Saturday, April 30, 2011

Short's to Short's




Short’s To Short’s was Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong
Who would have believed that over 150 paddlers would be standing at the boat launch in Bellaire early on a Friday morning in April, eager to get on the water? Especially when the day was sandwiched between two storm systems bringing “a wintry mix”, and high winds.
But six East Coast regulars; Jim Ledtke, Bill McCormick, Tom O’Connor, Nanc Pfruender, Charlie Robertson and I grabbed our commemorative beer mugs, took our places for the group picture and launched right on time. The sun was shining and spirits were high.

Shorts Brewing Company
Here at Short’s Brewing Company, we have been hard at work planning the 2011 Short’s to Short’s Paddle. This year’s event took place on April 29, 2011. This is an annual event to symbolize the efforts we put forth, here in Northern Michigan, to provide the entire Great Lakes State with Short’s Brew! The paddle makes several connections to honor our seven years of business and the link between our original Bellaire Pub and our Elk Rapids production facility. There is a lot of water between Bellaire and Elk Rapids! Twenty seven miles, in fact!
The river leading out of Bellaire is winding and, early in the morning, lightly navigated and quiet. We were able to greet and pass many of the rec boats, inflatables, and canoes on this stretch. We hugged the east shore of Lake Bellaire and marveled at the sunshine and number of paddlers who took the day off to be here. Not working today seemed to be a wise decision. The lake then narrowed to a river again and we made our way past the Dockside Restaurant where the river empties into Torch Lake. At this point, many paddlers took out and left the strengthening wind to the rest of us. If you haven’t seen it, Torch Lake is huge. In fact, it’s the second largest Michigan inland lake. It’s nineteen miles long and over 330 feet deep at its deepest. When the wind gets cranking from the north, the lake is something to see. During our paddle we had a light chop pushed by a tailwind so we cut across the lake, bypassing Alden while making our way to shallow Skegemog Lake. Our first stop was at the mouth of the river leading from Torch Lake to Skegemog. We had been overheating with the wind at our back, but while eating our lunches we became chilled and reluctantly had to move on. It felt good to be out of the wind on the river leading to Skegemog Lake. The river is quite shallow and stump-laden but a little bit of slaloming led us to Elk Lake. Torch Lake’s tailwind turned into Elk Lake’s headwind and we leaned into our paddles for the eight mile long home stretch. Grinding out the last miles on a long paddle makes you think all kinds of weird thoughts. My thoughts included why the Geneva Convention has outlawed keeping prisoners in stress positions for long periods of time. Sitting in a boat in the same position for 7 hours seemed to constitute cruel and unusual punishment to me. Finally, the finish line in Elk Rapids came into view and, thankfully, help was there to pry me out of my boat.
I hope that the Shorts To Shorts becomes a Michigan paddling classic. It has many of the qualities that paddlers like; optional distances to paddle, rescue boats patrolling the lakes, no fee, low cost shuttles, a variety of scenery, friendly faces, and, best of all . . . beer.

Submitted by George Granlund

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