Monday, May 24, 2010

Flash Flooding In The Midwest

Myself running "Plumber's Crack"

Over the course of an evening, darkness in clouds had been brewing. I excitedly peered at a myriad of bright colors of moving radar image. Rains looked to be inevitable for Duluth and the North shore. But would it be enough? I went to bed with a message on the local forum asking if the anything had risen.In the morning I got confirmation amongst text messages flying spouting glorious river levels. I had the car packed with gear in no time and was on the road. The sun was high in the sky and humidity was rising as steam off the drying pavement as I drove to the North Shore. The temperatures hovered around 85. I stood sweating outside the car overlooking the put-in to the Stewart River. The levels looked more than do-able and I made some quick phone calls.
I met Cliff in the parking lot of the Knife river and waited for the others to arrive. Anxious and impatient, I put on my gear and jumped onto the final drop of the Knife and did two quick laps. By the time I carried back to the car the crew was assembled and ready.

Jay boofs "Plumbers Crack"

Arrived at the Stewards put in, we suited up and Tony patched up his boat, as had become routine after the Split Rock river had maimed his trusty craft. As we paddle away from the banks of the put in, it became apparent that the level was by no means juicy (judging by the scraping sounds of our boats down the first set of slides). But as we arrived at "Plumber's Crack" the fun had only begun. Each of us paddled into an state of airborne joy while boofing the 12-15 ft falls. After 3-4 laps we each headed on our way.

T2 exhibiting the brown claw!

We braved through the newly descended drop I entitled tentatively entitled "Piton Falls" as Joel Decker has yet to name it after pioneering his line down it. Each of us slid through drop without an issue.
Myself atop "Piton Falls" w/ Cliff on safety

As the rays of the sun rose high into the sky, we reached the horizon line of the "Pillow Drop". A ribbon of light cast itself gloriously on the drop as we each melted into it's massive boilings.

Cliff bathed in light while dropping into the "Pillow Drop"

Lastly we took long glances at the line on the final fish ladder drop. Although seeing a definite possibility line, none of us had the gumption to fire it up. Paddling toward lake Superior a we collided with a wall of fog as the lake's cold air mixed with the humid sun warmed air from the higher elevations.

Happy Creeking!

Getting into my car and seeing a flurry of text messages on my phone regarding conditions on the Lester river, quickly loaded my gear and speedily drove back towards Duluth. The fog hung thick on the banks of the Lester river making the daylight fade quicker than a normal day. Excited prancing from my car to the river edge I was great by significantly high levels. I had not paddled nor seen the Lester this high in two years. A crew of paddlers emerged from the banks and I found some campanions to do a lap with me.

Inside myself I was nervous. The last time I had run the Lester this high the consequences were almost dire. Yet putting onto the river it was clear the river was lower than I originally thought and was not as high as the historic day two years previous. Every rapid felt cushioned from the rocks below and less abrasive. The river seemed to flow more gracefully and I felt in control. Reaching the 25 ft falls that is Almost Always I took out to scout while my companions charged over its lip. I had already decided that I would run it, but wanted to take a good look and run through the drop in my mind.

Japs styles "Almost Always" at high water

I pushed off from the banks into the current keenly aware of my line. When the moment came I charged to the river right aiming for a the clean and voluminous lip of the falls and fighting the majority of the river that charged left down a unfavorable chute. However, the river right hand water move more slowly. In hitting the slower current with significant speed, my boat began to peel out and I headed towards the lip of the falls sideways. Adrenaline took hold and I battled to straighten my boat. I turned the bow in the nick of time and grabbed a right boof stroke in the process. I sailed into verticality and landed atop the main flow of the falls and prepared for the hit. I collided with the 5 foot high exploding hole awaiting me at the base of the falls and was thrown into a left brace. Expecting to be immediatly over-turned, I was shocked to find myself rocketing forward upright among the wave train. The last wave turned my edges fliiping me and forcing me to roll up. I came to the surface triumphantly and felt the surge of adrenaline coursing through me as I smiled.

We paddled onward elated with the days events. I pulled my boat ashore and revelled in my success. The beginnings of summer had come and their ran brought the renewing waters to the rivers, and I myself left feeling again renewed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring Rains

Myself on the second falls of the East Frok fo the Beaver River

Days on the St. Louis River were becoming numbered as the power company was to stem the flows releasing from the dam as of June. And though the St. Louis never seems to bore me, however if another option presented itself I would seek it out.After what was one of the driest Spring's in recent remembrance the inevitable occurred. The skies darkened and rain came to the North Country. It was only early May and yet it felt like the infancy of summer despite the inherent lack of leaves about the trees. The rains had fallen steadily over the course of a day. The rains came just in time to aid my internal state of affairs. Medicine and the stress of the educational process had me in a choke hold. I went to the rivers to find release.I wasn't the only one with a longing for the river. The text messages rang out as I was already on my way. Pulled over at the Northern most river on my path and checked the level and it looked reasonable. It was agreed that we'd converge on the East Fork of the Beaver river as it appeared that it's flows would be worthwhile. As I emerged from the bush after checking the levels up close, I found my compatriots awaiting me.
We lazily geared up in warmth of the midday sun and slid our boats into the river. The river was far from spring level and I winced as my 3 season old boat scraped along towards the three falls section. When we arrived we each exited our boats to check the line as it changes with the low water levels. Sure enough the line on the first falls looked to be significantly tricky and the possibility of pitoning came into question. As with any issue of pitons this season, Decker decided he would go first since his breakaway Jackson bulkhead gave him confidence that his ankles would go unscathed in the event of a piton. Sure enough he managed to hit rock but barely.

Joel Runs the first falls of the East Fork of Beaver River

Adjust the line of attack Cliff went next with little incident and T2's results were identical. I decided I had little to worry about and saddled up. I made the tight move working towards the river left and sailed into the aerated water. I emerged smiling without consequence with an eddy full of elated kayakers. From the hanging pool we each became airborne off the next 20 footer landing with the beautiful sound of a "boof".
We couldn't get enough and decided to lap the upper falls. This time when I cam to the first falls I threw a hard strong amongst my descent and boofed out and swung into the second falls without pause and stomped out another boof. We soon found that at the low water levels that the left hand edge of the second 20 foot had an easy cove in which to scale back up to it's lip. And so we preceded with joyous laps off it's beautiful cascade. I couldn't stop and pent up frustration with my internal state affairs melted with each lap. By the end I had lapped the second falls ten times over much less the two laps of the entire sequence already.

Cliff amongst one of many of the laps on the second falls

But alas the time came to let it go. Each with sore backs slid over the last 15 footer and made our way back to the shuttle vehicles. It was a day of pure elation and release. We stood around and talked like excited school boys as the sun slowly fell. Bliss had never come so easily and a rejoiced with my psyche recharged in simple contentment.