Leave the city behind for thickly wooded forests, dusty dirt-packed back roads and a quieter state of mind. The slow waters of the Boardman set the pace for your paddle; glass-bottled beverages and French-inspired finger foods kick the bliss level up another notch.
Forget the foil-wrapped PB&Js of canoe trips past — this time around, treat yourself and your fellow paddlers to more cultured picnic fare. Before you head for the river, find exceptional food-to-go downtown at Patisserie Amie (237 Lake Ave., 231-922-9645). Ham-and-brie sandwiches and rich chocolate cookies were made for eating with your fingers.
Head south on Garfield Road to get to Ranch Rudolph (6841 Brown bridge Rd, ranchrudolf.com), your canoe headquarters for the day. Trips leave every hour on the hour, so budget your time accordingly. Less than 10 miles down Garfield Road, turn left onto Hobbs Highway, stay left at the fork about one mile up, then swing right onto Ranch Rudolph Road and follow the posted signs. At the ranch, mosey up to the canoe rental counter and pick your pleasure: a 4-mile trip at $30 per canoe, or 9-mile trip, $46 per canoe.
Now, let the Boardman River's cool, shallow waters guide you through sunny fields and hushed forests. Watch for wildlife along the banks and under your boat; bring a field guide to help identify nifty plants and critters. Don't get too distracted, though — there are a few challenging spots with tight turns, dead wood patches and low-hanging trees, and no one likes a branch in the face. Just take your time and, when you're hungry, find a sandbar to beach your canoe, dangle your toes in the water and unwrap lunch. As the French would say, c'est si bon — this is so good.
Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in April 2006, and was updated for the web February 2008.