Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Firsts: The Poplar

Ryan amongst "Beliek Surprise"
(all photos credit: Ryan Zimny)

The wind was pressing against the windows of the car as I road northward toward the waters of the North shore. Stopping along the way for coffee and to look at river levels, the group of paddlers was buzzing with enthusiasm. We arrived at Lutsen and made our way across the golf course to check the condition of the Poplar River. Levels were looking good and respective piles of gear formed as which each readied ourselves for battle.

The first of adventures was getting to the river. Mounting our kayaks as if on horse back, we sped down the remnants of snow covering Lutsen ski run... kicking our heals in deep, hoping to not careen into the snow-less gravel at the hill's base.

Justin lets er' fly to the put in

At the river's edge, feeling slightly rushed and out of sorts I jumped in my boat and pushed off with my paddling compatriots ahead of me. The river, sparing no time, jumped immediately into class III boogey water boulder gardens. It took me a little while to adjust and get my paddling senses warmed and attune to the waters ahead. But as the rapids went on I felt more and more at home as the river meandered through Lutsen's Golf Course. After punching a small yet significant drop we eddied out. I walked ahead to let my eyes see what my ears heard as a roaring in the distance. Ahead lay "Belieks Surprise".

Though I had seen pictures and read of the rapid, upon the sight of it, I was taken by it's impressiveness. After passing under a foot bridge, it consisted of a long and tumultuous slide with numerous roosters strew about and a curling side sweeper guarding it's entry. I watch as a few of our group took on the descent with lines styled. I eyed the line for one last time then turned and walked back to my kayak. At the crest of drop I saw my line and added purchase to my strokes I looked to punch the sweeper. Smashing into and through it the sweeper made one last grasp turning my boat. Ploughing into the next rooster I was turned further and went into the midst's of the slide backwards.

"The crest of Beleik's Surprise"

Beleiks Backwards

Resigned to my fate I leaned forward to keep my stern up and calmly viewed the chaos that I had already passed bracing for any impact. Knowing that their was a hole at the slide's base. I took my first opportunity to turn my boat in the nick of time and slammed past the hole.

Getting straighten out...

Having eddied out, I looked to my companions for a description of the river ahead. I knew it was a class IV+ canyon section, but descriptions of rapids in whitewater are often futile... "follow the water"... "Punch the holes".... "You can run it anywhere". As often happens in whitewater, nobody really remembers an exact line and so your intuition will have to guide you. I hardly remember any canyon as the class III gave way to Class IV+. I threw hard vertical strokes punching holes in all directions. Each time an explosion of water hit and your eyes fought to clear their view of the river ahead. At one point I remember blasting through one hole gain my sight only to burst into another, and another. Finally the river poured over a intimidating left-hand hole. I mustered strength to slide around it on the right only to be smoothly banked by the river charging against the right hand wall. The river calmed as we took out from the river greeted by the stale perfection of a golf course lawn.

The speedy descent of the Poplar left more daylight ahead. We left our gear on as re-racked the kayaks and headed for the Kadunce River... (to be continued on the next post)

1 comment:

Snow_King said...

That is stylin' to run a slide in reverse.