Friday, April 24, 2009
The Split Rock and The East Beaver Rivers
After waking up at 5 am, taking a test, and sitting through 2 hours of anti-parasitic pharmacology I drove home bathed in the sunlight and warmth of the day. I set about preparing for paddling excursion ahead by pouring a pot of boiling water into my kayak and popping out the dent from piton-ing on the East Beaver river last weekend.
Successfully mending my boat, I met with some fellow paddlers and took to the road northward. As the drive went on the sun gradually faded as the grey skies hung above the north shore. We pulled into the parking lot near the Split Rock and checked the gauge. The water was deemed worthy, we loaded two shuttle vehicles and drove to the put in.
The seven of us paddlers slid into the marshy water of the upper stretches of the Split Rock River and weaved through alders to the widening river. The river made it's first drop down a significant slide before reaching the old Superior Hiking Trail bridge where the action was to officially begin. I scouted the first rapid and cruised my way down it with little incident. It would be nearly the last time I would scout.
The Split Rock River was chock full of steep slides one after another the all melted into one another. Each with a unique line, often hugging a rocky wall following the path with the most water. The river went onwards as we passed the river's name sake. Finally we reached what I would consider one of the most significant drops on the river entitle "Under The Log". The drop was comprised of a 15 ft concave and steep slide into small hanging boil before spewing out abruptly leftward through I powerful hole-ish confluence of water. I scouted it out and went last in the party. I dropped down the right on the slide and found myself stuck in boiling eddy between the tiers of the drop. Not quite excited about my situation and the fact that I was pointed up stream, I pushed off the rock with my hands and made my way down into the next phase. I paddler hard seeing the piling hole ahead and blasted through relieved.
The river mellowed and gave way to it's mouth it opened into the horizon of Lake Superior. It was a fun run in from a paddling perspective, but my kayak had a different opinion of the Split Rock. As I took my gear off and flipped my boat over I noticed two sizable gashes... not through the hull but close enough to weaken it. The prospect of an out of commission boat soured my Split Rock run to a degree but would not quench the exhilaration
The day grew colder as the falling rain hung onto the last seasons aged grass and the leafless and budding boughs. Are ambition only grew as we packed and left for the East Branch of the Beaver River. I drove to gauge the river's level and judging by the falls found it to be similar to my last excursion there... very high. Shivering in the cold our caravan of six paddlers navigated the mild upper stretches of the Beaver. I sat contemplating what lay ahead. I paddled weaved my way down the first bit of class IV drops over a small slide then punching a hole creating ledge. The river let up as we approached the falls ahead. I eddied out to take a look as two of my companions went over the horizon line. I scouted the level and saw that was indeed the same meaty level I had see the weekend previous. I made up my mind staying optimistic about the line ahead and mustering the will to run the three falls ahead. I carefully looked at the line to the lip, got in my boat, and pushed off.
I paddled hard for a small "V" and burst through a small wave onto the lip of the 18-20 footer before me. It being a sliding falls (as opposed to straight vertical), I fought to keep my boat from plugging the falls and missing a tricky boof stroke, I pulled knee hard and impacted the water ahead. My angle of entry must not have been too bad as I felt the impact slightly violently and clear my eyes to find myself upright in the hanging pool above the next 20 footer. Relieved to be upright I paddled for the lip of the drop ahead. The scene opened up before me as gravity took hold of my boat and the water. Again I did not perfect my boof strong and mid-flight fought to keep my entry from being too vertical. I collided with the water and surfaced upright to the audience of 3 paddlers below cheering me on. I let out a joyful whoop and traditional fist pump as I fought with the boiling chaotic waters into the eddy below. The rest of the group joining us as we each descend the next and more mild 15 ft falls. After navigating some class III boogy water the river mellowed and meander through a golf course and we stepped from our boats walking the railway tracks back to our awaiting shuttle.
After a plentiful in good food and laughter, I parted ways with the crew and drove through the darkness back to Duluth. I went to sleep beautifully exhausted and happily fulfilled.