Canoe Trips



For me, the annual canoe trips were the highlight of the summer. In my three years, I did the Big Manistee (The "beginner's" river - had to paddle the last few miles!), the Pere Marquette (Famous name, but not the same river as in all the books), and the Bear River. I never got to do the Pine River, which was supposed to be the ultimate, and I believe a fifth river used was the "Little Manistee."

I can remember reaching our final destination a day early on the Pere Marquette, a place called "Baldwin Bridge," which was a wooden planked crossing that rattled every time a car crossed. In the middle of the night, a passing car's driveline separated, the front end caught the approach to the bridge, and really jacked the car around. It seems like Ross Taylor accompanied us on that trip.

I can remember dehydrated "Trail Mix" Chicken and Rice cooked in Sexton Food cans being served, and some kind of watery syrup served on pancakes for breakfast.

I can't remember what we did for a full day until "pick-up" time.

On the way back to camp, on more than one trip, we would stop at Glover's Lake Ranger Tower. We may even have stopped at the start of another Group's trip, and transfered the canoes, but not sure about that.

We used the Camp's small "pup tents" which lacked floors, and probably offered little shelter from the weather. I never remember encountering rain on any of the trips.

It seems like we were on the trips for a full week, but I doubt if they included more that 2 - 3 nights.


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I've always had fond memories of a couple of canoe trips. The fast water. The snakes. It's something I never did outside of summer camp, but it really was fun. Learning how to 'properly feather the paddle' and all that. I really felt proud of learning how to paddle 'correctly'.

Sailing was another summer camp thing that I dreamed of (and still do) but never did outside of summer camp. To this day what I was taught about sailing at Tosebo and Culver (another summer camp I attended - my older brothers went there so I was to follow in their footsteps so to speak for a couple years) I remember. Those were really fun times.

Another thing I liked about Tosebo was its reverence for what we now call Native Americans. There was a seriousness about it.

I learned a lot in summer camps. I remember one year I accused my parents of just wanting to get me out of the way for a month or two. My dad said "Well, that's part of it. Off you go!" Tosebo was the first summer camp I went to. I can remember the drive up. My parents got a motel room in Traverse City or something if I remember the trip correctly. We were coming from Kentucky.



That's what our parents threatened us with if we missbehaved over the winter!

My Marietta, Ohio, childhood friend wrote the classic letter home to his parents, "Frankly, Culver has nothing to offer me!", and asked to be sent up to Tosebo!


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My brothers both liked Culver and I didn't mind it. I guess we didn't see it as punishment, but the military theme was a bit much. Tosebo was much more a summer camp per se, but I did like Culver. I wanted to go to school there, but my dad didn't think it was 'the best place for me' to go through high school so I went to our local public school as did all the family. He said he wanted us to have a taste of what the military is like (dad was a doctor in WWII and really hated the military).

Strong Bow

The Big Manistee was like paddling in the lake without any wind. I looked forward to the the Pine which was supposed to be a half day of paddling, overnight stop, day of paddling to Peterson's Bridge for overnight camping, and then a short paddle to be picked up.

One year (I'm thinking 64) with Steve Christian and Doug Parmenter in charge, we paddled all the way to Peterson Bridge the first day, relaxed and swam for a day, and then hung a ceremonial garbage can from the bridge. THen we told Hal some bad guys stole all our tent ropes. THe can swayed so gracefully from the end of 75 feet of rope fragments. Dave


Canoeing Today

Somewhat off the subject of TOSEBO, but my son and I just completed (July 2002) an 80 mile trip on the "Wild and Scenic" Lewis and Clark section of the Missouri River in Montana. (We did it in a small "Jet Boat" - as I have found that modern Canoes just aren't as big as they used to be in the 1950's!) It was somewhat of a "pain" to plan and arrange, but a good river to "float" or paddle, and beautiful, isolated scenery! We have "canoed" the small Jordan River through the center of the Salt Lake City valley, which surprisingly appears to be in the middle of a wilderness.

I would imagine that by the end of a canoe trip, I was hoping that I'd never see my "paddling partner" ever again! Especially after that long, open section of the Big Manistee, right at the end!


