CROSSING OUR GREAT LAKES
- Helpful Hints to Help You Prepare for Your Great Lakes Crossing -
1) MENTAL PREPAREDNESS
Paddling across our Great Lakes is a major endeavor and can be intimidating.
With no land insight and hundreds of square miles of nothing but a sea of blue around, you may find yourself questioning your judgement and it can shake you to your core. If you allow doubt or fear creep in, you risk exerting considerable energy and overreacting, putting yourself in greater danger.
On the 21-hour second leg of my 27.5 hour Lake Superior crossing and with the Houghton channel in sight, the sun began to rise. At the same time so did the winds, suddenly reaching 25-30 mph. I tried to take a left turn and race to shore, but the waves were too great and the threat of a spill too real. I had no other option but to take these rapidly growing waves head on.
As the waves crashed over the front of my kayak and hitting me in the chest, I turned my fear into a personal challenge. I yelled out shouts of joy, as if I were riding a bucking bronco, and concentrated on keeping my shoulders horizontal. If I let doubt or fear set it in, a single misplaced stroke would have resulted in a disastrous spill in the 42º cold water.
2) PHYSICAL PREPAREDNESS
Don't underestimate the importance of training and conditioning.
You wouldn’t attempt a 26.2 mile marathon, hike up a tall mountain, or compete in a long distance swim if you weren’t certain you were capable, would you?
Then don’t consider solo paddling across our Great Lakes unless you’re confident you can meet, if not ‘exceed’, the physical demands you expect to face. Unlike the examples above, there is no quick exit strategy when crossing our Great Lakes.
This year for training I routinely paddled 12 - 15 hours a day and on all but one occasion half the distance I was pushing upriver. To build strength and endurance, I am comfortable paddling 100 - 125 miles with an overnight. Additionally, I cross-train during the week.
On my second Lake Michigan crossing, July 24, 2020, I faced steady, moderate, and shifting winds nearly all the way. After 12.5 hours of paddling and well off shore, any thoughts of achieving a record pace disappeared. After 12.5 hours of hard paddling, the wind picked up and was hitting me straight on. After two hours of paddling my GPS readings indicated that not only have I not made progress, it appears I have lost ground.
This momentum, or lack thereof, is simply unsustainable. I must break through the hold this lake has on me. I take a drink of my electrolyte charged Gatorade and dig in deep. After more than 12 hours of paddling, I have no other choice but to sprint to break the wind's grasp on me. After nearly 1.5 hours of sprinting, I break through and can hear the sound of waves crashing on shore.
A) KAYAK: I paddle a 17’ 2” open sea kayak made by NC Kayaks. In addition to it being a beautiful boat, it is efficient, well balanced, and tracks exceptionally well. With its spacious front and rear hatches it allows me to carry additional gear for long trips. I can also vouch that it is nearly indestructible.
B) PADDLE: I am a huge fan of Werner Paddles. My first year of paddling and when I crossed Lake Michigan, I used Werner’s entry level Skagit. My second year, when I solo paddled across Lake Superior, I moved up to their mid-sized carbon Kalliste model. So pleased with its light weight and performance, after three seasons I bought the same model again.
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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