Mission Point Press, Traverse City, Mich.
Cart 0

Jon R. Constant

Jon Constant enjoyed a 38-year career teaching social studies and coaching football and basketball at Traverse City Central High School. Larry Burns was his varsity assistant coach, as well a counselor at Central, later lead counselor at West High School.

Q&A with author Jon R. Constant

How long have you been kayaking? How did you first get into it?
I bought my first kayak in the 1990s to use primarily on Cedar Lake where we have our family home. About 10 years later I upgraded to a 11.6 Hurricane Santee and began to explore other inland lakes and rivers and once in a while Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay. After retiring from 38 years of teaching and coaching at Traverse City Central High School, I had more time to enjoy kayaking.

Do you have a favorite place to kayak?
There are so many special places in the Grand Traverse area that are great for a paddle that it is difficult to choose one—but if I had to pick one it would be the day trip from Empire to Glen Haven. The experience of paddling in front of the massive Sleeping Bear Dunes is amazing. You have to carefully select the day for optimal conditions, but going from the lookout at the Pierce Stocking trail to Sleeping Bear Point is as good as it gets. Just being in a small kayak with several miles of a 400-foot high wall of sand on one side and the open expand of beautiful Lake Michigan punctuated with the two Manitou Islands in the distance is really something to see and feel.
A favorite house?  
After each day trip I put a few collections of pictures on Facebook for my friends to see. Often one of the groupings of pics are a few of the amazing lakefront estates and homes that we paddled by that day.  One of the advantages of kayaking is that you get to see these places that usually can’t be seen from the road. I really can’t pick a top favorite, but I will say that I am partial to a smaller green house on Cedar Lake that isn’t too far east of the boat launch. 
A favorite beach?
We see lots of great beaches when we launch our boats, like the beaches at Otter Creek south of Empire, the Empire Beach, Glen Haven, Good Harbor, And Christmas Cove, But my favorite was Vann’s Beach just south of Fishtown in Leland. We were launching from there one quiet and spectacular morning while a guy was playing his flute for a woman doing some yoga and that made for a very unique experience as we paddled away from shore to a surreal soundtrack.
How long did it take you to do the research for the book, get maps and pictures? Were you scribbling and paddling at the same time?
I had a rough outline of the book in my head and a lot of books, maps, and pamphlets in my collections. I also received some excellent ideas and direction from Heather Lee Shaw at Mission Point Press. The pictures were all mine and were stored in “yearly albums” on my iPad and laptop computer. It helped a lot that the pics included dates and times. Paddling, taking in the views, and taking lots of pics doesn’t leave much time for writing in a kayak — and I don’t recommend it.  There is plenty of time to reflect and write when you get home.
How did you end up with ads in the back of the book? And what’s this about a free kayak?
I was exploring getting some sponsors for my book to help with some of the start-up costs, etc. and I thought it would be a good fit for the Hurricane Kayak Company in North Carolina and Backcountry North where both Larry and I had purchased some of our kayaks.  I thought that with the product placement in many of the pictures that it was a win-win. I have been sending pictures of our kayak adventures to Hurricane for several years, some they used for their brochures and Facebook page. Hurricane responded by suggesting a kayak in exchange for a one page ad. My wife Mary was looking for a sit-on-top kayak for Cedar Lake so we settled on a Skimmer 12.6. A wi-win-win.  The BackcountryNorth ad likely will result in a stand-up board that Mary was also thinking about getting. Needless to say, Mary has always been very supportive of my book but never more so than now.
What was Larry Burns’ role?
Larry and I have been friends for over 35 years. We were on the same teaching staff and coached basketball together for a few years. I can’t remember who first came up with the idea of kayaking together — but whoever it was, it turned out to be a great idea. We have paddled probably thousands of miles together and seen some incredible sights along the way. He is the more experienced kayaker and shares my interest in exploring the waters of Northwest Michigan. As I mention in the book, it is important for convenience and safety’s sake to paddle in pairs or small groups. It is also more fun to share experiences and memories. Larry had a huge role because I never would have done what we accomplished alone.
What parts of actually putting the book together did you like best? What did you like least?
I really had a lot of fun putting the book together. I really enjoyed looking through my pictures and recalling the moments in which they were taken and seeing the beauty captured in each moment. It was also fun to research some of the history, geology and other tidbits of information about the places we paddled and the place I call home. I enjoyed waking up early, putting on some music and sitting down at my laptop and try to tell our story. Again, it was so helpful to have Mission Point Press help guide me in my first book.  

There aren’t many things I disliked about writing my book, but I guess one of them was not being able to use some of my pictures that I really thought were also amazing shots and deserved to be in the book. Another thing that became difficult was finding enough words that are synonymous with “beauty” or “gorgeous” when describing what we saw as we paddled around and in Leelanau. 
The pictures are great. Have you always been a photographer? Any photo tips for people who want to take pictures as nice as yours?
Thanks for the wonderful compliment, but no, I’m not an expert photographer at all. I have watched a few online videos on how to take better pics with an iPhone, but mostly I have just taken a lot of photos and found a few things that work best for me. A few tips:
  • Try to hold the “camera” steady and time the waves, if any.
  • Tap the viewer on the iPhone to set the focus where you want it.
  • Don’t take pics in the direction of the sun.
  • Compose the pic in your mind before the shot.
  • Take lots of pics with a lot of variety of views and subjects.
  • (I should add another one, which is to find a better photographer than me for advice.)
Why did you write this book and how long have you wanted to write it?
I have to admit that I haven’t seriously taken up the idea to write a book on kayaking Leelanau until fairly recently. I have been putting out yearly Shutterfly or Sam’s Club photo books for Larry and myself to look at in the off-season, but I began to think others might also be interested in what we had done and seen. Then in the summer of 2017 two things happened that increased my interest in doing this book. Number one, Larry and I completed our goal of paddling all of Leelanau’s 100-mile Great Lake shoreline (we had already paddled most of Leelanau’s lakes and rivers). Secondly, I saw the book about hiking the trails along M-22 on a table in a beautiful home in Alden on Torch Lake while on a Home and Cottage Tour and I thought, “I could do a book somewhat like that — only from a kayak just offshore from those same trails. With the help of Mission Point Press, my book became a more than a picture book with few words about that beautiful 100-mile shoreline. It still has plenty of pictures, but also trips to Leelanau’s beautiful inland lakes and rivers, some tips on kayaking and a few more details about the history and natural features of the peninsula called “Michigan’s Little Finger."

In conclusion, I guess the main reasons I wrote the book were to express my love of Leelanau’s beauty as seen from a kayak and to leave a legacy of that passion. I hope my book reflects both of those things.