From the CPA Coordinator – Bill Smith

August can be really hot along the Chesapeake Bay with bathwater temperatures and stinging jellyfish or sea nettles about. Keeping cool can get tricky especially when the jellyfish are everywhere. August is the time of year I like to plan fall paddle trips up north. In the past we would always plan our trips for late September to mid-October for decent weather and bug-free camping. There are many great northern destinations for sea kayaking. Some I have firsthand knowledge of and others are bucket list locations.

My very first sea kayak paddle was a November weekend camper in the La Chenault Islands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Lake Huron. The scenery and conditions were spectacular with rocky shore line and coves with little sand beaches tucked in. The forests are mostly cedar and white birch–there is nothing like the sights and sounds of a northern forest.

The upper Great Lakes is a haven for sea kayaking along the Huron, Michigan, and Superior shorelines and that includes both sides of the border. Two of my favorite places I have visited several times but yet to sea kayak are Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario and Pictures Rocks National Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Lake Superior P.P. has many miles of rugged shoreline with black bear, moose, Caribou, and Wolves. I see bears and moose almost every time I go there but I have yet to see a wolf or caribou; caribou are so allusive that some park officials wonder if they still actually exist. The last abundant caribou sighting was in the late 1980s. The Lake Superior shoreline has many rock outcroppings, sea stacks, waterfalls, and plenty of sand beaches tucked in there so you almost always have a place to stop or camp. I have canoed the interior several times (Sand River) and if that’s your thing I highly recommend it. The second highest waterfall in Ontario (Lady Evelyn Falls) is located in the park on the Sand River but it’s a three-day paddle, and into the interior to reach it. The fall season in this park is short since early October can witness ice and snow. I made one late winter trip to the park and encountered lots of overnight snow followed by a warm day with quickly melting snow which made the waterfalls wild and gnarly. If you ever make it to the park be sure to hike from Lake Superior up the Sand River following a four-mile long cascading waterfall that ends by the waterfall dumping into the lake.

Pictured Rocks National Park is a rugged cliff-lined shoreline with sea caves and sand beaches tucked in along the way for safe stopping along the 26-mile route located on Lake Superior’s south shore. The scenery is spectacular. I have seen pictures of this area in late March or early April with huge ice flows similar to glaciers; I would love to do an April paddle among the ice flows. There are a few outfitters who really push the early spring paddles on the lake.

One of the trips I led recently was from the Magothy River to the Severn River with a lunch stop at Sandy Point State Park. After leaving the beach at Sandy Point we continued south toward the Bay Bridge which was very busy with boat traffic. While paddling along we were kept very busy watching the boat traffic traveling in sporadic directions when I spotted a sea kayak near the end of the break water about a half mile way. Soon after noticing the kayak I noticed that it had capsized and that the paddler appeared to be struggling with trying to right the boat. Jaclin Gilbert and Gail Davidson were the first to reach the paddler followed by myself. Even though he was 300-400 hundred yards from shore he was not wearing a PFD or spray skirt. Jaclin and Gail assisted him in getting back in his boat while Jaclin gave him a kind lecture about wearing a PFD while paddling. The guy did dig out his PFD from his aft hatch but it was buried under other items stowed on top of the PFD. I don’t think anyone would head out in waves thinking that they would get into trouble at the most inopportune spot but it happens. That’s why it is so great that clubs such as CPA train everyone to prepare for the worst even on a routine paddle. I think the guy was grateful for the help and promised to wear his PFD and skirt in the future. He told us he had just purchased the boat and was moving up from a rec boat to a sea kayak. I wouldn’t be surprise if we gained a new member in the near future.

Happy Paddling! ~

Bill Smith

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