Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Northwoods Whitewater's Last Gasp - Part One

I hadn't left my basement lair for more than a few hours in a day and from the sparse light that peaked through the windows told me the presence of day or night. I was consumed by the thralls of studying for medical licensure exam, an endeavor I disdained more than any.Though I tried become oblivious to the sunshine or otherwise, yet I couldn't help but notice that the clouds where darkening. The local news and local paddling blog pointed alert me to the coming of storm to the Northland.  The weather service told of system unlike any seen in recent history and the paddlers where buzzing like  swarm of wasps in anxiousness.

The skies wrath came like a thief in the night and while I slumbered I heard the rain knocking on the windows of my dreams. I woke to an angry wind pressing and newspapers headlining reports of 5 inches of snow in the heights of Duluth. Steadfast I declared to myself I would and could not go paddling as my exam was but two days into the future. But with each text message of another paddler asking if I could paddle my will was being eroded. By the afternoon word came that Lester River was running high and I could no longer say no. I rushed to the river and met with a sizable crew including Anthony, Andy S, Scott, Brian, and T2.

Gearing up it was clear the levels where high but not of an uncanny nature and I had paddled it higher. We put on as temps dipped into the low 30s. Out of the gates I felt confident and boofed into the right hand line of Limbo Falls tangling with the multi-tiered hole laden goodness emerging unscathed with a smile. The entire run went equally smooth as my old friend the Lester river didn't fail to please. We inevitably arrived at Almost Always and getting out the boat for a quick peak I knew I would run it. T2 with his abundance of gusto fired it up first with success. Myself and Andy S. saddled up and fired it off. I watch Andy S. blue boat be lost to the horizon.

 Looking back at Almost Always after running it

I lined up focusing on the narrow line conscious my speed and position. I made the right hand slow moving tangled water pouring the lip of  drop. Eyes wide I armed my left boof stroke and viewing the vertical let the stroke loose as my boat left the water for the air. In the world of vertical I landed atop the opposing tongue of water mid way down the drop. Conscious instinct took hold as the world went in a split second from vertical and horizontal in gnashing of explosion of white washing water. Amidst it I stayed strong and emerged to the scene shocked that I had no need for a roll! I was elated and my confidence bolstered for the day ahead. I left the river begrudgingly and only because the darkness had begun to descend. I went home with a fulfillment enough to continue my studies. I thanked the river for the gift of the humanity it had returned to me and strength to carry on with the studies ahead of me.