Monday, January 13, 2014

Paddling, Talking, and Rope Gymnastics

In the fall, we were finally able to enjoy a paddle with our friends in the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association. Every year they host the Sandhill Crane Paddle, and you know we love sandhill cranes. Hosted on a portion of the Kankakee River (or the Kank, as we like to call it, though the name has yet to catch on) paddlers leisurely traveled down river 8.6 miles from point A to point B. Once we arrived at the boat launch we had the chance to greet the club members and grab a bite to eat before heading off to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to watch the annual migration of sandhill cranes.
Our drift speed on the river equaled a fast paddling pace for us on Lake Michigan. Such a dramatic difference in difficulty gave us new perspective on our hard-earned-short-mile-days aboard Makeba.
Mary, posing dramatically on an extremely easy but fun paddle. Also, note all of that extra space in this normal sized canoe! We felt so far away from eachother.

Amy in the bow of the boat as per usual. Paddling hard, or hardly paddling.
Here is our good friend Kenneth in his spectacular orange sea kayak, complete with a orange traffic cone sitting on his stern. There was quite a range of crafts at the landing spot - canoes, kayaks, wooden, fiberglass...but no dugout canoes were present.
After some food and chatting, everyone headed over to Jasper Pulaski to see the cranes land at sunset.
There were cranes coming into the field from every direction. It truly is a sight to see if you have never witnessed it. The highest crane count recorded this year was on November 26th when 21,074 cranes were counted by volunteers!
There was quite a crowd including many photographers with huge telephoto lenses to try to capture that 'million dollar shot.'
Click, click, click! We will definitely be back next year. And if sunset is this amazing, I wonder what sunrise is like? Imagine that many cranes taking off from the field in the early morning light!
We also got to try out some Traditional Greenland Rope gymnastics following the guidance of our friend, Tim.
Here is Tim demonstrating the beginning position of Key-vee-too-sar-nuck. A real toughy that racks up the most points if performed successfully in competition. You can tell that he's a seasoned veteran at these maneuvers.
Okay, now Amy you try the Pah-skloo-shin-nook!
Yeah, kinda like that.
But not.
Okay. Why don't you try just sitting on the ropes for a while? Rope gymnastics are incredibly difficult and require a strong core.  Mary didn't participate in these activities due to her still suffering lumber jack back.
And of course you can't try rope gymnastics without some slacklining thrown into the mix! 
Other than playing outdoors, we've also been pretty busy giving presentations about our trip. Our most recent talk was given at the Michigan City chapter Lion's Club. It isn't often that we're invited to sit at the head table!
And it isn't often that we see our presentation advertised out on the road! We were invited to present at a tiny library in Niles, Michigan.
Cass Library, you shouldn't have!
One of our larger recent speaking engagements was at the DNR Parks and Rec Division Training Conference in northern Michigan at the Treetops Resort. What a lovely resort to host a conference at! And what great company to be speaking to so many outdoor enthusiasts.
We gave our usual presentation but there were lots of rangers that were very familiar with Lake Michigan...One ranger raised his hand at the end of our presentation and asked if we had stopped at 'Sis-shwa' Point....(What did he say? That didn't even sound like an actual word...)
Amy- "Um, can you spell that, please?"
Lots of laughter. 
Mary- "We didn't pronounce anything right around the UP." 
Eventually we made the connection that he said Seul Choix Point 
(Sis-shwa is the phonetic pronunciation - this location is the only harbor of refuge in a long and dangerous stretch of coast; the translation of the French name is "only choice") Ah, yes, we had indeed stopped there. We just may not have known that we stopped there, at least with that French pronunciation.
During our talk we were supposed to give out Ronnie Bucks if anyone asked a good question in the audience. Ron Olson is the Chief of the Parks and Rec Division of the Michigan DNR. Seul Choix man definitely got a Ronnie Buck. 

Later in the evening, there was a dinner and silent and live auction.

Upon seeing this display as we entered the banquet hall, Mary wondered if she could try a bite of these desserts that were just sitting by the door. Luckly, Amy pointed out the fact that this particular set of Tupperware contained trail dirt samples. We were at a DNR conference afterall. Mary would have to wait until dinner to eat actual food.
Ronnie Bucks from the session seminars could be used to lower prices in the silent auction. And we even got to sit at a table with Ron! We didn't have any Ronnie Bucks to our name, but we decided to vote on an auction item anyways. A two night stay in a YURT in Muskegon, paired with a winter package for snowshoes, ice skating, and cross country skiiing! Who wouldn't vote on this?! Amy wrote her name down. Little did we know that the auction was ending in about 5 minutes...So we won the package!
So, when you do the math, Amy and Mary got paid in yurt. Good deal if you ask me! Thumbs up!
Of course we had to stop on our way out of town at the local elk viewing area in Gaylord, MI.
They walked right up to the fence!
Yep, that's a huge elk 3 feet away from us.
We never know what we are getting ourselves into when we agree to a speaking engagement. It's all part of the fun!


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