Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Hucking The Stewart River
My anxiousness to run the Steward stemmed from my previous run of it this fall. After portaging some of the drops on the Steward this Fall (due to lack of a creek boat) my motivation was solidified and led me to buy a creek boat this Spring. In particular, the "Plumber's Crack" on the Stewart was on my tick list of drops to hit this year.
On this day the rivers where running high. The night previous had brought thunder storms and an inch of rain. Upon leaving class and driving over to the river, I could see in passing that the Lester River was looking juicy. Meanwhile, as our crew of paddlers headed Northward to Two Harbors, I mentally prepared myself to hit the "Plumbers Crack" and picked through my memory of the line on it. I drove lost in thought, managing whatever uneasiness that develops when contemplating any significant drop and vamping up a calculated confidence.
Upon arriving at the put-in it was clear that the river was higher than my previous run on it in the fall. However it looked very reasonable. As myself, Roger, Scott, and Anthony paddled down the level was looking good. The first class III slide provided some pushy little holes that require some good maneuvering. We were on edge slightly because the river was still fairly unfamiliar to me and the impending significant drops needed scouting/ contemplation.
At last we reached the "Plumber's Crack" which was a 15 ft water fall. Upon looking at it I was certain I was going to run it. The line was tricky though. The waterfall is not uniform and pours over the river right side sooner the left and therefore slopes off pulling left to right. It forms a significant hole at the bottom with much boiling and turbulent water feeding back into the hole. Ideally you would fly of the river left lip boofing over the hole, however you must hug the river left shore and risk losing momentum on "f#@$%k up" rocks (an official kayaking designation for rocks that will kill your perfect line).
With safety set up (Thanks to Scott, Roger, and Anthony) I went for it. I was attempting to hit the left line, but it quickly became clear that my positioning wasn't going to allow this. I was getting pulled over it, right up the center. I had a moment of 'oh shit' in my head as I saw I was going right for the meat of the hole. Seeing what was inevitable, instead of fighting it, my focus shifted to positioning the boat to hit the hole correctly. To the credit of the boat or myself (which ever?) I at least pulled this off. I hit the hole right on the edge of were the backwash met the incoming water. This entire thought process happened in a less than micro-second. I impacted in an explosion of water and waited to resurface. The while in the chaos, I was comforted to feel air on my hands and therefore I hadn't plunged too deep. When the boat surfaced (upright) I threw in some hard strokes to pull away from the hole and paddled away looking back triumphantly and smiling. Here is the time lapse photos:
The rest of the run was gorgeous. In terms of beauty, the Steward ranks high. We were cruising in a mini-gorge with older growth cedars and pines overarching and shading the river. Figments of light sparkled through the trees as the sun sets behind us. Along the river small caves cut into the rock walls and provide beautiful eddies to relax in. Through more enjoyable high flow class III we forded ahead. As we turned the last bend, I watched the river widen and flow into the beautiful expanse of Lake Superior. I love finishing river in Lake Superior, because in many ways it completes the metaphor that river running embodies....
It was a great way to end the day or any day for that matter. The river washed everything away: no anxiety, no stress... just living in the moment of abiding tranquility.