Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything! It was an amazing summer, with too much going on to even bother trying to sum up. Of all the great things, though, the best was when my beautiful girlfriend of nearly 5 years and I said "I do" on a gorgeous fall day in October. When we get all the pics back, there will be a post, but for now, here's something that I do have some pics of:
The huge storms that rocked the entire state sent the Kettle River soaring to over 9,000 CFS and the North Shore creeks into flood. Luckily, the rain fell on a Tuesday, so by Saturday the Baptism gauge was lookin' good!
We spent the night in Two Harbors, then met Dan, Dave, Andy and for the run Saturday morning. Joi and her husband were nice enough to come along as drivers and photographers for us. The new gauge for the river said 12.7', which was supposed to correlate to 2.7' on the old gauge. That would be a nice, moderate level and keep the river at mostly manageable class IV run. More importantly, it would give me my first shot at running 35' Illgen falls.
We didn't have to get far down the river, however, to find out that the correlation is not very accurate. The river was definitely higher than 2.7, making everything bigger, faster, and pushier.
Confinement Canyon had some nice big waves and a big pourover towards the end of it that forced the boater to make a very quick S-turn to avoid getting sucked into the hole. It looked like a good boof would have allowed a kayak to fly right over the hole, but I was too rusty to give it a shot. That rapid went fine, though there was a scary moment when Dave got his leg caught in the rigging of OC-1 and was getting swirly-ed by an eddy. He made it out, though, and we continued on.
There was lots of class II-III boogey water until we made it to Kramer's choice, where the river is split around a car-sized rock in the middle. At this level, the flow funnels right into a very large wave/hole about 5 feet upstream from the rock. With the water moving extremely fast and so little room to maneuver, we decided to walk it.
Just downstream was Gustafson Falls, where the river falls over several big rocks into a hole in the middle. We hiked down and took a look, then Dan gave it a go in his canoe. He had a great line right down a tongue through the rocks, then his OC-1 floated over the hole like it was no big deal. It was pretty fun to watch. There was a kayak line along the river left, but nobody was feeling ambitious enough to bring down the boat and give it a shot. In hindsight, I would have liked to have run it, but at the time it seemed smarter to move on downstream.
After more class II-III, we came to Illgen Falls. It was a beautiful, thundering sight to behold. At that level, the entire pool is filled with the boiling, churning outwash. The force of the water looked strong enough to just about rip a boater in half if they wound up in the curtain. Since none of us had ever run it before, we decided it was a bit crazy to try at this level. I've since heard that the super-aerated boils make the drop boof-able at that level, but that's a big chance to take for a first try. I definitely want to run it, but I'm willing to wait for a level that I can tuck and huck.
After seeing the river level, we decided that the lower sections would be lots of portaging for very little paddling and so we called it a day. Despite the short day, it was a really great experience. The scenery was gorgeous, I got to put the boat on a new river, and I got to paddle with a great group of friends. I had a smile on my face all the way home.