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Paddling Bete Grise

Posted Oct 12 2013 10:56am
October 12, 2013 | By derrick

Paddling Bete Grise was quite a surprise. Being on the more protected eastern coast of Michigan’s Keeweenaw Peninsula, I had expected more sandy, softened shorelines. What  a surprise when we found amazingly tall cliffs, weathered rocks, arches and even a sea stack (Lake Stack?)! 

Bete Grise is French for Grey Beast and is located 3 miles east of Lac La Belle and about an 18 mile drive from Copper Harbor , where we were staying during our September trip.  We left Copper Harbor under amazing blue skies and made the long ascent back up the ridge that makes up the center of the Keeweenaw in this area.  We turned east onto Lac La Belle Road and just as we were about to make the descent back down the mountain we saw a thick layer of low fog was hiding Lake Superior below us.  Soon we dropped out of the warm sun and continued our drive through a thick, wet fog until we reached the singing sands of Bete Gris Bay .  It suddenly looked as if we had reached the coast of Washington State. It was a good thing we brought extra layers to put on under our dry suits.

As we unloaded our gear I took stock of the environment.  The water was a quite rolling jello undulating under the overcast, charcoal sketched sky.  To the north tall bluffs reached out into the lake, their forested tops decapitated by the low hanging clouds.  Although I knew that the day’s forecast called for calm, high pressure and blue skies, (In fact, we had just come from blue skies!) I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of concern about the day. My emotions are strongly affected by weather and it was way too calm and way to gray out there!  Still, with a plan to stick along the shoreline and my rational brain telling me the weather would clear, I was ready to get out and enjoy the day.

Sue in her Betsie Bay Valkarie and I in my Rockpool Alaw Bach , were soon rolling up and down with the soft flow of the lake and heading toward the first headland we could see.

As we worked our way across the bay, the blue skies we had left before began to make their appearance behind us as they worked their way over the distant hills. Even though I knew it was coming, I was happy to see the advancing blue sky.  In fact, by the time we reached the first tall cliffs, the fog was breaking up and the sun began to peak though, casting amazing shadows on the hills above us.


One of the arches along the coast


Derrick below the stack

Now the real problem when Sue and I go paddling, is that we never cover any distance, especially when the shoreline is full of interesting little nooks and crannies. (Not to mention the wildlife!) Even at our very first stop, we had a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree above us! I mean, how can you keep paddling when there’s an eagle to be watched? Over the course of our day… (Well, a failed to mention that we spent the early morning paddling and exploring Lake Fanny Hooe before heading to Bete Gris…), So over the course of our partial day, we only covered about 7 miles out and back, our midway point being an amazing sea stack just south-west of Bare Bluff. As I said, we puddle when we paddle and this chunk of Keeweenaw shoreline is full of little nooks, outcrops, arches, pebble beaches, and tall cracks wide enough to slip your kayak into just for a peak.  At the point where we turned back, I could see even more standing rocks and dark coves in the distance. We certainly need to get back and explore further.

Check out our Photo Gallery here or the slideshow below…

Photos by Derrick Mayoleth & Sue Johansen…

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