Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reclaiming Spring: The Brule River

Devil's Kettle on the Brule courtsey of T-Bone

After my day on the Devils Track I was ready for more action despite any exhaustion. Receiving an invitation the night before I woke up early and drove up to the Brule River (MN). Meeting my paddling friends, we threw on our gear and headed far into the boondocks to the put in. Due to vague details of the guide book we ended up losing the put in trail and walking 2 miles further up river than was necessary or intended. We got to the river sweating having hiked long and hard with our boats shouldered.

Getting on the river we sped through easy boogey water before reaching the thralls of the Sauna Bath drop. Upon scouting it was clear the drop was a challenge to be contented with. The river narrowed and large volume of water poured over constricted boulder garden. Most troublesome was weaving between two giant boulders in which the river piled up against then short thereafter pouring into a significant hole. They required much contemplation and a couple of logs thrown in to assess the hole's stickiness. After many musings and watching a log get flushed out the hole, I proclaimed that I would run it. I intently analyzed the line one last time while walking back to my boat while my other 3 paddling companions set up safety.

Sitting nervously, on shore with my stomach in knots, I caught the signal and set off. I started down the river left of center avoiding a set of holes. Coming quickly through the chas to the boulders that required weaving, I attempted to move from left to river right. However, the river's speed was pulling me straight at the geo-metro sized downstream boulder. In a split second I determined that I would have to deflect off it's pile. I put a hard stroke in for momentum as I rode up over it's side. I was launched completely airborne forward and to river right off the rock and landed nicely set up for the hole ahead. I paddled hard knowing I needed to punch into the hole. When I hit the hole, I reached for a hard stroke on the face of it's backwashing wall only to no avail. I was being endered and as such had a small hope that I could maintain the vertical and push through...but alas I got flipped. In the commotion I wasn't sure if I was in still in the hole, but I set up and rolled upright instantly and found myself free of the hole. I caught an on-the-fly eddy on the right and regathered myself....the worst was over. I then peeled out and bust through the large pushy wave train with some flushy holes. I raised a fist to the air and triumphantly bellowed at my success as I peeled into the calm pool below.

The four of us continued down the river passing more class III and IV river before portaging the majestic and gnarly canyon of the Brule. Managing to almost take a nasty digger throughout course of the portage, I made it down to the base of the canyon, and put in ferrying out through fast boily water around the river bend. The river then relaxed, however with the knowledge of Devil's Kettle being ahead of us, we could not. Every bend we slowly and carefully came round ready to eddy out at a moments notice. After 6-7 bends of anticipation we saw Devil Kettle looming ahead and portaged it admiring it's beauty.

The ever-stomping Upper Falls

Putting in below whirlwind of mist from the un-run Upper Falls we headed down river shortly reaching Lower Falls. Myself and Scott Ewen contemplated the line for a significant amount of time noting it's large irregular roller leading into a intimidating frowning. We deciding to leave the drop for another day. Not long after, the river narrowed as it spilled through "Sewer Pipe". Ignoring the beta of my creeking buddies from the day previous, we ploughed through several big holes to arrive at the river left eddy. Scouting the drop it was clear that it was very safe: big pool behind it, obvious line, and a sure-to-flush drop. Yet to get to the correct line from the current eddy one had to attempt a heinous ferry through two big holes. Due to the friendliness of the drop I was determined to run it...ferry aside. I walked up as far I could before setting off. Hitting the first major hole I mistakenly placed a stoke past it on the right sending my boat back towards the left. In an attempt to correct I was overturned. I made two unsuccessful roll attempts before knowing that I was going over the drop upside down and tucked hard. I was violently sent through, the paddle being ripped from one hand. Having been underwater for two roll attempts then the drop itself, I didn't feel I had enough air to get my hand back on the paddle and get into my set I took a little swim. Being that I was in a huge calm pool... my swim was of little concern as I found a shallow spot and dumped the water from my boat.

From that point we were home free and dropped through one last class III drop before reaching the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. We beached are boats happily and exhausted. After a much needed refueling stop a Sven and Ole's, I determined that an attempt at Illgen falls on this day was not possible as tired as I was. I drove home in the dusk content with the day and my paddling.

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