath and clean clothes anyway.

There were no spectators for that incident. But, just before it happened, I was thinking how cool it would be to record paddling scenes on a GoPro. Definitely one for the blooper reel.

Old railroad trestle in Painesville. All but one section is choked with logs and debris, typical of obstacles on that stretch of the river.

Old railroad trestle in Painesville. All but one section is choked with logs and debris, typical of obstacles on that stretch of the river.

Later in the trip I redeemed myself. It was Saturday when I paddled through Painesville on the last leg of my 40-mile journey. The banks were lined with anglers, hundreds of them. This is the most challenging stretch of the Grand River because of old dams and partially submerged industrial debris. I wended my way through it all, gracefully side-slipping obstacle after obstacle, sometimes leaning the fully loaded canoe on edge to slip through narrow passageways.

Sometimes things go too well and you expect your bubble to burst at any moment. As I prepared to land on the Lake Erie shore at the end of the day, I was tempted to yell to the people on the beach, “Don’t look!”

 

 

 

I sold my soul for a hot shower

Grand River to Lake Erie Canoe Trip — Part 2

If it weren’t for the rubber bungees this tarp would have been long gone.

If it hadn’t been for the rubber bungees this tarp would have been long gone.

LAKE ERIE BLUFFS CAMPSITE — By morning, the rain let up. The wind didn’t. It wasn’t as intense as the 35-mph winds that forced me to lie in my tent the night before to keep it from blowing off the cliff and into the lake. But it was strong enough to keep my rain tarp snapping violently in the breeze.

If I hadn’t secured the tarp with rubber bungees, the grommets would have popped and it probably would have sailed over to the Perry nuke plant.

Perry nuke plant, east of Lake Erie Bluffs and, thankfully, downwind.

Perry nuke plant, east of Lake Erie Bluffs and, thankfully, downwind.

Headwinds would be my constant companion for the first half of the 40-mile canoe trip. Low water would also be an issue.

Brian Fowler, who is in charge of educational programs for Lake MetroParks, had advised me that it’s best to run the lower Grand River between 2 and 5 feet on the USGS gauge. It had been a dry month and the depth teetered on the low end of the scale. Monday night’s rain, which measured nearly an inch, was enough to bring the level above 2 feet. By midweek it dropped to around 1.8 feet. A thunderstorm on Friday night brought it back to about 2.3 feet.

Despite the strong headwinds, it was a pleasant day on the river with plenty of wildlife along the way.

Despite the strong headwinds, it was a pleasant day on the river with plenty of wildlife along the way.

I’ve paddled plenty of shallow water and can follow a channel (the deep part) with the best of them. But Brian was right; the lower Grand can be 20 miles of pure torture when it’s shallow. Navigating its boulder-strewn riffles is rough on paddlers and boat hulls.

On the first leg of the trip, upstream of Harpersfield Dam, low water was not an issue. The wind was. I had hoped to make it past the dam, but paddling against a constant headwind wore me down.

I opted to stay at the Kenissee Grand River Campground near Geneva.

I had not been inclined to stop there, not after learning that the only tent sites available were about a quarter-mile hike from the river. Plus, being a hardcore primitive camper, I’m not keen on staying at overly civilized campgrounds. But the lure of a hot shower was enough to compel me to sell my soul.

The Mechanicsville Road Bridge — one of two covered bridges on the lower Grand River.

The Mechanicsville Road Bridge — one of two covered bridges on the lower Grand River.

The folks working there proved to be very welcoming and helpful. Especially Eric, who offered to schlep me and my gear to the campsite in his utility vehicle. He was kind enough to point out that the tent site behind the maintenance shed — though not aesthetically appealing — provided shelter from the wind.

Aesthetics weren’t an issue. I needed a break from the wind. And a hot shower.

Next: Lake MetroParks canoe-in campsites

 

I have to admit that I do like the whimsical touches to be found at private campgrounds.

I have to admit that I do like the whimsical touches to be found at private campgrounds.

I didn't have a car, so I had to put my camping permit on the tent.

I didn’t have a car, so I had to put my camping permit on the tent.

My campsite. Not pristine, but out of the wind and not too far from the shower.

My campsite. Not pristine, but out of the wind and not too far from the shower.

 

 

 

 

 

How I almost managed not to get to Lake Erie by car or canoe

Grand River to Lake Erie Canoe Trip — Part 1

Paddling the last stretch of the Grand River has been on my bucket list for years. I’d paddled the upper stretches many times. On one occasion my friends and I made it past the Paine Creek confluence, but that was by accident. We had parked our shuttle vehicle along the wrong stream. After we realized our mistake, we pulled off the river and hitched a ride back to the vehicle.

