Monday, April 18, 2011

A Baptism: Illgen Falls

The morning came slowly to me, it's grey stillness inspired no movement inside me. A small parcel of the crew remained for the day of creeking. Arriving in the veil of night came Midwestern native, Jason Stingl from his Colorado home. Over breakfast the consensus became clear that Jason, Joerg, Chris, Tango, and John Alt would paddle the Cascade river at meaty levels (zero on the guage). My first and last run on the Cascade 2 seasons prior had rattled me, leaving the river with a injured thumb, putting me out for the season two years ago. With my motivation and energy already at a low, I elected to set safety and take pictures of those with more testosterone than I.

Being content with my relaxed day,  I headed back to Duluth for some much needed time back in society for a social recharge. That evening the news came that an old friend would arrive back in the Midwest. Andy McMurray was the first paddler I ever met as a beginner on the North Shore, and it had been nearly year since I had we had paddled together. And so I agreed to meet Paul Hooper and Andy at the Baptism River... for  the yearly baptismal run on Illgen falls.

Driving northward in my usual introspection, I debated whether I would would run Illgen for the third time since the dawn of my days creeking. It was not that dropping the falls had ever gone poorly, it was just that every year I seemed to sustain whiplash from it (likely due to poor impact technique) that left me sore and headache ridden for weeks.

Myself running Illgen (Photo credit of Andy McMurray)

Arriving at the Baptism, I stepped from my truck and went to greet and pay my respects to Illgen Falls. Shortly there after a Chevy Pickup arrived with the broadly smiling Andy McMurray and Paul Hooper. We quickly geared up and slid ourselves gently into the Baptism river at Eckbeck campground. We scraped along and I took the time amongst the moderate waters  to warm up before the looming horizon line of Illgen falls beckoned.

Despite my reservations, my lust drew me towards Ilgen. I couldn't help but find myself paddling determined for the lip. In my minds eye, I pieced through my body's movements and  how I would clean up my technique. Thus  cresting the lip of oblivion. As I tilted over the edge the scene suddenly opens before me as the base of the falls became visible 35 ft below. I gave a light stroke and I entered the vertical world. My focus closed in as I fell to the water below. I tucked forward, stabbed my paddle out, and seeking to protect my neck, I trucked my head a split second before impact. The impact was tolerable and I quickly rolled up, checking status of my appendages. My body felt better than any other run on Illgen as I sat in an eddy in the mist below Illgen and watched McMurray boof the hell out of Illgen.

We drove away and laid on the gas pedal heading Northward. North of Grand Marais we quickly darted off the road and  slipped into the fauna before the expanse of Lake Superior unfolded on the horizon. Upon the gravel shores congregated a hardy crew of paddlers smiling at our arrival, beers raised in greeting. There upon the shores of Paradise Beach lay the spirit of North Shore boating, steeped in history, paddlers have breathed life into the beach since the beginnings of whitewater boating. As the night crept upon the land, by the firelight an excitement loomed in the atmosphere at the possibility days ahead. I fell asleep lulled by the rolling waves, and fed by a intangible satisfaction.

1 comment:

Andy McMurray said...

spot the landing, then surrender.