Cheneaux Paddle Tour
~Monday, July 12, 2021~
Knowing that Tim wanted to incorporate some water activity while he was here, and being that it was his last day in the U.P., we agreed on a day of kayaking. But which kayak rental place to go with? We decided on Woods and Waters located in Hessel, MI, just 20 minutes from our campground. Their specialty is kayak tours, but since we’ve had paddle experience, we wanted to explore on our own, without a guide. After doing a little research, I found a little gem that seems to fly under the radar, in terms of exploring. It’s called the Les Cheneaux Islands, a little protected area in Lake Huron. We were also interested in kayaking Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park, but will have to hold off on that until our next lodging.
Tim had reserved (3) 14’ touring (closed cockpit) kayaks since that’s what we’re used to. Generally, the longer the kayak, the better tracking it has. When we arrived, we were greeted by Allie and owner Sue. Sue is very knowledgeable, but a little overly cautious, as she seemed very suspicious of our experience once Jeff told her we didn’t know what an ER was. ER stands for “Eskimo Roll” which, if you flip over, uses a motion with the hips to right up the kayak. Good thing he didn’t lie, since she likely would have asked him to describe in detail, how to do it, possibly forcing us into a guided tour, or crash course on wet-exiting a kayak. I totally get the concern since we’re kayaking in unfamiliar territory, and it can get quite windy and choppy on the Great Lakes. I think if we’d told her we’d kayaked Lake Tahoe before, she would have backed off. When Jeff politely told her we weren’t interested and that we didn’t bring a change of clothes, she eased up. After we decided on the 4-hour kayak rental, Allie gave us explicit details of the best route, marking a laminated map for us to take with us. After settling up and fitting us with the right equipment, 30 minutes later, we were on our way. Giving Allie (a high school student) a little more towing practice, we followed them to the launch site, about 10 minutes away. Once we got there, I guess Allie used up all of her chances in backing up the trailer. She did pretty well, but Sue took the reins so we could finally get on the water.
With drinks and Subway sandwiches in tow, we finally got on the water around 2:00. The winds were light, the weather beautiful. We lucked out, as the original forecast was overcast with rain. Cheneaux is French for “the Channels” and encompasses a chain of 32 islands in Lake Huron. It’s a very popular boating and kayaking destination with plenty of ample spots to beach on several landings. The area also attracts thousands of visitors to their annual Antique Wooden Boat Show; one of the biggest in the nation. We even spotted several of those gorgeous boats out on the water today.
We launched from McKay Bay stopping for some lunch on Government Island, then continued around that island through the Mcgulpin Channel, up around Government Bay and back.
I’m not exactly sure just how many miles we paddled, but we definitely got in our 4 hours. Now we can say we’ve kayaked on The Great Lakes!
After a great paddle day, we found a great place to eat, chill and recap our fun time out on the water. Les Cheneaux Distillers, in Cedarville, MI was right up Tim’s and Jeff’s alley. With quite a selection of Straits Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey, they are a small batch Micro-Distillery and Micro-Brewery (you don’t see that combination everyday). With their inviting outdoor seating and renovated, industrial-style facility, they offer a unique tasting room experience as well as a gift shop. Jeff and Tim both got “made with a lot of love” whiskey and gin drinks, while I ordered a mojito. All were delicious! And the food, excellent. They’re
Photo courtesy of Tim Hansen
also known for their paninis, which neither of us ordered. Jeff had a pork shank, Tim had a sugar-glazed bacon and apple pizza, and I had the vegetarian pizza. Yum! What a great way to cap off our awesome visit with Tim! We have such a great time with Tim and Tracy, we’re hoping they’ll be able to work something out to join us down the road in New Orleans.