This is a photo of an endangered species! Wil L. Hufton III is the owner/operator of the Johnny Panther Quest Adventure Trips, rated as a "GEM ATTRACTION" of Michigan by AAA. Wil has over thirty years of experience on the trails and waterways of the Saginaw, Michigan area; he can take you places that few people have ever seen.
Our group was led down to the shoreline of the Saginaw River, to find this unusual-looking boat waiting for us. It was custom-built for the specialized touring that one can do in this location.
This is not a trip for the faint hearted, nor those with physical impairments that would keep them from stepping off of the floating dock and over the seats, to get proper balancing of the pontoon. Likewise, it is "open air", and unprotected from the weather, so it is important to dress accordingly if you are going on this adventure.
The trip starts off calm enough, as you glide along the Saginaw River, and under the pedestrian bridge that leads over to Ojibwa Island, a division of the Saginaw City Park system.
When you are out in the main channel of the river, the water gets a little choppier, as there is less protection from the wind, and more boat traffic.
Captain Hufton steers from the back of the boat, as he gives interesting commentary of the sights the boat is passing. No need for a microphone for all to hear him, due to the compact size of the tour vessel.
In a very short time, we were beyond all traces of "civilization" and entering the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.
Our tour was around supper time, so we enjoyed the box lunches that had been brought aboard to provide a picnic on the water.
The Shiawassee NWR is made up of over 9,000 acres of hardwood forests, rivers, bottomland, marshes, managed pools, fields, and croplands.
The grain growing in this field adjacent to the water, will be an important food source to birds that visit the area, as part of their migratory pattern along the Mississippi River Flyway.
The refuge hosts over 270 species of birds each year, and a listing of these (along with the date they were sighted) can be found on their website at www.fws.gov/midwest/Shiawassee/
These birds were enjoying wading in the shallow waters adjacent to the channel where our boat was cruising through. Their calm demeanor is a reminder of the Bible verse that says "Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds." (Matthew 6:26, The Message)
Besides the water channels, there are areas where one can go ashore (unless a sign is there warning you not to!)
The bird you can see perched on the dead tree branch in this photo is one of many bald eagles we saw during our 3 hour boat trip.
There are sandbars located in some parts of the refuge, and it is the wind direction and wind speed that determine whether or not they are visible.
At one point, our boat got "stuck" on a sand bar, so Captain Hufton got out in his mudboots and scooted us off of it.
However, he was kind enough to take this photo of our group while he was outside the boat, trying to free it from the sand bar.
As we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the water, I remembered the motto printed on the brochure for the Johnny Panther Quests: "Eliminate stress...Get out of the mainstream and go on a Quest!" This trip is something that will take the hard edges off your psyche---sort of soften your outlook on life, just as the edges of this photograph have been softened. If you would like to go on one of these trips, just click on www.jpqat.com to see all the different types of adventures that are possible with Captain Hufton. Likewise, the website www.VisitGreatLakesBay.org will give you many other ideas of fun activities to do while you are in the area. Start a quest of your very own to pursue miles of smiles! Tricia