Before you put your paddle in the Boardman River, revamp your definition of proper picnic food by checking out the super-tasty, inventive sandwiches crafted fresh while you wait at Mustard's (202 E. State St., 231-929-0700). Forget run-of-the-mill standards like ham and cheese - at this eclectic breakfast-and-lunch joint, your options include masterpieces like the Gangsta Wrapper, with feta, artichoke hearts and veggies topped with a cucumber herb dressing. Make the meal complete by tossing a few of Mustard's monstrous Rice Krispie treat bars and some bottled sodas in your cooler, then round up the crew and hit the road.
Your canoe awaits at Ranch Rudolf (6841 Brown Bridge Rd., 231-947-9529, ranchrudolf.com), 20 minutes from downtown. Drive south out of Traverse City on Garfield Road; about 10 miles down, turn left onto Hobbs Highway, and in approximately one mile stay left at the fork. Turn right at Ranch Rudolf Road and follow the signs. Choose your adventure - a four-mile trip is about one and a half hours; a nine-mile trip is about three and a half hours. Trips are scheduled every hour on the hour, so if you arrive with time to spare, poke around this 195-acre resort that also offers horseback riding, fly fishing, lodging, camping and much more. A stop in the ranch's general store will help get you the lay of the land - and any forgotten provisions.
The Boardman is spunky but not rough, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to relax and watch for wildlife. Be on the lookout for beavers, muskrats, deer and other riverside residents as you follow the water's path. Don't forget to peer below your canoe, too - the Boardman is a designated Blue Ribbon trout stream. When you're ready for those sandwiches, the river's sandbars and grassy banks are all picnic-perfect. Sit back, chow down and let the river work its magic.
Emily Bingham is assitant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
Note: This article was first published in April 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.