Work generously gifted us with a four-day weekend, which I spent mostly doing a comics intensive, trying to get caught up, and a little ahead on my page count, so that I can spend a week getting caught up on digital corrections. I allowed myself one day of vacation, and spent it out on Lake Michigan with paddling buddy R.
It was a beautiful day, slightly overcast, but just right in temperature and humidity, about 85F, and a little cooler out on the lake. The week's heat had made the water beautifully warm, and getting wet was a treat rather than a hindrance. I'd never done any deep-water paddling before, and was more than a little worried about the trip, but R is on her way to her safety certificate, and we had the full compliment of safety gear, so I felt comfortable giving it a shot. We put in at Deerlick park, just south of South Haven, and paddled up the coast. The waves were about as large as I felt I could handle -- 1-3 foot swells with minimal whitecapping. It was like being on a rollercoaster: three feet up, three feet down, and several of the waves pulled an unintended yelp out of me. Things never got to a point where I felt I couldn't handle myself, and I kept my seat the entire time, but if they'd gotten any more serious, I'd have headed for shore immediately.
We made our way up the coast, stopping briefly for lunch, and came to the clay cliffs north of the city, these weird wonderful river-sculpted gray cliffs that look like something out of a lunar landscape. Our buddies R&S were camping there on the beach, along with a bunch of their friends, and were dipping hunks of freshly-caught steelhead into batter, preparing them to go in a deep fryer. Now that's living.
Back in our kayaks, we headed back towards the South Haven lighthouse, arriving just as the sun was setting. It was a bit dodgy, as tons of boats were all headed out to watch the fireworks, including the beautiful replica sloop, the Friends Good Will, flying the 1812 American flag and a long green pennant. The sunset was spectacular: long thin horizontal bands of clouds alternating molten orange and purple stretched from north to south along the western horizion, the sky to the east gone pink in harmony.
As a result of last year's lackluster fireworks, the mayor got together a bunch of donors and promised an impressive show. We moved further south, far out of range of both city and citizen arsenals, and past the outer ring of boats, where we bobbed gently on water as flat and calm as Lake Michigan ever offers. The show definitely delivered, and lasted at least its promised 25 minutes. We could hear the synchronizing music -- a mix of movie themes and such -- coming from the boats around us, but I thought the music actually detracted from the show. Seeing the lights reflected in the water was a real treat.
After the show we found our way back to the park, and then spent two hours crawling back east along M-43. If we do this next year we're taking county roads, I swear. All told we got at least ten good miles paddled, the first five against steep swells. I'm surprised my arms still work at all this morning, but so far, I'm only a little stiff, and hardly even sore. I really hope to do this kind of all-day paddle again; the sunset alone was worth the trip.