Horseshoe to Horseshoe Day 39, July 13, 2011
I picked this day to paddle because north winds were forecasted for the Point Pelee area. I would be heading in a northeast direction;
even with wind speeds up to 15 mph it seemed the land mass would protect and not create waves near the shoreline.
So, when I arrived at my Lake Erie debarking point of five days earlier, and seeing waves I was somewhat
I'd planned on ending the first leg today at Wheatley Harbor, less than three miles by kayak. But seeing the waves I planted the Pontiac van only a mile away. I figured I'd paddle a mile and see just how rough the waves were going to be; if too rough, head straight to the van. The run back from where I parked the van was much further than the one mile that separated the van and kayak; it was 4.5 miles. Hillman Marsh, was inland from Erie; with no road between them, I had no choice but to run around it.
After the extended run, the launch into the incoming waves made for one of the nastiest ones of the expedition. When I finally got out to sea the waves weren't that bad, but Swiftee had a few gallons of water in his bowels. Also, during the onslaught of waves my printed maps had gotten wet. The seal on the map holder wasn't closed tightly. Worse yet, the waterproof digital camera wasn't sealed properly either. The USB connection cover was open and water entered and ruined the camera.
As mentioned the waves weren't bad once away from the beach. The beach did have a sign warning of a drop-off. I'm assuming that the drop-off is what was creating large waves. I saw the van but skipped on by it and paddled onward to Wheatley Harbour. In this area I'm seeing both, English and American spellings of Harbor, but most Canucks think harbour is correct. The run back to retrieve the van was less than two miles.
I learned that Wheatley is quite the fishing town, whether commercial or recreational. Oops can't say "town," it's a "community," that's within
the municipality of Chatham-Kent. The harbor straddles two counties, Essex, where I'd been runyaking all this season, and Kent. The Chatham-Kent municipality was created in 1998 by the merging of Kent County and all its communities,
Chatham being the largest.
I began driving and looking for my next landing point. As I did I began passing several commercial fish companies. (Wheatley purports to be the home of the largest freshwater commercial fishing port on earth.) I drove several miles down shore and did not see any parks, boat launches, or beaches. The reason being, a fifty-foot bluff runs for many miles outside of Wheatley. Talbot Trail is the main road that follows the shoreline but not necessarily that closely. I did find a couple gravel roads off of Talbot Trail that stretched the shoreline. On one, Ocean Line, posted as private drive, I got lucky and saw a local resident near his property. I drove up beside him and spoke.
"Hi there, I'm a kayaker from Michigan and I'm looking for a place to land a kayak. Is there a beach below the bluff here where I might land?"
The man's name was Doug Melmer, and I was afraid he would tell me to "get out," that I was on private property. Was I ever wrong. He was very gracious, even seemed enthused about what I was doing. He told me where to park my van then walked me out to his lakefront bluff.
The view down from the 55-foot cliff was very intimidating.
"Is there a way I can get a kayak up from down there?" I asked Doug.
"I have a stairs." He said, pointing up shore fifty yards.
"Yeah, that'll work." I told him.
Melmer said, "You'll need a landmark to know which stairway is mine, there is a huge rock in the water, you can use that."
I looked around myself for a landmark and noticed a non-Canadian flag flying. I said, "That flag would be a good landmark too; what is it a Norwegian flag?"
Melmer told me, "That's the cross of St George, the British open starts tomorrow."
The open is being played at the Royal St. Georges Golf Club in Sandwich Kent, England. I, a non-golfer, had not an inkling when the British Open was, but this Kent County Ontarian must be a loyal Brit and a golfer to raise such a flag for the occasion.
It was not yet eleven in the morning but it was getting hot; I had over a seven mile run to get back to Swiftee. I asked Doug Melmer for the shortest way to get back to the main road. He advised me to run around a cornfield until coming to his neighbor's yard, and then follow their road to the highway.
Melmer added, "Tell them Doug said it was all right to cut through their property."
I ran nearly a half-mile, cornfield on one side of me, a wooded ravine on the other, before coming to a farm. I was hoping I'd see nobody and buzz on through the yard, when from out a four-door brick garage I heard, "Hey, over here."
Dang, I'd gotten caught, or so I thought. I looked to see once again Doug Melmer, along with his neighbors.
Melmer said, "I thought I'd better drive over and warn them."
He had already explained to them about the crazy Michigander, so they began asking me questions. When their curiosity was satisfied, they let me resume my run to Wheatley Harbour.
Rising temperatures made for an uncomfortable run.
The launch from a beach, inside the harbor was, tenfold better than the earlier launch. It was barely afternoon so the second leg was earlier than usual. That's because I woke up that morning a 4:00 a.m. and was on the road to Canada much earlier than the other times.
Once out of Wheatley Harbour I was soon passing by Holiday Harbour, Wheatley's non-commercial docks. After that the high bluffs were a constant view on Swiftee's portside, amidst them was Wheatley Provincial Park.
The mile and a half provincial park shoreline was sprinkled with swimmers and sunbathers. Surely, there would have been many more near the water if the bluffs didn't form such a daunting barrier between the beach and campgrounds.
Knowing the cliffs would protect the water's edge from the north winds I hugged the shoreline. It worked well, every mile paddled from the harbor got faster. But, the average mile pace was still twenty-three minutes, meaning I still was bucking waves.
After six mile of steady paddling I saw a flag with a red cross on a white field flying high above Melmer's 55-ft cliff. The first thing I did after landing… I jumped in the lake, swam around a bit and cooled off. How gloriously refreshing it was.
The narrow stairway leading up to the flag had a rope and railing to guide the way.
Holding Swiftee with my left hand, the rope with the right, I began tugging my way up. Nearly a third of the way up I realized water inside
the kayak was taking a toll on me. I decided to drain it out; made a move in that direction, and Swiftee began sliding down the steep embankment. I lost my balance and also tumbled downward. My forehead took the brunt of the fall to the ground. That wasn't the only place I felt pain, seems my entire upper body had crashed hard into the ground. I lay stunned for a minute, thought for sure my head was cracked open. I felt my forehead, no blood. I got up, drained the kayak, and again tried inching myself slowly but safely to the top of the bluff.
Making the final step, there at the top, Doug Melmer walked over to greet me. I was so exhausted and out of oxygen from scaling the steps I couldn't talk.
"Would you like some water?" he asked.
Out of my mouth I managed to blurt, "That sounds delicious."
After nearly a quart of water and catching my breath I was ready to load the kayak and leave. The van was two hundred yards a way. My benefactor, showing his Canadian hospitality, told me I could drive on his freshly mowed lawn to load Swiftee. So, so, glad; I don't know if I could have pulled the kayak that far.
When heading home the first road I came to after Talbot Trail was named 3rd Concession. For many years I have traveled through Canada and wondered why roads are called concessions. It leads one to think the roads were ceded and turned over by governing bodies. After today I'd had seen enough; had to learn why.
What I learned was that "concession" is a Lower Canadian French term that means "row of lots." Ye olde surveyors always measured parallel away from shorelines and named the first row of lots from the shore "1st concession," then continued sequential naming of parallel lots inward from the shoreline. The names actually apply to the lots, but the road took on the name of the lots. If there is a change in direction of the shoreline, also seen are changes in the angle of parallel roads. It's quite different from Michigan where the entire state is laid out in a grid.
And so, know I know.
Today's three legs of running totaling 13.75 miles, and two legs of kayaking totaling 8.9 miles, made for a grand total on 22.65 miles of runyaking.