No question is ever too silly to ask us, but we've collected some of the most common questions here. Hopefully we've covered them all, but if not, submit your burning question using the "Contact Us" page!
What about the weather?
We can't control the weather and conditions can change during a trip, but we can hike, paddle, and bike in the rain—but not thunderstorms. We will always err on the side of caution if weather, wind, or waves are too dangerous for the activity. Caving trips will always be cancelled during rain events since water in the cave is directly linked to the Hendrie river and rain quickly percolates through the karst landscape. If we make the call to cancel a scheduled trip due to incoming weather, we will contact you as soon as we can. We will try to reschedule for another time or date, or refund your trip.
What should I bring?
A positive attitude, water bottle, and water are the big three for all of our trips. More specific packing lists are available for each activity under the "What to Bring" tab on our website (Isle Royale participants will receive a detailed packing list). Know that synthetic clothing will keep you warmer even when wet — cotton does not. Also, if you have a life-threatening allergy or any other medical issues, please make sure to bring along your medications and tell your guide(s) where they are located on your person.
Why do you ask for height and weight ranges for kayak and bike reservations? And why ask about being younger or older than 18 for all reservations?
Bikes and boats come in different sizes and shapes. By having a general idea before you arrive, we can make a pretty good guess as to what equipment is going to best fit you. Having a boat or bike fit you will make your adventure or rental that much better. Think about trying to wear a pair of shoes that are three sizes too big — you'd be an unhappy camper — and we are trying our best to avoid that scenario! As for age, it ensures we have an adult sign a a minor's waiver form or apply a youth trip discount.
What type of things do we see?
Some of that depends on the trip activity you have selected, time of year, and even time of day. But the eastern UP (EUP) has many micro-climates related to proximity to the Great Lakes and the Niagara Escarpment. The area is rich in bio-diversity from shoreline, muskegs, streams, alvars, deciduous forests, karst caves, islands, rocky ledges, and cedar swamps. There are secluded nature preserves that are great for spotting birds, wildflowers, unique aquatic plants, and cool insects like dragon flies.
In the Les Cheneaux islands, there are also beautiful and historic buildings, including boat houses, lining the shores that can only be seen from the water. Antique wooden boats are often out and about in the protected island waterways, and you might even get to see a freighter depending on where you are! The Fiborn Quarry also has abandoned buildings, constructed between 1905 and 1936, to explore.
How far will we go?
Distances covered varies by the group. We are as fast as the slowest person.
Paddling: We will work with paddlers to improve their technique and help them become more efficient on the water. On average, we will paddle between 2–3 miles an hour. And depending on wind direction and waves, we may be slower or faster than that. Most half day trips will average between 3 and 6 miles; full-day trips between 6 and 9 miles (also depends on length of the lunch break).
Hiking: Most nature hikes and birding hikes are done at a rambling pace in order to discuss everything around you. At most, you might cover 3 miles in two hours, but most trips will be closer to 1–2 miles in length. For birding, you may be staying in one general area depending on bird activity in that vicinity. Full-day hikes on Drummond Island are much longer and you should be capable of covering 6-8 miles over uneven terrain. We will make rest stops, but it will be an active day.
Bicycling: The trip to Maxton Plains covers roughly 14 miles at a relaxed pace, but more areas of Drummond can be explored depending on the group. The plains are warm due to the radiating Alvar pavements – bring extra water in the summer!
Is it customary to tip my guide(s)?
Our guides take great pride in making your adventure memorable and fun. Although tips are not required, guides deeply appreciate being recognized for their great service. Same as tipping your restaurant server, amounts range between 10–20% of your total trip cost. On multi-day trips, guests have sometimes calculated a daily gratuity and given their guide(s) an amount on the last day. If your trip has more than one guide, guides will share.
Do I have to wear a life jacket (PFD)?
Yes. No ifs, ands, or buts. PFDs save lives, and most fatalities occur when people aren't wearing a PFD. Accidents happen, so be prepared!
Are kayaks tippy?
Kayaks are designed to edge on their sides which assist paddlers with turning a boat. They can indeed tip over, but to lessen the chances of that happening, we will spend time introducing basic bracing skills and practicing before we depart on the trip. Some boats, like tandems, are more stable and we will try to match boats to people by their heights and weights. We can’t guarantee you won’t unintentionally tip a boat, but having a guide with you means you have someone with you who is able to assist in getting you back in a boat as efficiently as possible.
Will I be cold when paddling?
We supply wet suits when the water is colder and have additional clothing recommendations on the "What to Bring" page, but paddling is an activity and your moving will keep you surprisingly warm. Even if the air temperature is cooler, just like taking a brisk walk on a chilly day, you might find yourself too warm if you are wearing too heavy a coat or too many layers. And the PFD (life jacket) will be like wearing a coat. All of our sea kayaks are equipped with seats so you are not sitting directly on the bottom of the boat. In Michigan, regardless of the activity, dressing in layers and having some options are always wise. All sea kayaks have waterproof hatches that you can stash extra clothing in if needed. If we tell you that wet suits are needed, you must wear them for your comfort and most importantly — safety. Once the waters warm up in the summer, they are not required but are optional for guests.
Will I be hot when paddling?
If you are hot, you are surrounded by water! Dip your hands in, dunk your hat, take a quick dip in your clothes during a shoreline break. There are many ways to cool off.
What’s it like in the cave?
Caves can be either wet or dry, and the karst caves we visit are classified as wet. The caves are always moist and cool, averaging between 50˚–60˚ F, even in the summer. The amount of water in the cave depends greatly on what the weather has been like in recent days, but can be anywhere from 0–2 feet in depth. The more rain, the more water may be in the cave. Always expect wet feet and mud — so old clothes are recommended. Avoid cotton if possible since cotton will make you cold once it is moist and wet; this includes jeans. The caves are also very dark once away from the entrances and you will be equipped with a headlamp (and a helmet to protect your head since you can’t see every rock in the dark!).
On Isle Royale, what is the difficulty of the hiking and kayaking?
The hiking and kayaking excursions range from easy to moderate with no prior experience necessary. Some parts of the trails can be rugged with rocks and roots as well as some steep incline/decline. The hikes can range from 1–4 miles. As for the kayaking, we keep our trips within semi-protected bays and inlets, but even they can get windy with choppy waves (1–2 feet). We constantly assess the wind, water, and weather conditions, and will adjust our trips accordingly.