Let me start by saying that days 22, 23, and 24 of the 49 State Road Trip were probably the most intense 3 days so far, and close to the being most awesome. Time will have to help me decide because right now I’m hard pressed to pick my favorite day.
The drive to Indiana Dunes (Day22 eve) entailed an overnight sleepover at a rest stop on I-65 and climbing the awesome dunes, followed by a a hard rive to Algonac State Park which is a few miles south of the Float Down. I broke camp the next morning because I had to be in St. Louis for the 2017 total eclipse of the sun, otherwise I would of stayed another night and left the next day.
The Float Down:
After breaking camp I drove north into Marysville, which was the termination point of the float down, and parked in a city park. With my dry bag (cameras, wallet & phone), a mesh bag (water, carb snack, paddle, and rope, my hitch hiking sign, Lil’ Man and my uninflated raft thrown over my shoulder, I stepped out on the river road and was quickly picked up by the 3rd vehicle to come along. I jumped in the back of Bryan’s pickup, surrounded by all the typical debris that you find in finely aged pickups, and on towards Port Huron we went, Bryan, his son, old lady and the trailer pulling their paddle boat. We made a beer stop and then picked up his buddy before arriving at the Port Huron beach.
Bryan and his buddy were the embodiment of the type of spirit and atmosphere that are contagious at events like this. Even though, like everyone there, they were intent on a party they also were intent on sharing the fun: as thousands of people float down an eight mile stretch of river flotillas form,big and small. Some are by design as families and friends join-up at the event. Others form naturally as ‘floating’ means no navigation. In other words most of the floatation devices (air mattresses, inner tubes, floating ducks) are at the mercy of the wind and currents, and sometimes the lack of both. Bryan’s paddleboat and many kayakers serve as ‘tug boats’ for stranded individuals and flotillas, pulling dead current victims back into the current, or keeping stragglers from being blown to the Canadian side of the river. It also keeps with the rebellion-ess of the event to strategically guide water balloon and water cannon attacks against bars, eating establishments, and private residences along the shoreline. Not to fear though its all in fun as the ‘land-lubbers’ are well equipped with ‘Jell-O shots’ and water hoses to repel the river rat pirates. It also speaks well of Bryan & ‘buddy’ that they willingly share their beer.
Even with some minor setbacks the day was awesome:
- my dry bag sprung a leak ruining my cell phones and many pictures I had taken that morning,
- even though I had plenty of bottled water on board I waited to late to hydrate and started suffering ‘old man’ leg cramps* shortly after hitting the water,
- the configuration of my raft and the wind made paddling useless. About all I could do was turn by raft by paddling not move it forward, i.e.., all paddling resulted in me spinning.
By the time I exited the water I don’t know if I was slightly dehydrated or suffering slightly from hypothermia… probably a little of both. I couldn’t immediately take my glucose level because as I exited the water (there was a multitude of people assisting fatigued rafters and equipment out of the water) some one shoved water and hotdogs in my hand and any accurate reading was then impossible.
I think I kept my Blood sugar in range for the most part, the unsteadiness and fatigue were more likely do to being in a constant position for 6 hours, late hydration and hypothermia. I never really felt any chill from the water but surface temperature and the awesomeness of the event probably distracted me from any awareness of the chill. Water coming off of Lake Huron, even over a long summer, has water temperatures in the low 70s during August.
My Facebook post after exiting the water:
“I am exhausted... haven't been this exhausted since I completed a 100 mile bike ride in West Lafayette, Indiana (decades ago). Actually did that 100 miles 15 minutes faster than the 6 and a half hours it took to do the 8 mile St. Clair River.
Add Lake Huron to the 'toe-dip in all 5 Great Lakes Bucket List check-off (Lake Michigan & Lake Huron so far).
Lil' Man and I got a 10 hour drive to St. Louis (Dean & Joe's in O'Fallon, MO.) for the total eclipse (tomorrow).”
I’ve made up my mind that I have to do this again, next year, but not alone. See my notes and video about joining me next year at the bottom of this post.
If your interested in ‘doing’ the float down with me next year keep in mind that everyone doesn’t have to go in the water to participate. One thing I learned is a ‘support team’ is a good thing to have. There are plenty of eateries along the shore of the river, lots of partying going on in and out of the water. There are several places along the river where we can unload or pickup passengers who don’t want to do the whole trip in the water. Also along the river are boat tours (of ships, a coast guard museum, parks etc. These are very charming and quant little coastal towns.
As I did this year my personal plan is to make a weekend of it. Camping at Alogonac State Park (10 minute drive from the float downs finish in Marysville). The park is great, its on the river, and it has camping for tents and trailers, electricity and full hook-ups, and full concrete facility buildings (shower, toilets). I have two tents with plenty of room to share. There are hotels in the area too. (see more on Algonac State Park)
A neat side adventure would be a short detour to Indiana Dunes Beach to break up either the drive there or back (see more on Indiana Dunes)
My plan would be to arrive at the park on Thursday or Friday and return on Monday. I’m retired which makes a long stay possible, but everyone is free to set their own schedule. We just need to be sure to book the campsite(s) or hotel rooms accordingly. I have a small vehicle and my nephew will be with me but if I can fit anyone in I will. One possibility is AMTRAK: I’ve taking it from Indianapolis to Detroit before and its a comfortable ride. I’ve traveled by train several times and I’ve seen people with bicycles and all kinds of stuff so it might be worth checking if bringing a kayak is possible (surely a deflated raft is possible). The park is about 50 miles from Detroit so a pick-up could be a possibility.
Our water crafts: As you can see from one of the above picture I had a simple two person recreational raft which was adequate,but for next years float down I plan to upgrade my craft to more appropriately accommodate a 65 year old body.
Anything goes though: picnic tables floating on 50 gallon drums or bulk Styrofoam, kayaks, paddle boats, inner tubes, rubber ducks and floating unicorns. If we can get it in and out of the water we can do it. One thing at the top of my list is that at least one craft should be able to move under its own power so our flotilla is not at the mercy of winds and currents. For example at least one Kayak that all our crafts can tie onto to create our flotilla, two kayaks and maybe we could create a barge.
Its early, but we need to start exchanging ideas now to be ready for next year. I plan to do this even if its alone so getting involved now, even if you have to cancel, is not going to deter me. I’d rather you get involved, even if you have to cancel, rather than not get involved at all.
My invitation is open to all; family, friends, and neighbors. Who knows this might be a chance for an impromptu get-together for our northern cousins (Rex’s group and the Show waters) or old school/work buddies.
For now you can contact me by email: email@example.com .
Once I get enough response I will create a facebook group page for exchanging ideas and updates. (If your not on facebook consider joining just to do this. I know a lot of people are scared or opposed to Facebook but just because some people go crazy on it doesn’t mean you have to. If you can’t or won’t then get a relative or friend who is to serve as a go between for you.