Paddlers conquer the Leelanau Peninsula | GO

TRAVERSE CITY — The Leelanau Peninsula’s nickname “Land of Delights” could be “Waters of Delight,” if you ask Jon Constant and Larry Burns.

Constant, retired teacher and boys basketball coach at Traverse City Central, and Burns, retired head counselor from Traverse City West, exchanged the halls of learning for open waters. The kayakers spent three years paddling the Leelanau Peninsula’s entire shoreline — one day trip at a time.

The kayaking bug hit about 15 years ago. They answered the call of local lakes. The duo took on sections of the Leelanau Peninsula’s 100-mile Lake Michigan coast over the past three years before deciding to leave no shore unexplored.

“It became our goal this year to complete the quest,” Constant said.

Their 15 Leelanau pleasure expeditions each spanned about 12 miles over five hours. The final stretch in August, fulfilling the multiyear mission, traced the beaches from Glen Haven to Port Oneida.

“I’ve been here since 1972. I knew how pretty it was, but when you get out on the water to pristine places — it’s so beautiful,” Constant said.

Kayaking provides a new perspective when viewing favorite sites, he added. Seeing Sleeping Bear dunes and Pyramid Point from the water is a different spectacle than viewing them from their peaks.

The two never paddle out more than a mile from shore, which gives Constant opportunities to capture the vistas with his iPhone.

It’s the water clarity, wildlife and lakeside architecture that stirs Burns. Burns first became hooked on paddling on kayaking whale-watching adventures near the San Juan Islands off Washington State. He brought his passion back to Michigan and the old Boardman pond where he once lived.

“I really feel fortunate living in northern Michigan,” Burns said. “For a kayaker, it’s heaven.”

The two have conquered Leelanau, Grand Traverse and much of Benzie county waters one paddle at a time.

“We’re running out of places,” Burns said. “Jon’s the geographer of the duo. There’s not much we haven’t covered in northwest Michigan.”

Constant said they’ll likely return to visit their favorite places — maybe sooner rather than later because they’re not yet putting their kayaks into winter storage. Last year they paddled past Thanksgiving.

“As it gets into fall we hope…

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