2014 was a pretty good year as far as Johnny Panther Quests goes. I still had to work hard to try and pay the bills, but spent a lot of time sharing the “Everglades of Michigan” with others. Thanks goes out to the crew from a show called Under the Radar- Michigan. They did some incredible editing to expose us in a positive light, and it struck a chord with the viewers.
For years I have told my wife; “This is gonna be the year!” and it hasn’t been. 2014 signifies the twentieth of Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips! I know my Dad and Don are up there smiling, and proud to see that I have stuck with it through thick and thin- MOSTLY thin. I have been under pressure for years now to “get a real job” and Johnny Panthering is “just a hobby”. This year I have proven that it is something more than that, and my guests have reinforced my feelings on every trip!
I have really dropped the ball on my blog lately. A combination of time versus chores and must dos. Here is a link to a post that was shared with Pure Michigan via the Great Lakes Bay Region. It is a little more polished than what I usually put out, but certainly gets the point across. I think we are about 2 weeks away from getting back into the "Everglades of Michigan". Until then, here is a teaser for what is in store! Happy St. Patrick's Day to those who stumble across this blog...
It has been quite a spring. You know I am busy when you don’t see many blog posts. I have been diverting most of my time to Johnny Panther Quests page on FaceBook, and posting crappy videos of beautiful scenery on YouTube under Mrlaidbacklenny. I am going to try and catch those who read this up with links to video captured and compiled- unfortunately images do not do justice to scenes and adventures we have experienced.
I will try and share some links to recent video as time permits with a little bit of verbiage thrown in for good measure. I was blessed to have a few hard core guest out this spring when the water was raging. It you read these posts often you know the best time to go is when you are breathing, and the second best time is when the water is high!
On this trip it rained and blew, at one point I think we even had some freezing rain. After the challenging weather which created white caps in the wide part, we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow and sunshine as we made our way through the “narrow part”. When it floods this time of year it is very hard on the wildlife, and it is sometimes heart wrenching to watch the struggles encountered. I appreciate you taking the time to read these posts, and encourage comments or questions. The Shiawassee Flats is my playground, and I love to educate and share it with others.
I explored some new water this week. The Grand and Red Cedar Rivers in Lansing. They are having a “Fish Rodeo” in June and invited me to run boat tours during the event. I was disappoint in the recon because we have had a ton of rain and the rivers were raging, but I did gain some valuable knowledge and see some cool stuff. The highlight was a great blue heron rookery.
I journeyed through the backyards of old industries and wondered about their history. There was a walking path next to the river and I asked nearly every pedestrian how much higher the water was running than normal- no one had a clue! Looking at the bridges I wasn’t sure if my big boat will fit underneath them, we will soon find out.
My reward was at the far end of the Red Cedar, at least as far as I could get! A great blue heron rookery was spaced out in several trees across the river. There were birds in most of the nests and they were not impressed with my intrusion upon their inner sanctum! The river was beautiful and wild looking. If was the stuff I dream of and it was hard to navigate the current and take pictures at the same time.
I could have spent hours up there watching the water and herons go by. I had to get back to pick up a guest who would show me the lay of the land, so to speak of downtown Lansing. I would be selling boat tours to anyone with a desire to see what lies upstream hidden from everyday life. Now I had a destination to offer, a jewel surrounded by suburbia.
If we are able to get all the way up there in June, I am sure things will have changed dramatically. The rookery will be nearly invisible and the chicks will be near or have fledged. Hopefully it will be a little warmer too. Certainly the water will be lower and navigation will be borderline at best- That’s why I call them adventure trips! If it was easy with no challenge, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. On that dreary, rainy afternoon I learned something new. Even after twenty years of doing boat tours professionally, I still get goose bumps and occasionally feel a surge of adrenaline every now and then. This what happens when I Eliminate stress- and get out of the mainstream and go on a “Quest”!
A woman once told me; “Don’t wish your life away!” I used to work in an office and was always wishing for Friday. She told me a story of how her son lost a good friend to a motorcycle accident on a Friday, and that I should appreciate the moment I am in. I miss being out in the “swamp” and riding my motorcycle in the dirt, but I appreciate the relative warmth this twenty degree day brings along with the morning spent with my son- even though he is playing video games in his bedroom.
This time a few years ago we were already out breaking ice into the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, this year the ice is still measured in Feet! My boats are buried under snow, and my bike is buried in the garage, still blown up from last fall. I have had plenty of time to reorganize and get ready for the upcoming season of boat tours, but still feel behind the curve. As I sift through my office I’m easily distracted by all of the images accumulated over the last forty years. To think I have over five years of digital images alone. I am trying to post a new image daily on Johnny Panther Quests FaceBook page. Not all of my images are of ecotours, but most are of an adventure of one sort or another.
This year is our twentieth season of running tours by boat and I am extending an invitation to all of my past guests and their referrals, offering a twenty dollar discount per trip. It is cool to come across old notes I’ve made and thank you letters from the past guests who jog my memory- then I have to go into the archives and find images from that particular trip. It is no wonder I can’t stay on task! We have come a long way from the first year guiding in a little fourteen foot flat bottom boat to where we are today.
I am hopeful that the water will be back up this year at least for a little while, and am looking forward to the high water adventures this spring will certainly offer. If you are reading this and like pushing your comfort zone or know someone who does, I encourage you to line up a trip for when the ice breaks up. I guarantee it will be a memorable and exciting experience. As always, the best time to go is when you are breathing, and the second best time is when the water is high! If you are on FaceBook, please like Johnny Panther Quests and check out the images dredged up from the archives. Each picture is worth a thousand words and there are probably some smiles, a story, and aadrenaline rush behind them!