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Traverse Area Paddle Club

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Trip Reports

August 8 Pine River cleanup - Peterson to Low

 | Published on 8/8/2018
Trip report by the Woodburnes

Survival on Pine River                         August 8, 2018


It was a fine, blue sky day for 12 paddlers to clean an 8 mile segment of the Pine River. With 3 canoes and 7 kayaks we left Peterson Bridge at 10:15 AM. Linda Pelkey loaned us a 10 foot length of rope for a bow line. Mark Miltner, owner of Pine River Paddlesports Center gave Lois a new hand saw as he shuttled us back to the start at Peterson Bridge. These two gifts are important for Sue and me (Woody).

The morning went well with mild to moderate amounts of trash. The wildflowers were beautiful.  We saw Joe Pye Weed, Golden Ragwort, Black-eyed Susan, Blue Vervain, Crown Vetch, etc. It was inspiring to watch Kurt scramble on the logjams. He knew where to find the trash. Lunch was pleasant on a beach and conversation was friendly and informative. We learned about infectious diseases from Tom and Gerald who knew a ton about serious infections and a new pathogen that is a fungus that behaves like a bacteria. Max the dog seemed to enjoy turkey from Sue’s sandwich.

Then, soon after lunch the excitement began when Woody and Sue capsized and got trapped in a logjam. We both admitted we thought that this is where we leave this earth. But we were able to climb on top of the canoe which overturned. Both of us got on top of the logs with the canoe  mostly submerged. Sue was helped cross back to the opposite shore by a taut rope that the ladies provided for her and others.

When we were all safe and sound, attention was turned to extracting the canoe from the log jam. John, Tom, and I tried to push the canoe out with our legs and found that it was hopelessly trapped. There were 2 large tree limbs that were about 8 inches in diameter that were the main logs that were on top of the canoe. I thought we would never be able to move these logs and would have to leave the canoe and hope there would be enough room in the remaining 2 canoes for us to float to Low Bridge. It was at this point that John said we have to saw the logs in half with the 2 handsaws. He was right on and we went to work. We managed to saw the 2 big logs and lifted several others by hand and threw them aside. This took about an hour or more for 3 men (John, Tom, & Woody) to saw through the 2 big ones.

After several attempts to push the canoe out failed, it was obvious that a line was needed to secure to the bow and pull it out. The only way that one could reach the bow was to straddle the canoe and inch out to the bow as if it was a horse and I was a cowboy. When I could get the bow line by feeling where it was tied to the bow which was under water, Jackie threw a rescue rope to me and it was tied to the bow line. Now we had a rope that 3 strong women plus Sue and I could pull the canoe free. Jackie and/or Lois chanted “pull” loudly so our combined pulling was coordinated. It was our chain gang song and it worked!

We retrieved all the trash and gear except that a net with a 10 foot long pole was lost. Sue and I were awed by the good folks that rescued us. They had the fortitude to struggle with all their might and would not give up until we were back to civilization. We learned we were not prepared for this trip! We definitely will be if there is a next time. 3 important things to remember: Handsaw, bow and stern lines (floatable), and throwable rescue rope.

Jim “Woody” and Sue Woodburne

John's story:

The big adventure was just after lunch. Woody and Sue went into a log jam and obviously leaned the wrong way. Their Kevlar Mad River Explorer got really pinned in a bad spot. There were two logs over the stern and two logs over the bow. It was a couple of feet under the surface in about 8 feet of really fast water. The only hope of getting it out was to cut the logs pinning it on the downstream end (bow).  Mark Miltner had donated a new saw that morning, and it was called into use, but what we really needed was a chain saw! After about an hour of repositioning logs using five women on the end of the throw bag, and cutting the logs (on both ends) that were pinning the canoe, it finally came free. Luckily it suffered no damage, no one was hurt, and we retrieved all the stuff that had been in the canoe. The four people that were ahead of us continued cleaning, and wondering where we were.  So we had a successful day. Lots of trash picked up, and the whole crew alive and well.


Photos by Jocelyn, and Lois and Tracie with John's camera
Jocelyn got the photos of the cleanup in action.

Here is the group at the start: Top row: Mark, Kurt, Linda, John, Woody
Bottom row: Tracie, Lois, Tom, Sue Wi, Gerald, Jocelyn & Max, Sue Wo, Jackie 


Kurt, John and Lois working on a mother lode at a log jam: Woody & Sue in the distance.

Broader view of the same situation

Kurt and a rock cairn

Woody's canoe was pinned under two logs at the bow and two logs at the stern. The first job was to saw the logs holding the bow so we could pull his canoe free.  Luckily, Mark had given us a gift of a great saw at the start of the trip.

Linda helped John with the sawing, while Tom made his way to the scene of the submerged canoe

At this point Woody has gone into the water to tie the rescue rope to his bowline.

What the photo doesn't show is the three additional women at the end of the rope helping to pull the canoe free.

Free at last!

Empty the canoe and inspect for damage. There was none!

The end!  Everyone hung around to assist each other, and the Huron-Manistee Forest Service crew showed up to haul stuff away.
Jackie, Lois, Jocelyn, Sue Wo, Woody, John, Kurt, Linda, Gerry, Sue Wi, Tracie, Tom