Monday, November 5, 2007

Fall Floods and Surf

It was not convenient, that as I began medical school, the sky poured forth and the rain began to fall again. It rained almost daily and created flood stage conditions that could not be left aside by any kayaker. As the storms of October first came in the blew steady winds to the shores of Duluth. The waves swelled and there was surf to be had. I first learned to kayak and roll in big surf, and was almost a comfortable homecoming to be back in it . I got out on park point first where 5 footers where rolling in with. I was intent upon working past the break line and hitting the big rogue waves. My afternoon was highlighted by a 9 ft wave that warranted a whoop as I bounced violently down it's face, and carved into it's curl. I spun out giving it a go backwards and forwards as it took me for a 150 yard ride. That was all I needed one gorgeous ride for the night. I went again a week later to Stoney Point where I was able to hit some more wave filled goodness. I paddled until darkness and lightening from the oncoming storming forced me to make land-fall.

That same week it was time to run some creeks. Most people have
creek boats ...made for the task of... creeks. However having put my financial backings into a playboat this year, I put the ever reliable Big EZ up to the task. The six of us boaters decided to warm up on the Knife River. This being my 4 or 5th run of the Knife this year I was pretty familiar with it and had a good time.

A nice little drop on the Knife photo courtesy of Nora

We then decided to step it up a notch and run the Fench River. I had never run the French before, but found it to be a great run. It was a gorgeous river and had many class III slides that made for a good ride. After a run on the French we then decided for a go at Steward River, another unknown river for me. In retrospect, I would have to say that it ranks among my favorite rivers at this point. It is a river with big drops that are just on the edge of my ability level, but alas I feared too much to handle for the Big EZ. They were the kind of drops you portaged around and looked back as you paddled away with the thought just burning inside your brain... "I could have done that drop". Sometimes it's good to leave a challenge for yourself, just waiting for you the next season. We paddled out into Lake Superior in darkness just after twilight and made landfall. It was along and fulfilling day, that ended with a hearty meal and a diet of laughter with friends.

The next morning myself and friend woke up early and hit up the upper St. Louis River at 14, 000 cfs... which is considered BIG WATER. It was incredible, features changed and morphed in unimagineable ways compared to the familiar features I was used to. Often you would have to plan your route through the rapids while on top of a giant roller while losing site of what's ahead while in it's trough at such high water levels. It was better than any roller coaster could offer at the grandest of theme parks. We stopped at a feature entitle "Upstream-Downstream" that at this level created a big surf wave. I jumped in my buddies playboat and went to town. It was a killer run, that kept me hungry for more whitewater

The next weekend I had the burning desire to run the Stoney river. It had a class IV drop, that I had portaged earlier in the season and I was gunning to run it. The Stoney starts up with class III+ right out of the blocks, and after a few drops I was feeling good. We eventually made it to the "Box Drop" which plunged through a narrowed slot to the river 15 feet below. I came over the top of it seeing the horizon line and paddled aggressively knowing there was a descent size hole waiting for me. As ploughed through a rooster tail, my weight was thrown backward as I was blinded by a bursting of water. When I could see again I was on my way for the hole, I dug in deep and attempted to get weight forward as I into it. It turns out that I was thrown sky high into a stern ender, that managed to spit me clear of the hole (which didn't seem dangerously sticky). I quickly rolled up, and raised a fist triumphantly. The rest of the river was more of the same quality river running. It was another great run for the fall season.

The last run of the season; me and Roger surfing 1st Wave

The last day of kayaking for the season was on November 4th, and was a a classic run down the Upper Louie...just to have one more go at it. It was a killer season of paddling, and I await the thaw for continuation of my paddling adventures.

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