Trip Reports

Port Huron to Home Solo Kayaking Expedition

Kayaking expedition drysuit and tent on a porch

Yesterday, I finished a 800-mile, 45-day, solo, kayaking expedition. The trip started at Port Huron, Michigan, which is at the southern most point of Lake Huron, and ended in Grand Marais, Minnesota. At Houghton, Michigan, I linked up with my 2009 Grand Marais to Houghton trip, which means that I’ve now paddled the entire American shoreline from the Pigeon River on the Canadian/Minnesota border to Port Huron on the Michigan/Canadian border.

I did the trip in three legs. At each leg, I had an easy way out if I wanted to call it good. The first leg ran from Port Huron to St. Ignas. The second leg went for St. Ignas to Houghton. The third leg was Isle Royale and two days on the Minnesota shore. The final leg was the highlight of the trip. Isle Royale National Park should be on the dream-locations-to-paddle list of every kayaker. It was my first visit, and I will go back.

Kayaker Bryan Hansel
A self-portrait on Isle Royale.
I enjoyed the trip completely, despite the terrible weather that followed the trip north. Mostly, I hugged the shoreline, but did a few significant crossings, including a 16-mile crossing, several 10-mile crossings, a few 8-mile crossings, a few 6-mile crossings and a bunch of shorter bay hops, etc… It was solo except for four days when kayak instructor and Greenland-style paddling expert Tim Gallawayjoined me. I used two ferries to get from Hougton to Isle Royale National Park, the trip’s highlight, and back to shore from the park. I took over 1,250 pictures, which is actually pretty light for me. I traveled on the heavy side of lightweight-style camping. Many of my campsites were in state, forest service and county parks, but I wild and stealth camped as well. I saw everything from swans to loons, moose to coyotes, people to puppies. The trip had mainly high points, but several low points, such as when I had a fever and was pretty sick. Overall, it felt good to succeed at a long-distance kayaking trip after failing at my last attempt. I feel redeemed.

For all the people that helped me along the way, provided food, advice, took my picture for me, gave conversation and kindness, supplied a beer or two — and there were lots of you — Thank you! You helped make this expedition a success. And I want to thank my partner, Ilena, for allowing me to take off for extended periods of time to satisfy the constantly burning desire to challenge myself on long solo trips.

Here’s the stats for those interested in such things (BTW, I didn’t calculate any of these stats until today. I pretty much winged the rest of the trip, which is the best way to do a long-distance kayaking expedition such as this.)

Total Days: 45
Total Distance: 800 miles or so
Days Spent on Shore During Gales: 4
Days Spent on Shore For Rest: 2
Days Spent on Shore Due to 45F Rain and Brutal Wind: 1
Days Spent on a Ferry with No Paddling (except 1 mile): 1
Average Miles Paddled in a Day: 17.78
Average Miles Paddled in a Day When Non-Paddling Days Removed: 21.62
Small Craft Advisories Paddled: 2
Largest Waves Paddled: 5 to 6 foot wind waves
Number of People I Met: I’d guess well over 100
Meals of Fresh Lake Trout or Whitefish Cooked by Other Campers: 2
Number of Meals Purchased for me by Kelly Blades: 1
Numbers of Pizzas Ordered in to My Tent: 1
Number of Backyards Slept in When Homeowner Wasn’t Home: 3 (1 on a porch)
Number of Twitter Users that Stopped at My Campsite: 2
Days of Rations Carried at Resupply: 10
Number of Tent Poles Broken (first time ever): 1
Number of Repairs on Equipment: Too many to count!
Official Beer of the Trip: Bell’s Oberon Ale

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This maps is sort of right, but probably not exact. I didn’t track this trip via GPS.

View Port Huron to Home in a larger map


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