Lake Michigan in a Dugout

Kristin Coppens

| 4 min read

Imagine traversing the entire length of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Now imagine doing that in a hollowed out cottonwood log.
Well, that’s just what best friends Amy Lukas and Mary Catterlin did this summer in a dream of seeing all of Lake Michigan. The journey took a total of 93 days. Below, Lukas answers my questions about their journey, goals, supplies and favorite discovery spots throughout our state’s magnificent shoreline.
Kristin Coppens: What made you want to take this journey?
Amy Lukas: Mary had started to chop away at the cottonwood log and it was starting to take shape. The idea that she was actually doing this and it was actually staring to look like a boat excited us both. We told each other that we had to take the dugout on some big trip. We have both grown up on the shores on Lake Michigan. I have always been drawn to the lake and wanted to see all of it. Literally, all of it. So what would be better than taking this boat around the perimeter of Lake Michigan! A need for adventure led us to seriously start planning the trip.
KC: What essentials did you pack? What did you bring that wasn’t essential but you couldn’t leave home without?
AL: We packed boxes of food, toiletries, memory cards and other essentials to send around the lake to post offices approximately 75-100 miles apart. We packed “non-essentials” such as chocolate bars, watercolors and drawing paper, and friend’s letters, but these ended up being essential in our enjoyment of the trip! We also brought a Frisbee to occupy some down time along the way!
KC: What were your goals along the way?
AL: We aimed to circumnavigate Lake Michigan in 2-3 months. We planned as much as possible for a year before the trip, but with a trip of this sort we didn’t really know what to expect. Our main goal was to have an adventure, challenge ourselves, have fun, and learn something along the way.
KC: What was the hardest part of your journey?
AL: Some of the hardest stretches of the trip were getting past the lake’s industry, island hopping for 40 miles off Door Peninsula, and doing other open water crossings across Little Traverse Bay and Grand Traverse Bay.
KC: What was your favorite spot/city along the way?
AL: Although we know our local beach like the back of our hands, neither of us had seen most of the rest of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, so this was a great eye-opener to the state of the lake in the other bordering states. We came across many different landscapes – some dirtier, some cleaner, some fully populated, some completely secluded, some foreign and strange, some stunningly beautiful and pristine. I especially loved seeing Sleeping Bear Dunes for the first time.
KC: What was something you didn’t expect/prepare for that occurred?
AL: We attempted to cross the Straits and decided to get trailered across by our friend, Larry. After paddling literally in place under the bridge because of the current and wind that day, we looked at the weather forecast for the next few days and the winds weren’t going to let up. Weather was never predictable so we always had to watch it closely. But that was just part of the trip.
KC: What is your favorite thing about Michigan as a whole?
AL: Michigan is full of people who care about the Great Lakes and have a connection with Lake Michigan. One of our favorite, unexpected aspects of the trip was sharing our story with all of the amazing people we met along the way. These people reached out to lend a hand when needed and were beyond generous in helping us accomplish our goal to get all the way around the lake we love so much. Our sense of adventure sparked a common thread in them.
KC: Any future endeavors in the works?
AL: We have come to know the lake as never before and have personally conquered a piece of our home, a piece of ourselves. But we hope to not stop here – we hope that this is only the first of many adventures! No more adventures in Makeba though; the next adventure will hopefully be by a sleeker, faster means. Hiking, sea kayaking, biking – the possibilities are endless. And life is always full of adventures, isn’t it?
Read about Lake MI in a Dugout from Amy and Mary’s perspective here.
What kind of adventure have you always wanted to take in Michigan?
Photo credit: LakeMichiganinaDugout

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