This is the 2nd part of a two post series. See part one here! Make sure to subscribe, refer your friends, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Also check out our official Michigan Dawn Patrol T-shirt merchandise which help support this blog and the cost of maintaining the Lake Michigan webcams.
…I woke up at twilight the next day and walked outside the motel. My wetsuit was hanging on the bench near our room, half frozen, and I brought it back inside the small hotel room at the Motor Inn to finish drying while we packed up. I checked the wind meter at Fairport on the Garden Peninsula and it was going off at 18-20 knots. This was the best wind we had seen yet this trip. Fairport is roughly 1.5 hrs. from Manistique so we got on the road as quickly as we could.
The Garden Peninsula is scenic and sparsely populated. We thought there may be some riding spots along the way to Fairport, so first we stopped at Fayette Historic State Park. This is an old smelting town turned State Park and there are still remnants of the old buildings on the property. We checked out the bay which was calm. The high water levels made it impossible to access the lake Michigan shoreline, so we got back on the road.
When we arrived in Fairport, we started to get excited. The water was rippling and flat with a small amount of chop. Fairport is a tiny rural town with a boat graveyard on the southern tip. Unfortunately, there was no public access anywhere in the town. There was a private field that would have worked to launch from, but it was marked no trespassing and we couldn’t find anyone to ask permission for access. So far, we had driven 1.5 hours and found wind but no way to ride.
We studied the map some more and found a small rustic campground on the East side of the peninsula named Portage Bay Campground. This park was very remote and required traversing some gnarly two tracks, but it was a beautiful location. The State Park was on a small bay and the wind was anywhere from 5-15 knots. We hiked through the rocky Ninga Aki Pathway with large white pines, cedars, and balsams to the western point. We could have taken turns riding here with some steady wind, but it was another sketchy launch area with water all the way up to the trees in most locations. On the one hand we had just discovered an awesome camping spot, on the other hand we were slightly defeated having driven so far and not found a place to go kiting.
Back on the road to Manistique we finally got enough internet service to check the wind meters again. Manistique was now blowing 17-19 and had been since shortly after we left in the morning for Fairport. We knew there was a good launch in Manistique so we headed back as quickly as we could and hoped the wind would hold.
We got to the main beach in Manistique and the wind was still in the mid to upper teens. We pumped the big kites and got ready. While getting ready we met a local stand up paddle boarder. He was excited that we were there to ride with him because evidently there aren’t many kiters or stand up paddle boarders that frequent Manistique.
We launched and headed out to Lake Michigan. The wind was mostly on shore and it took a few tacks to get beyond the shore break. The water was cold and dark brown from the tannins flowing out of the Manistique river. The wind direction allowed us to kiteboard a long way along the shoreline off highway 2. There was a nice little sand bar with some kickers just to the east of the main launch area. We could see our motel room from the water. Passerby’s were stopping to watch and take pictures. By late afternoon the wind was starting to come down. We took our time packing up, enjoying, the sunny weather, and even trying out the standup paddle board in the waves. I put my hoodie towel on in the parking lot to get changed, feeling satisfied about finally getting in a good sesh.
It was Saturday night and Matt and I decided to go back down to the lower peninsula. The wind forecast for Manistee was shaping up nicely for a big classic north and the fun sesh had recharched our batteries enough to make the 5-hour drive. We arrived in Manistee around 9PM and stopped at the Manistee Brewery for dinner. My dad, who couldn’t make the trip this year, met us for dinner. We reminisced about the UP and then went to the Lakeshore motel to unpack and get ready for Sunday.
It was dark and drizzly when I woke up Sunday morning. There were lights moving on the pier which made my heart sink as I knew the surf fishermen were already out and we’d have to share the space with them. On the bright side it was windy out of the Northwest in the 20-25 knot range and the rain was expected to stop soon. We ate a tasty takeout breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs, and toast from House of Flavors before getting ready to go out on the water.
We went across the street from the motel to the beach and by the time we were setup there were fishermen surfcasting every open spot on the beach and the pier. Major bummer! High water levels made the situation worse because there is very little room between the dune and water line to get out into the water on the south end of the beach. I went and introduced myself to the two closest fishermen to let them know we’d be kiting and that we’d try to stay out of the way of their lines. One guy was cool while the other guy seemed put off and asked why we didn’t go to 5th Ave. I explained to him that it was the same reason he was at 1st, conditions here are better bruh!
Manistee should have been the highlight of the trip but it turned into a bit of a letdown. The fishermen had boxed us into a small area to kite, so we were really restricted when it came to riding waves. A northwest wind is also more onshore in Manistee so along with the fishermen we were fighting the waves to get where we wanted to go. In general, I think the high-water levels have hurt the wave action in Manistee. It used to be my favorite spot to ride on a North but the waves now break further south and are not as clean as they used to be. My father joined us for a while on the stand up paddle board which was great considering he couldn’t make it on the rest of the trip.
By late morning we had our fill of Manistee and landed our kites in the sand, still damp from the rain the night before. We had some fun moments out there in Manistee boosting and hitting the surf but had grown tired of fighting for riding space. I got in my car which was packed to the roof with wet kiteboarding gear, and took one final look at Lake Michigan as I rounded the parking lot. I left the beach feeling satisfied(and sore). The 2019 kite trip had turned into an excellent adventure to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had great food, good wind, and met some interesting people along the way. I had made enough memories to get me through another cold winter in Michigan and to imagine where 2020 might take me…
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