A Day on the South Branch of the AuSable River – November 29, 2006
It was a misty, hazy, warm morning today as I put my canoe in southeast of Grayling at Chase Bridge. As my luck would have it the downpour started as I took my first strokes with the paddle. Thankfully it only lasted a few minutes and I had my rainsuit on anyways. This is a trip I have been wanting to do for a long time and nothing was going to stop me. I went only a short distance and stopped to read this sign on the side of the river:
The Mason Tract
Sportsmen slow your pace. Ahead lies the fabled land of the south branch. Here generations of fishermen have cast a fly on one of the great trout streams of America. Hunters to have roamed these hills in the solitude so bountifully offered, the land is rich in tradition and stands ready to renew your soul. Tread lightly as you pass and leave no mark, go forth in the spirit of George W. Mason whose generous gift has made this forever possible. This stretch has been a part of Grayling’s history. George Mason died in 1954 and donated over 4500 acres of his property to be enjoyed by the people of Michigan.
I continued on down the river and not 15 minutes downstream I came across 3 deer. The only problem is that they were on the right side of the canoe and I had my bow and arrow… its hard enough to try to shoot out of a canoe but if you shoot right handed its about impossible to do, not to mention the fact the current picked up with a big sweeper coming out towards me, so off the deer went.
Just a bit further I could hear the sound of rushing water and thought that didn’t sound good. I could see a huge tree down across the river and couldnt get slowed down in time, I kind of got between a couple limbs and got myself pushed over and by it o.k. It was a giant cedar that looked like it had been recently splintered by lightning.
Just floating through there gives you lots of time to think. In the hustle bustle world of everybody hurrying around its nice to take in the things you take for granted or never really think about. The whoosh of the air from the wings of a blue heron taking off in front of you, the hoot of an owl, countless ducks flying off in front of you. The patter of little birds’ feet on limbs that in the intense quietness sound loud.
I decided it was time to stop and stretch and have a sandwich and saw a spot up ahead to pull out. As I got out of the boat I looked over at the ground and thought I saw a cell phone laying on the bank. I walked over and picked it up and it was a GPS. I turned it on and was surprised to see that I actually knew who owned it. It was a kid from town here. I am sure he will be happy to get it back…. So after a rest there it was back on the river. I made many stops and took a few walks through the forest looking for more deer but never saw another one all day. You have to be ready to move fast if you do see one, but at one point there was a partridge sitting on a stump just off to my left. I quick switched to a bird arrow and sent one flying at him, hoping for partridge for dinner, but it sailed right by him missing by a few inches… That was my only shot of the day… but it didn’t matter one bit as it was just great being out there.
About 4 hours into the trip I came up on the Mason Chapel and stopped there to go up to the chapel and have another sandwich and you know after I ate I felt like I had such a hard day that I needed a nap under a big pine by the chapel. I had pulled the canoe up on the chapel dock so it was fine.
What a great way to spend the day. Silence, thinking, and just enjoying a simple thing as great as mother nature. Floating through all that made me think of a story that my friend Charlie Kroll had written in the early 90s about the river. Thinking of that story made me think that could have been written even today.
After 7 hours on the river I made it to Smith Bridge and my truck. A day well worth it……. Thanks for checking in. Pete