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.


white water rafting trip said...

Those photos are amazing! you have such a knack of knowing which angle to take them from.

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