“Of all my Great Lake adventures this one ranks among my most favorite.” tells Mike Stout, a long time Twin Cities resident. He adds, “The conditions were perfect, views spectacular, and with every journey there is the need to overcome.”
The day’s journey begins under the shadows of Wisconsin’s Rawley Point Lighthouse to Michigan’s Big Sable Lighthouse.
The biggest challenge on this trip is the unseasonably hot temperature reaching into the mid 80s and cold water in the low 50s. Because he dresses to the temperature of the water, in the unlikely event of a spill, he wore 1.5 ml neoprene pants and long sleeve top, and 3.0 ml booties. The combination of the beating sun, calm winds, and bright reflection coming off the lake, and wearing his thick wet suit, he must pause every hour to generously hydrate to avoid the onset of heat exhaustion.
After watching the brilliant red and orange sunrise, eating a hearty breakfast, and staging his 17’2” open sea NC Kayak, at about 7:30AM he is ready to launch. He looks over Lake Michigan and takes in the beauty of this incredible blue sea with its gentle waves and thinks to himself, “I am truly blessed.”
His goal is to complete the crossing in 16 hours (+/- 1 hour). With excellent lake conditions he thinks it may possible to finish as quickly as 14 hours. He doesn’t give the though of a record pace too much time as he fears it may jinx the opportunity.
As he slips his protective skirt over his neoprene pants and long sleeve top, then secures his PFD, Stout takes one last look over the horizon and takes in the view of Lake Michigan view and takes a deep breath. “Of all the Great Lakes this is my favorite and today it feels as if she is welcoming me on.”
With his kayak halfway in the water he slips into the cockpit and get comfortably positioned. Everything is feeling good and so right. He then launches onto the beautiful calm of Lake Michigan. The clear sky and rising sun present ideal conditions for a wondrous journey.
In the middle of Lake Michigan surrounded by hundreds of square miles of brilliant shades of blue, stunning pastels beaming through the distant soft white clouds, incredible lake reflections of even greater color, Stout shares, “I can’t help but be in awe. Plus, to hear no sound other than my paddle breaking the surface of the calm lake or drops of water falling from the paddle when I pause, it’s hard to express how blessed I feel. I wish others could be with me to enjoy this wondrous experience.”
In the early evening Stout spots the soft cast of land miles away, then notices a discernible white shape. He is certain it is Ludington’s Big Sable Lighthouse, his Michigan destination and home for the evening. Confident that it is, all he must do is keep my kayak pointed in that direction and enjoy the remains journey and its remarkable views, calm, and serenity.
On this trip he is not alone. There are two fresh water freighters hugging Michigan’s west coast. When he crosses the trailing wake of the first it is no more than a subtle lake roll.
About 12 miles out there is a gaggle of geese of maybe 30 or more. Pooled together they have no worries until he approaches them from the middle of the lake. They’re spooked and take off. So near he can feel the breeze generated from the collection of their powerful large wings.
As the sun sets and the sky turns dark the final guiding point comes from the beacon from atop Michigan’s Big Sable Lighthouse.
Stout shares, “I enjoy paddling the Great Lakes under the cover of darkness the most. It is then when I look above and achieve a special closeness to God and where the phrase that I often here, “There are a thousand angels looking over you,” comes to mind. It is here where I achieve an incredible sense of peace while feeling the weight of what feels like many around me. At times the likeness of my parents, brother, and grandparents so vivid, it feels so real. At times I can see their expressions of worry, disbelief, and pride on their faces. It is for this reason I am eager to return for another Great Lake nighttime adventure, to experience something so surreal and otherwise not possible.”
With Big Sable Lighthouse straight ahead and not far, he looks down to make sure everything is properly packed away. He then picks up my speed to prepare for a soft landing on Michigan’s gradual and pristine sandy beach. He looks up and to his surprise, the combination of his headlight and the lighthouse’s backlight reveals the large impenetrable steel wall protecting Big Sable. Just as quickly, he reverse paddles to slow his momentum and escape a certain head-on collision.
Having zig zagged across Lake Michigan, following the sun and chasing distant clouds he finishes his 56 mile course in 15.4 hours.
Before he crawls into his sleeping bag for the night, he stands alone on shore and takes in the beauty of Big Sable Point Lighthouse, then looks over the lake, glances to the stars, and gives thanks for yet another grand adventure.
I can’t help but think, “How blessed am I?.”
Thank you for your interest is sharing the story about my most recent Great Lakes crossing.
Since picking up the sport six seasons ago I have paddled over 5,300 miles. Highlights include having paddled across Great Lakes Michigan (3), Superior (1), and Lake Huron (1). I made the round trip across the Straits of Mackinac and tapped the massive columns of the Mackinac Bridge. I have competed in races from across the country: Seventy48 in Washington, 150 mile Campus to Coast race in Michigan, as well as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
If you would like to read more about my:
- Last week’s crossing of Lake Michigan and view additional photos, visit: www.tamarack-consulting.com/crossing-lake-michigan-3.html
- Grand adventures across many of our country’s most scenic lakes, rivers and tributaries, and objects and subjects of personal interest, visit: www.tamarack-consulting.com/northland- adventurer.html
Again, thank you for your consideration. I trust your readers will find this record setting Great Lakes crossing and plans for an in season three-peat of interest. If I can provide additional insights or answer any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.