Each year one trip sticks out in our minds as the absolute best experience of that season, mine was a river, some kayaks, and great camping. Usually all it takes is good friends, a few days away from the workplace and, well, hanging out in protected state forests does not hurt either.
It was 4th of July weekend and myself and a few friends decided to pack up and head north, so we got together and proceeded to load up the cars with camping supplies, kayaks and snacks. Being from mid Michigan we decided to go up north and enjoy the great natural forests and rivers our beautiful state has to offer. We scoped out the Pigeon river whose headwaters are just North East of Gaylord, Michigan and chose this river due to its secluded nature, intricate channels, and free state forest camping. Now we had fully loaded cars and a destination, the trip had begun and we pulled out of our respected neighborhoods happy to get on the road.
The first night we camped out at our put in spot for the next day and planned how far we would go on the river and where to put the pick up car. We packed and got everything ready as we wanted to get an early start the next morning, a morning we knew would come all to fast. After some grilling, good conversation, and some beverages we decided it was a good idea to get some sleep as we had a full day of paddling the next day.
The next morning was filled with final packing preparation, a small breakfast and the moving of the pick up car, which was a 35 minute drive alone. Excitement was in the air as we knew we would soon be floating down the Pigeon river and would be surrounded by wildlife and beautiful scenery. One final check for supplies, a quick bathroom break, and we were ready to depart on our two day excursion.
The first day the river was exhilarating and kept everyone on their toes and even made some of us flip our kayaks and go for an unexpected swim. The fun was found in rougher waters, untouched wildlife, and the occasional portage through woods and mud. After stopping at a park and grilling some hot dogs, we saw the only other person we would see the whole trip, a man floating down the river on a tube. The last few hours of the paddle we tired and had begun to look for a nice place to set up camp for the night. Using a state park camping permit we could set up anywhere in the Pigeon River National Forest and as we came around one bend we found our spot.
We set up right off the river by knocking down all the high grass with our kayak paddles and finding some flat ground to set up the tents. After setting up the tents it was getting dark so we collected some wood and started a fire. After some dinner made on the fire we all shared some stories but everyone was so tired from the paddle we did not last too long that night. After a few of us fell asleep around the fire in our camp chairs we called it a night and went off to our respective tents.
Morning came with the chirping of birds, dew on the grass all around, and a few of us up early to ensure we were packed back up and ready to go. We had a good 6-8 hour paddle for the last day to get back to the car so we started off pretty early. About half way through we stopped at a field that looked like a place where kids used to party, it was open and flat so we built a fire to cook off the remainder of our food for lunch. The paddling from that point on was incredible with log jams that we could get over without portaging and a mile or so of small ruffles that made the end a very fun experience. As we came to the bridge after the ruffles we spotted our take out point and headed straight towards it, our journey had come to an end.
This trip was by far my favorite of the season, it was a trip that tested all my paddling and camping experience while teaching me so much more. A great trip will usually find itself becoming something of a tradition and although last year was our first year of our Pigeon River Fourth of July trip, it is surely not going to be the last year. With hopes you have had a great season with an ample amount of paddling and fun, until next time, see you on the water!