by Katie G., AAAH Intern
On Sunday, June 9th, 2019, we gathered at Delhi Metropark for the annual Ann Arbor Animal Hospital canoe/kayak trip with Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery. It was a perfect day for a trip down the river: pleasantly warm, with cloudy skies that protected our eyes from the sun. Our group began trickling in around 9 AM, and by 10 AM we were on a bus, windows down to enjoy a cool summer breeze as we headed up the river to Skip’s Hudson Mills launching site. Many employees brought their children along (two and four-legged), as well as spouses and close friends.
Grey Skies and Smooth Sailing
Once we reached the launching site, the friendly folks from Skip’s helped us select our vessels (canoes and kayaks). They made sure we were ready, then eased us off the gravelly shoreline and into the Huron River. As luck would have it, there had recently been a fair bit of rain so the water level was high and it was smooth sailing!
There were a few small rapids, enough to be fun for the kids without feeling like your watercraft was going to capsize. A number of overhanging trees dangled out from the lush riverbanks, just barely dipping their branches into the water. I personally drove poor Dr. Barnhart right into one of those overhanging trees (I still feel bad about that) while I was distracted by some beautiful lily pads, but in her characteristically amiable way, she waved it off with a smile and insisted it had been her fault.
We only saw one turtle this time (on brighter days I’m told we average close to one hundred), though a particular heron made several appearances, sailing over the treetops and swooping across the river. We also saw a number of smaller birds (like cardinals and blue jays) hopping among the reeds, and a plethora of dragonflies. The mosquitoes, thankfully, were quite sparse.
The journey down the river was relaxing, the current pulling us along at a sufficiently smooth pace which permitted us the luxury of choosing whether we would prefer to paddle or simply drift along, drinking in the park’s natural beauty. Meanwhile, Dr. Figarra and her two adult daughters had planned entertainment for the group. They had themed periods throughout the voyage such as Pirate Hour and British Tea Time, and they regaled us with melodic renditions of maritime favorites such as… uh… There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.
Mid-way down the river, we pulled our canoes and kayaks in for lunch. Dr. Linda Griebe (the owner of the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital since 1982) and her husband were waiting for us there, and they’d prepared a feast: freshly grilled bratwurst, hamburgers and veggie burgers, as well as potato salad, baked beans, potato chips, lemon cake and some delectable brownies (that Dr. Griebe fretted over having made “too gooey”, as if there were such a thing). They continued to tend the grill throughout, making sure there was plenty to go around. After refreshing ourselves with some iced lemonade and all the food we cared to eat, we chit-chatted for a while, then pushed our vessels back into the river and were off once more!
We paddled back to the canoe livery’s pebbly shores by about 2 PM, tired but jovial. Skip’s employees assisted in getting our mighty boats ashore for the final time, and the annual canoe trip was over. We said our farewells and went our separate ways, but will always share the memory of that grey summer day!