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Hugh Heward 2013: Sunny Perfection!
April 28, 2013

The 14th Annual Hugh Heward Canoe Challenge, hosted by the Verlen Kruger Memorial, went off with eclat and aplomb on a gorgeous day yesterday.

The usual pattern seemed to hold true: most boats chose the ultimate 50 mile distance, a "Full Hugh." Fewer did the Half and fewest did the Quarter. Probably 70 or so paddlers in all were on the Grand River from early morning until the midday finish-line picnic.

It's not a race but some folks like to push it. Most seem to just enjoy the scenery lively water level.

Some years the water is low, but not this year. It was just right. Big but not too pushy. About 3500 cfs. Too low is 500. Scary is anything over 5000.

A fast full finish is about 8 hours. At 6000 cfs we saw 6 hour finishes.

The Kruger breed of canoe is most popular, in all its variations -- solo and tandem and all sorts of makers models.

The event was Jim Woodruff's idea -- he's turning 90 this year. He hangs out at his riverside house saying hi to paddlers as they pass by. Then later on he goes to the picnic to see the finishers. He's the main Grand River historian.

Lucy and I had a fine Daddy / Daughter day out on the 13-miler in our big ol' Old Town Tripper. Very stable boat. She counted 142 turtles. And we passed a big bald eagle nest -- eyrie, I mean -- with the eagle at home. We also stopped and looked for arrowheads a few times, but it seems more of the lowland oxbows are posted against visitors now. I think due to the huge new rotating irrigators that have been installed. Sad, though, to see the nasty signage of incivility and dysfunction. But we enjoyed seeing dozens of boats, thanks to our rock-stops. A new swarm of paddlers would overtake us as we got back in the boat each time.

It was Lucy's farthest day of paddling! She did great.

We hung out at the picnic afterward for an hour. She was patient and let me visit with pals. Weren't any teens for her to say Hi to. Altho I don't agree with mono-generationalism. Ageism is a plague. It's wonderful seeing old and young who can hang out together. It happens.

I also really like seeing the various Verlen boats and especially the restored Verlen classics, like his expedition boats.

There were a couple boats of first-timers I knew about. Some folks with the MSU Outdoors Club are starting to do more canoe adventures, especially with the 150-mile Campus to Coast Challenge they attempted a few weeks ago -- several even finished. I think a couple MSU boats were trying the 50-mile HH for the first time.

Then there was another outdoor sports pal, Dan, who's been doing some big ski days with us in recent years. He found a partner to do the 50 with him. He borrowed my brother's old Amateur kevlar boat and has been getting lessons in efficient distance paddling. He paddled a few hours this spring to get ready, but his partner hadn't been paddling at all. I was interested to see all these folks finish and wanted to be at the picnic when they did, but they hadn't arrived when Lucy needed to get home again. My old partner in paddling the HH, Tim, was also paddling with a fast, experienced partner, but they hadn't arrived yet, either. Maybe I'll add a further note about their adventures as they come in.

Anyway, here are a few pics from our day...

Several Kruger boats in one view. A tandem is on the water. 3 solos. And the restored "Green Monster" but his cross-Canada bonkers marathon -- coast to coast in one season -- snow-out to snow-in. There's a neat movie and book made about it. He thought that would be the end of his adventuring at the time, since it was so harsh, but... Anyway, the boat has a racing shape but is longer and weighs about 100 lbs.

View of the Verlen statue at the picnic after the paddle. It's a great time to stand around and jaw with paddler pals. It's a gathering of outdoor lovers. A nice group to hang with. ...And the chili, hotdogs, chips and brownies aren't bad neither.

Another turtle. A nice boulder-lined driveway for the old farmhouse and new polebarn is close to the river.

A nice farmhouse I always enjoy seeing. I also like imagining the large-scale projects going on in that huge new polebarn.

We stopped at a tiny, flowery island.

The eagle, closer.

Came around the bend and ... eagle eyrie! With eagle!

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