Sometimes an event presents itself that defies logic. After all, what sane person would jump in their kayak and paddle from brewery to brewery along with 125 other kayakers? Well, when Diana’s cousin Abby told us about Paddle for Pints in Traverse City, and proposed that the family join the Ale Trail, how could we refuse? On Monday, we made our way down to Traverse and joined in the fun!
Paddle for Pints starts out on Boardman Lake on the south side of town, follows the Boardman River through the city, and ends at Clinch Park on Grand Traverse Bay. On a normal summer day, it is a fairly easy paddle. Monday was a bit different, and it offered up a couple challenges. There was a stiff 20 mile-per-hour breeze coming from the south, out ahead of a cold front that was approaching from the northwest. On top of that, the National Cherry Festival was in full swing. The cherry capital was packed with people!
As we were checking in, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds streaked overhead as they were leaving town. They had performed a series of air shows over the weekend for the cherry festival. The power behind a squadron of F-16’s commands your attention!
The first leg of our paddle was from the north shore of Boardman Lake at Hull Park. A special note: When we purchased Ketchup and Mustard (our kayaks) twenty years ago, Hull Park was the place that Eastern Mountain Sports allowed us to compare brands of boats. This was a homecoming of sorts. 🙂 On this day, we paddled to Right Brain Brewery, about 1/2 mile south along the lakeshore. As previously mentioned, there was a strong southerly breeze, so my camera stayed safely packed away. The above photo was from a previous event on a much calmer day. We plowed straight into the whitecaps and did just fine.
From left: Marlana, David and myself.
The trip back to the river entrance on the north end of the lake was fairly easy, as the wind was at our backs. Once we were on the river, the wind was no longer a factor.
While this event was mixing boating with drinking, everyone was behaving responsibly on the water. For us, we were enjoying seeing Traverse City from a perspective that we had never seen before. As stated in previous posts, we have been coming here since the 1970’s, yet we have never paddled the river through town.
Halfway through town, we had to portage around the dam. It was at that point we visited our next two breweries.
While at Rare Bird Brewery, we were able to grab something to eat to go with our beverages. Diana managed to get us a couple of leather couches around a huge coffee…er…beer table while we waited for the food.
Back on the river, we had one last paddle to complete. We had only hit three breweries over the course of three hours, so everyone was fine.
As seen in the photo above, there was a pedestrian bridge with several supports extending into the river. Just as we approached it, two girls managed to get their kayaks sideways and block off most of the river. Diana backpaddled until a hole opened up and managed to shoot through. I was tangled up with one of the girl’s kayaks, and as I pulled her bow around, my kayak got sideways. I had to lean downriver to keep from swamping my boat, and I was able to get my bow around and through the bridge supports. Whew!
After paddling through downtown, the river emptied into Grand Traverse Bay. Once in the bay, we had to paddle a half mile back west to the marina at Clinch Park. Unfortunately, even though we were at the south end of the bay, the swimming area on the shore kept us a good 200 yards out. That stiff southerly breeze was able to churn up the waves in that distance, so we had to work hard to get across. We all eventually made it. 🙂
Once on shore, there were several more breweries within walking distance. We chose to forego visiting them and instead rode back to retrieve our vehicles from Hull Park. Diana’s cousins had to get back to Luzerne, Michigan…an hour and a half east…so they headed home, once they loaded up their kayaks. Diana and I only had a 20 minute drive back to Wild Cherry Resort, so we decided to check out the National Cherry Festival, seeing the marina was smack dab in the middle of it. While we were there, we saw some of the children’s portion of the cherry pit spitting contest.
We found it to be amusing to watch the kids. We were amazed to find out the pit spitting record in Traverse City is 88 feet! The official world record is 95 feet, but the unofficial record is 110 feet!
Paddle for Pints proved to be a great time. Though we were apprehensive about the wind at the beginning of the event, we all made it through safe and sound. Diana and I enjoyed seeing Traverse City from a vista we weren’t used to seeing it from, and breweries we hadn’t had a chance to experience.