Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Whitewater Kayaking the Knife River

I awoke disoriented at 8:30, with my body asking, "asking why are you awake"?. I sat in confusion for a moment until my mind answered, "Oh, yeah...we're suppose to go kayaking". I quickly got ready, putting on multiple layers of polypro and neoprene. I ran out the door and packed my kayak and paddle into my buddy's awaiting car. Our plan was to surf Lake Superior in our kayaks.

Looking out the window, the dull grey weather accompanied with the bitter cold 20-30 mph winds and scattered rain would ordinarily seem pretty dreary. However, today I sat nervously excited at the prospect of the morning's adventure. As we drove up the north shore it was clear that the waves were breaking and the ice chunks were dissipating from the shoreline.

When we arrived at Stoney Point things didn't look that great...mushy mediocre waves, very cold winds. So we decided to drive up the shore to check out the knife river and see if it was open and run-able. We were pleasantly surprised at the conditions and decided to give it a run.

I got out of the suburban and setup on the grassy shoreline of the river. I nervously got into my boat and slid into the flowing water. I was well experienced at getting knocked about in surf on the big lake, but rivers were a knew thing to me at this point. So I carefully practiced my technique getting in and out of eddies (calm pools usually behind boulders, trees, ice blocks). As we traveled down river I became more and more comfortable paddling through the swells, waves, and "gnarly" class III rapids. It's like a roller coaster ride: cresting over waves, water rushing up and exploding onto and around you, meanwhile passing boulders and ice chunks.

A small drop on the knife river
(picture courtesy of the Lake Superior Stealhead Assoc.)

During our run, I ran into an unexpectedly hungry hole, that gnashed it's teeth and managed to roll my boat. I stayed calm and attempted to roll... the first attempt..... I missed it, my face never reaching the surface. I set up underwater for another attempt to roll up... a rock hit my helmet'd head.....and....... I rolled up! My buddy congratulated me on my roll and me not popping my skirt and aborting from my kayak (a cold and problematic proposition). We merrily continued down the river without snags, managing to surf a river wave or two.

I carried my boat up out of the river and crossed under the highway bridge grinning to myself as I reached our vehicle. It was another day, another adventure, another reason to love the world I live in!

Tommorrow...the waves will still be crashing, the rivers still rushing... and me still smiling.

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