Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paddling Rekindled- The Silver Creek

The aroma of coffee cut the grogginess of the morning as I drove to the Lester River parking lot to begin my weekend of paddling. It was my first day back paddling after being badly bruised the week previous and I was out to make up for lost time. I planned to warm up for creek season with a run on the Knife and French Rivers. I arrived at the parking lot to find a plethora of boats atop vehicles and a half dozen paddlers enjoying the morning banter. My plans quickly changed as a group of veteran paddlers graciously let me join them on a run of the Silver Creek. It was a creek I had yet to run and had heard that it was a run of class IV magnitude.

From the roadside banks of the Silver's put in, I anxiously geared up. This being my third time in my creek boat this season, I internally fought to keep my confidence up yet realistic. I Pushed my boat into the water and pealed into the current along side 5 paddling companions. Behind us 7 more paddlers geared up for a run.

In only a short while I met the Silver's first drop. I eddied out and watched my fellow paddlers drop out of sight. I went last and was surprised to find 3-4 foot drop as opposed to the slide I was expecting. I penciled awkwardly into the pool below and braced upright. From the pool we now sat, ahead lay a slide with logs forcing us to portage. Meanwhile chaos broke loose. The party behind us began dropping into the pool and had two paddlers swimming. In all 12 people played bumper boats in a pool with a log jammed slide only slightly ahead. Slowly the crowd dispersed as our party portaged ahead, and put on the river leaving the drop behind.

Only a short while ahead, the river reached another horizon line. We all dismounted our kayaks and scouted the drop ahead. It was a slide I would estimate being 1.5-2 football fields in length complete with small drops, S-turns, and slides. Yet the first portion was congested with downed wood. One by one we put in 1/3 of the way down the drop. I pushed off and paddled hard punching a hole and maneuver through a boiling S-turn. I eddying out and then pursuing the rest of the slide ahead blasting through obstacles ahead weaving a path amongst the water buried rock. Our crew having all successfully passing through the class IV action pushed on.

Before long we again met another horizon line. The river opened up to 15-20 ft river-wide falls. In a group effort we heaved a log from it's only line, hugging the river right shoulder through a boney channel then dropping 12-15 ft into the pool below. Watching several of us scrape out their lines I took my turn. I scraped my way down and as I gravity accelerated me off the lip of the falls, I consciously threw a hard stroke driving my body forward in an attempt to boof (landing flat). Landing in somewhat of a boof, I don't recall my face penetrating the water's surface and paddled away content.

The river's gradient wound down as the fishermen throwing lines foreshadowed our approach to Lake Superior. Ripping through a culvert under Hwy 61, I peeled out at the mouth of the silver with my paddling confidence renewed and a smile on my face.

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