Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pure Michigan: Kayaking Port Austin

Leaving the kayak shop to head past the rock wall to Lake Huron
The third year of law school has actually been off to quite a great start.  I have fewer extracurricular things going on outside of classes so it has been nice to be able to finish reading for classes at a relatively decent time.  This is also the first semester since undergrad where I do not have class on Fridays.  So this weekend, when I found out that I have to go to campus for meetings on Saturday and Sunday, I planned ahead with a friend to take full advantage of having our Friday free to explore.
This is where Port Austin, Michigan, is located in the Lower Peninsula
Last year, I found out about Turnip Rock and Port Austin, a little town on the tip of Michigan's thumb on Lake Huron.  However, by the time I discovered that the rock formations are only accessible by water (the land is private property), it was already too late into the season and the kayak rental shops were closed.  With our free Friday this weekend, we planned to go to Port Austin and actually get out on the water.  We spent all week crossing our fingers that the weather would cooperate (at this time of year, the kayak rental shop does not rent kayaks for Lake Huron if wind speeds are over 8 knots).  When we checked Thursday night and again Friday morning, wind speeds were 5 knots or less during the day, so we were ready to go.
This is the route we chose, the Pointe aux Barques (PAB)
We woke up early on Friday morning and after fueling up the car with gas (and ourselves with snacks for the road and water), we hit the highway.  It was just under a three hour drive from Ann Arbor to the little town.   As we came closer to Port Austin, we saw some heavy fog and were a bit worried that it might prevent us from being out on the water if visibility was bad.  Luckily, the fog cleared up a few minutes later as we continued to drive down the road to reveal a beautiful, sunny day.  In order to find the kayak rental shop, I used a Google search and came across Port Austin Kayak.  It is a small shop owned by a lawyer named Chris who opened it for a fun thing on the side.  He was very helpful and gave us both maps of the route we chose and explained where to watch out for shallow areas and rock formations to watch for.  
The water was amazing.  I've never seen a Great Lake so calm before.  It was sunny with a slight breeze and almost no waves.  The water was cool and refreshing.  The lake was absolutely beautiful and it made the entire trip a wonderful experience.  It took about two hours to paddle to Turnip Rock, but we also made a stop on Bird Island to write MLAW in the sand and have a snack break.  We saw some deer tracks on the island too, but only saw one bird.
writing "MLAW" in the sand
resting on Bird Island
Deer track, my track, deer track
The rock formations themselves were pretty cool.  You could not climb on any of them unfortunately because they are all private property, but it was still very cool to see them and to quick walk around a bit on the shore.  We took a nice break laying in our kayaks in the sun on the water between the rock formations then made our way back past the sea caves to Bird Island then back across the lake to the kayak shop.  It took about an hour and a half on the way back.  I was pretty proud of myself too for using my camera on the lake with nothing happening to it (it's not waterproof, but I did have a waterproof box that I kept the camera in, taking it out only for a picture).
Point aux Barques - looks like Gru's nose or Pride Rock
Turnip Rock - this is what we came to see!
If you happen to be in the area, I definitely recommend this trip.  There was also a lighthouse out on the water across from Bird Island, but the water was a bit shallow around there so we just observed from afar.  The route we chose was the Pointe aux Barques route, and took about 4 hours total, including nice break times.  It was wonderful to get away from Ann Arbor and see another beautiful place in Michigan.
lighthouse viewed by Bird Island on Lake Huron

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