Up North Blog

Paddle to School

Last fall, The boys and I decided to switch the year’s walk to school up with a different form of travel –  paddling to school.  It was my idea for this fourth annual event, and the boys were against it at first.  Colebrook wanted to run the seven miles to his classroom.  “And let’s do it in a hour,” said my nine year old.  “Yuck, that doesn’t sound fun,” said Hawthorn, the little legged brother.  

Hawthorn was right.  Our day of self propelled travel to school has to be fun and outdoorsy and adventurous. After weeks of conversations, I was able to persuade them that paddling from Glen Arbor up the Crystal River, through the Fisher Lakes and along three miles of the east shoreline of Big Glen Lake would be an exciting adventure.

The boys were a little sleepy when we hopped into the canoes at 7:30 am.  I positioned Hawthorn in the front, Colebrook in the back and me on a milk crate in the middle of a old heavy 19 foot Grumman Canoe.

Paddle to School
It wasn’t long before we took a break and stretched our legs out in the deep pine and cedar woods the Crystal meanders through.

paddle to school

These surrounding photos above and below are a good testament to why this day outdoors is so important to me.  My kids and all kids today don’t get enough time in nature during their school day and recent studies are finding it is very important to their mental and physical health.  This day is a great way to give them a vitamin N boost.

Paddle to school

We saw a turtle hiding on the bottom of the river and plenty of dead coho salmon laying down as well.  We decided that the turtle just might be eating those stinky dead salmon, which we could smell right through the water.

Paddle to school

We collected a few cobwebs and spiders while we skirted through the culvert that separates the lakes from the rivers.

Paddle to School

As we entered Glen Lake, I realized it took us well over four hours to paddle the Crystal River upstream and the windblown Fisher Lakes.  About then, the thought occurred that we might not make it to school until long after lunch.  

Paddle to school Paddle to school

The wind was straight in our face and even stronger on Big Glen Lake.  It pushed the canoe sideways and backwards and now we were really moving slowly.

Paddle to school

We could not help the temptation to stop and visit Mom who was studying for her Masters at Nana’s house on Big Glen.  
When we went back out, we switched to a rowboat, hoping that would be easier to keep straight in the wind.  Hawthorn gave his best effort, but the wind came up even more.  I had to get out several times and pull us away from shore.

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We ditched the boat at Dunn’s Farm and walked the two miles of shoreline.  Yikes.  If we don’t hurry, school is going to be closed before we even get there.  

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The last little dash to school.  Just before this photo was taken, we had waved to all the school buses that were bringing Colebrook’s and Hawthorn’s classmates home.  Yes, we missed the entire day of school trying to make the 7 miles by paddling.

Paddle to school

It wasn’t an entire loss.  Colebrook got to play kickball with some of the teachers kids who were playing on the playground while their Mom’s prepared for tomorrow’s lessons.

Paddle to school

Hawthorn finished the last of the snacks in celebration of a big fun day of old fashioned travel to school.  We paddled and rowed and hiked.  We helped our boys better map the world they live in.  We took breaks for snacks and to see cool creatures and tiny brooks and to read chapters of The Hobbit.  But mostly, we had a full day together in the woods and wilds of northern Michigan.   

Paddle to school