Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Creeking The Upper Peninsula of MI - Day 2

One of the Northwoods pristine falls.... myself on Manabezho Falls

The morning came early to my eyes as I wrestled myself from the grasp of the couch and looking out into the frost laden sunshine outside the window. After reading shortly from my book, my fellow companions awoke and we drove to the local grub-ery for hearty breakfast. Bellies more than satisfied, we gathered back at our lodgings, packed up, and headed for the Presque Isle River.

I drove down the road lined by leaves flaming with color, bordered by a blue cloudless sky and reveled in the beauty of the world. Arriving at the river my eyes were graced by the sight of heavy flowing waters swelling generously about its banks. The Presque Isle water was running very high.

We set about scouting the drops and readying for the action that lay ahead. One thing was certain, the well-known and picturesque Manabezho Falls was looking friendly to my eyes. However, the water above and below it, though reasonable, was intimidating in character (with the exception of Manido Falls). Each made their personal decision and Japs decided to do a solo run of the entire final mile of the Presque, meanwhile the rest of us committed to lapping Manabezho Falls.

We geared up for the adventure ahead after dropping Japs off upstream and wishing him luck. Japs arrived at Manabezho at the same time as us carrying our boats and proceeded onward styling Manabezho. I ran up and put on next. I slipped into the water noting the line. I paddled hard driving rightward aimed for a narrow pinnacle of water, fought to place boof stroke, and sailed airborne viewing the 25 ft of air between myself and the water below. I landed a with a thud, despite having a slight angle of entry to allow for a less violent landing. Emerging from the mist with a smile I paddled to shore. We shared in the moment as we watched each of the six of us sail into happy flight.

 My second lap on Manabezho

I took my second lap with comfort and laid a solid boof stroke and the bow of boat stayed level with the horizon. I landed with loud "thwack" and felt my spine compress and a pain run through it. I paddled from the mist catching the breath that was knocked from me unsure what damage may have done. I paddled to shore and took things easy. Slowly recovering I discovered my back was ok, but in future days was going to make me pay for my lack of a stomp.

Justin and Lara declared they were going to run the final throngs of the Presque below Manabezho. Myself and Marcus set safety while scouting the river ahead. The river plummeted over a final slide creating an intimidating hole at it's base. Then the river constricted into "Zoom Flume" rocketing through a narrow channel. Guarding its entry lay a 2.5 ft high wave leading into a gnashing 3 ft tall wave hole whose line has never been entirely clear to me. Japs and Lara pounded through both with success and nailed the necessary rolls.

Marcus and I contemplated  the section for what seemed like hours, unnerved by the first hole leading into Zoom Flume. Finding an alternate route, myself and Marcus put on the river. We took to the far leftward bank and launched off a small boof ledge landing in the calm waters below. We eddied out and prepared for the challenges ahead. I led out and took to the line for the first wave. It came into view and I laid power strokes to propel me through as the water naturally accelerated toward its violent rising.

The first wave entering guarding the entrance to Zoom Flume
I collided in a wash of white and emerged unscathed and lined up for the next and more formidable beast of a wave hole. I chose the leftward line and again powered ahead as if a knight in joust riding headlong into an opponent. In moments as these, your vision tunnels on the task at hand and the world outside is but banished in a moment of purity in almost meditative focus. I smashed into the onslaught and fought in blindness.  My momentum was slowed to an almost stand still and yet I emerged to catch sight of water beyond its gnashing while remaining upright. But at that moment, a cross-current boiling lateral sub-ed out my bow as the wave-hole over turned me in its final grasp. I calmly set up and rolled up right and put my boat on line for the final moments of intensity.

The second wave-hole guarding the entrance into "Zoom Flume"
We emerged into the expanse of Lake Superior congratulated by fishermen on shore and fully immersed in the elation that only whitewater can bestow. The weekend had been gifted me with a confidence I would take forward with me for the paddling that lay in the season ahead. I grinned the whole drive home as the darkness fell upon the flaming leaves and a burning contentment warmed the hearth of a heart.

 Myself and Marcus still grinning

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