Alcohol might have been involved. That was when we were young, irresponsible and in our “cabrewing” days. As I recall, that trip was fueled by Old Frothingslosh, the beer with the foam on the bottom.

Now that I’m older and wiser — and you can no longer buy Old Frothingslosh — I set out to canoe the last stretch of the Grand River into Lake Erie. This was an exploratory trip. I wanted to try out LakeMetroparks canoe-in campsites along the way and recommend potential overnight excursions for other paddlers.

My plan was to set up a base camp the first night at Lake Erie Bluffs, about six miles east of Fairport Harbor. The next day I would put on the river at Grand River Canoe Livery in Ashtabula County, then spend five days paddling to Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park, where I’d land on the beach.

Ultimately, I’d like to set up a trip where you could paddle along the shoreline from the mouth of the Grand River to Lake Erie Bluffs and camp there on the final night. But that would require cooperation from Lake Erie, which can be hard to come by.

My main objectives for this trip were to explore the river, check out the campsites and survive to tell about it. The road gods and the river gods conspired against me.

I set out early Monday morning and the Canoebaru seemed pretty happy, humming along 110 miles of interstate and controlled-access highways. I got off the freeway to scout out Fairport Harbor. Driving down Water Street, I was cursing the old man in front of me, who was creeping along a few miles an hour under the speed limit.

The Canoebaru awaiting a tow truck in Fairport Harbor.

The Canoebaru awaiting a tow truck in Fairport Harbor.

Actually, he was doing me a big favor. I felt a jolt in the front of the car and it pulled sharply to the right. I managed to ease it to the curb, got out and inspected the damage. The left front wheel was pointed to the right and the right front wheel was pointed straight ahead. Not good.

It could have been worse. The lower control arm could have broken on the interstate and my friends would be fighting over who got to inherit my canoe and camping gear.

Apparently the only other vehicles that use that section of Water Street are huge trucks going to and from the gravel pits on the lake shore. Several of them came close to running over the Canoebaru, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Especially since I had taken the canoe off of the roof.

While I was stacking my gear along the road I noticed a woman in an adjacent back yard watching me and talking on the phone. I walked over to her to explain the situation. She told me she was afraid one of the gravel trucks would hit my car and she called the police to assist me. Part of me wondered if she wasn’t more afraid that I was going to set up camp there.

A Fairport Harbor Police officer arrived on the scene within seconds. He told me his main concern was getting the car out of there as quickly as possible, so it didn’t get run over. He was more concerned about that than I was.

He proved to be quite helpful, finding the phone numbers for a tow truck and — aptly named — Adventure Subaru in Painesville. Why not? They would become part of the great adventure.

The sunset from Lake Erie Bluffs — before the tornado watch was announced.

The sunset from Lake Erie Bluffs — before the tornado watch.

As would my friend, Becky Raubenolt, who came to my rescue. Becky lives in Lake County and does a lot of volunteering with Lake MetroParks. She carted me and my gear to Lake Erie Bluffs and would help with the logistics during the week. Her grandson, Cooper, served as copilot on one leg of the shuttle.

I eventually made it to Lake Erie Bluffs, where I enjoyed a beautiful sunset. As darkness set in, the winds began to howl and the NOAA weather app on my phone advised of a tornado watch. I had just put some brats on the charcoal grill when the storm arrived in earnest and I dove into my tent.

With winds gusting up to at least 35 mph, I’m convinced that the only thing that kept the tent from blowing into Lake Erie was me. As I lay there, wishing that I weighed more, my cellphone squeaked. (My ringtone makes a squeaky toy sound.) It was a MetroParks ranger advising me that I was in for some bad weather. You’ve got to love that kind of attention to detail.

The only thing that kept the tent from blowing into Lake Erie was my body weight.

My body weight prevented the tent from blowing into the lake.

I was relieved when he told me that he was west of me and the wind was letting up where he was.

After the storm passed, I got out and surveyed the damage. Nothing had blown away and the coals beneath the brats were still glowing. Except for being black on one side, they were edible.

Next: Camping next to a maintenance shed — and loving it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prelude to a full moon

Aimless wandering along Clear Fork of the Mohican River — on May 3, the day of the full moon

A mallard couple greeted me at the start of my trek.

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This horned grebe seems to be trying to lead me downstream — away from some ducklings perhaps.

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A yellow-rumped warbler looks out over Pleasant Hill Lake.

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Caught looking? This photo of three cormorants begs for a caption.

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The last stand — this old deer stand has seen better days.

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A red-bellied woodpecker grabs a snack in a tree near the ghost town of Newville. The town was razed and all traces removed in anticipation of Clear Fork backing up after the construction of Pleasant Hill Dam. It ended up being an incredibly expensive folly because the river didn’t back up that far.

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My favorite shot — a horned grebe calls out.

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Feel free to write your own caption for this one.