My first trip down the Pine River was in '53 or '54. A two night event. Put in at Edgetts and were picked up at Grand Stronach Dam. (Originally, the pool behind it must have been 50' deep, but was completely silted in-ankle deep water) I was middleman in canoe with Skip Sage and Dennis Burke-both big guys-canoe was low in water. The first day we canoed through private property-signs posted-we did not leave river. There was a lawsuit reaching the Supreme court about this-"what constitutes a navigable river?" Property owners maintained navigable meant river large enough for motor boats. They considered canoeists tresspassers. We had the river pretty much to ourselves then. When I returned summer of '73 canoes were "stem to stern" near Peterson bridge.

Neil Suits

The canoe trips were one of my favorite parts of Tosebo camp. I went once on the Big Manistee and twice on the Pine River. As others have pointed out, the Big Manistee is a good river for beginners because it is wide and slow. The first day out every canoe swamped at one time or another. I remember thinking that I was in the best (most skilled) canoe because we were the only one that had not capsized. Within minutes of this moment of hubris we sank while getting back into the canoe after a short break. For some reason we had decided to put the canoe straight in on a steep bank. The stern man got in and the canoe went down like a rock. It taught me both boatmanship and humility.
The trips on the Pine River were great fun. It is a narrow river with a fast current. There are sharp turns, numerous logjams and rapids near the end of the trip. I remember putting in on an overcast day just downstream from a small dam. Within about an hour, a hard rain began that kept up for the rest of the day. The bottom of the canoes filled with water and I learned a painful lesson that night about the importance of keeping one’s sleeping gear dry. Apparently there were holes in the bags containing my sleeping bag, and throughout the day, it had soaked up a considerable amount of water. That night I found that there were a few patches that were not wet and I contorted my body to fit on those. I did sleep a few hours, but it was painful lesson that I have never forgotten. The next day was much nicer and, because of the heavy rains, the current was fast and the canoeing was great fun. This was especially true of our descent through the rapids near Peterson Bridge. The rapids thrilled us all and I recall looking over at one camper in another canoe as we plunged over the swales. He (?? Powell?) grinned and shouted “Hot ****!”. Its not that I lived such a sheltered life, but I hadn’t heard that expression before. It was kind of naughty and yet it expressed the moment perfectly. We camped at the end of the rapids and after hanging up our sleeping bags to dry, we went up the river and jumped into the river upstream of the rapids and floated down them with only life preservers on. That was another great thrill. That night after dinner we cleaned our mess kits in the sand of the river. I hadn’t known of the sanitary powers of river sand at the time and I’m not sure it would be a good idea to repeat that method of cleaning today.
My last year (1966) we again went on the Pine River and as usual it was raining cats and dogs. I remember suggesting to Hal Tonkin and one of the counselor’s who accompanied us that I was beginning to believe that they planned the canoe trips to coincide with rain. I knew this was ludicrous, but I was only half joking. However, when I said it, they looked at each other quickly with what seemed to me to be knowing smiles and I became very suspicious. It was kind of an X-files moment. The rain continued the rest of the day and, if anything, increased that night. We had old canvas pup tents and all of them had several holes. Furthermore, there was talk that if you touched the side of the tent, water would start dripping from that spot. We turned on our flashlights and tried it. It was true. Or perhaps it wasn’t true. In fact, it was hard to tell because after a while the tent was leaking from practically everywhere. We were getting soaked and it was only going to get worse. We got up and found that every tent was in the same condition. The only ones who were dry were the two counselors who had cleverly stretched tarps across two canoes to make themselves a makeshift tent. It was the only place that was dry. All thirteen of us had to squeeze into that spot. It was so crowded that we all had to sleep on our sides. Every fifteen minutes someone would call out and we would all turn and face the other direction. I don’t think anyone really slept. One camper became so distressed he began to cry. Another stoically got up, barfed on a tree, and then quietly got back into ‘bed’. At four in the morning we finally got up. What else was there to do. I remember being impressed with the woodsmanship of one of the counselors who had made the fire the previous night. He was a rather gruff guy who I think was normally in charge of the horses. I don’t recall his name. More about him some other time. He showed me how he had built the fire in such a way as to be sure that some coals would survive the wet night. They had, and we had a nice fire within moments. As comfort returned to my bones my respect for this man increased significantly. By the end of the trip all of my clothes and boots smelled of wood smoke because I was constantly drying them in from of the fire. The rain did finally let up and the rapids were all the more exciting because of the increased flow. Two other memories I have of that trip were eating spam on a cracker for lunch (what a god awful meat that is), and one dangerous episode where a camper was sucked under a log jam when his canoe capsized. I shudder to this day thinking about what might have been. However, as usual, all was well.

Neil Suits 1964-66
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