LAKE MICHIGAN 2021
My fourth time crossing.
NEAR PERFECT LAKE CONDITIONS • STUNNING VIEWS • RECORD SETTING JOURNEY
A RESTLESS NIGHT MAKES FOR AN EARLY START
To save time and effort, I have learned it is best for me to simply pull down the back seats of my car and sleep on an inflatable mattress. Coordinating activities with the park in advance, I am allowed a lakefront view with a cooling breeze coming off the lake.
“It’s not all that bad and with my down-filled sleeping bag, liner, and a My Pillow Travel Pillow, it is surprisingly comfortable,” I tell myself.
With every Great Lakes crossing I can barely sleep the two nights before. I understand the risks and they weigh on me heavily. I strategize my plan and think about how I will respond to those things that may challenge me. I have learned from experience, I will have to respond to something unexpected. I wonder, “What will it be this time?”
At about 4:45 AM I wake up. The first thought that comes to mind is “Thank you for allowing me to inspire others.” Apparently I had awakened in mid-dream and was praying. I take it as a good omen and am comforted.
I shift my weight to get more comfortable in hopes of another forty-five minutes sleep. But, my mind is racing about what I am about to do. I notice the cast of bright colors coming from the rising Lake Michigan sun. I sense it is going to be a beautiful day and decide to get up and launch early.
IT'S A LAUNCH
With my kayak partially in the water and pointed due east, it’s simply a matter of my getting in and pushing off. I look over the lake one final time and check out the conditions. I look behind to see what the trailing winds look like. Everything is going as planned, and the weather now is as forecasted.
I sense it is going to be a good day. The conditions are great and I am feeling confident. I’m feeling remarkably calm and comfortable. But, I don’t want to be too optimistic and jinx my trip.
In the back of my mind, I can’t help but think about my father and older brother and how they passed away too early to enjoy the fruit of their life’s hard work. My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 60, and my brother at 55. They both felt cheated; how could they not? When I met with my brother just a couple of days before he passed, he shared with me how angry he was.
In the back of my mind, I told myself, “I will never let that happen to me.”
The Stout family has a long history of its men dying too early. With my turning another year soon, I will become the longest living healthy Stout as far as I know. That by itself is truly remarkable, especially if it were known how many times I have cheated death. Perhaps that is why I am chasing grand adventures that few others have, and determined to set records that even fewer would consider.
The first is quite far off and I am unsure of its course. As it gets closer I pause to study its path. When I realize it is passing well behind me I continue on with confidence. The subtle rolls from its trailing wakes give me a gentle and helpful push toward shore. The other freighter just pulled out from Manistee. It is much closer to shore and well ahead and never poses a threat.
With the first sight of Ludington's black and white striped Big Sable Lighthouse, I give out several shouts of joy. Why not? No one can hear me. I look at my time and estimate how much further I must paddle. I am now certain I am going to set a NEW personal best time for speed. With my spirits lifted, my speed picks up. I am thinking, "What will my final time be?”
My prior best time is 15.5 hours, made my first year of paddling when I crossed Lake Michigan in 2016. I am feeling good and am hopeful to record a time under 15 hours. With the near perfect conditions, I dig down deep and sprint the remaining distance. About an hour later I can see Michigan’s shoreline from just north of Big Sable to Ludington’s lighthouse at the end of the channel.
During my mandatory 1-hour break I look at my watch. I am now thinking I may finish closer to 14 hours. I can't believe it!
Nestled among jack pines, Ludington's iconic black and white striped Big Sable Lighthouse stands tall at 112 feet. It remains active for navigational use and is so tall it can be seen by mariners as far as 19 miles out.
On this Monday evening, the setting sun and cloudy sky creates an incredible pallete of colors. The water is so pure, you can see the bottom of the lake quite a ways out.
While I took a 50-mile route to the park from across the lake, it is accessible from land via a 1.8 mile walk.
Click on the images below to view them in full size.
Paddling our Major Tributaries
• Rum River 2017
• Rum River 2019
• Cannon River
• Superior Bay
• Upper St. Croix
• Headwaters of the Mississippi
• Namekagon River
• Kalamazoo River
Top Stops and Events
• Lower St. Croix - Taylors Falls, MN
• Lake Pepin and Lake City, MN
• Lake Hamlin, MI
• St. Paul, MN and Raspberry Island
• Stillwater, MN
• Tall Ships Duluth Festival
Subjects of Interest
• The Joy of the Journey
• Overhanging Branches
• Best of All It's Fall
• Get Off the River!
• Michigan's Prized Grand River
• Crossing Lake Huron
• Straits of Mackinac
• Crossing Lake Michigan #1 - 2016
• Crossing Lake Michigan #2 - 7.24.20
• Crossing Lake Michigan #3 - 6.11.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #4 - 6.27.21
• Crossing Lake Michigan #5 - 7.13.21
• Crossing Lake Superior - 2017
• Campus to Coast - A 150 Mile Race
• Paddling the Pere Marquette
• ABC NEWS: Avid Kayaker Brushes Death
• The Whole Story
• A Narrow Escape
• A Wonderful Journey
• More about Mike Stout
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