Little Fslls to 8-10 rivers miles north of St Cloud, MN
Today was a fun, exciting, long, and kick ass day. This post will be broken into segments per category.
The morning started off well rested on a little sleep. I was excited to get this day going. I picked up my gear and loaded it into the boat. The boat was in Stanley’s garage as I kept it there last night when the storms were hitting. I greeted him when he came out to check on me. He told me I could leave it there while I went to get breakfast. I was eyeing this cafe the night before. I walked over the bridge and made it to The West Side Cafe. I sat at a booth and the owner greeted me. I ordered the largest breakfast I could as I knew I would burn it today. As I waited, I asked some locals if they minded me shooting some images. They were cool with it and I even was able to go in the kitchen to photograph Mary, the cook. Her ex-boyfriend’s parents used to own the place and she worked there years before. I watched as she slung the breakfasts together on the flat top grill. As I went to sit back down, the owner Cindy, brought me over a to go container with a treat in it for me to eat later that day. She said the she made them that morning. It was a huge cinnamon roll. Mmmmm….tasty. I ended up eating my omlet and then I was off. The locals all warned me about being on the river. I heard their warning, but this is just what I do. I wouldn’t if I thought bad things were going to happen. So, I headed back to the boat.
The Rush: After chatting with Stanley a bit, I was off to the river. The river is beyond flood stage and was running fast. I knew there were high risks today, but that is part of what I have been seeking out. I got into the water with all gear tightly secured down. There were a few seconds as I pushed off into the river that I could breath. Then it was 100% on. I pushed out in this huge eddie and was shot directly into the center of the heavy current. The waves were around 4′ tall and it there was a lot of water moving fast. I paddled hard to push through it. I was making headway when I saw a 15′ whirlpool in front of me. The rushing water and the calmer water coming off a side dam were colliding. I tried, without any results, to back up so I would miss it. The river did not agree with me. I was pinned straight into it. The whirlpool dropped between 1′ to 2′ as I entered it. I have never been in this situation before. As the nose of my boat began to drop down into it, all I thought was paddle really hard. I charged into it and powered out of it. My Tsunami, which was not made for this stuff, rocked it out. I was beyond that, but still faced heavy whitewater. Water was rolling all over my boat but I just kept at it. I took it on for the first 5 minutes of my day and it was a RUSH. The adrenaline had me shaking a bit after I cleared it. I let out a big yell and danced with all the nerves in my body. That was the type of rush I live for and seek out. Today was awesome in that regard.
The fingerprints: Upon the completion of the rush, I entered an area of the river where there were bubbles on top of the water. This came from the white water wash. I looked down at them and they formed little fingerprints to me. I looked at it as the river touching me and connecting. It was a surreal time as I moved througb them. I will remember that as I have not seen anything like that before. The river picked up some more even thought it was huge again. This part about it being beyond flood stage is no joke. There are millions of gallons of water moving below me. I always try to keep that in perspecrive.
The portage: I made it 9 miles in quick time today. I got out to do a “300 yard” portage. What they didn’t say is that included a ravine, a huge steep hill, a long pathway, another ravine, and a longer haul to the other side of the dam. This portage took me 2.5 hours to navigate. I put my wheels on the boat and made the first part ok. My boat is heavy and it is hard to pull. Once I got to the first ravine, I realized I was in trouble. I scouted the overgrown trail. I could make it to the bottom, but the uphill was wicked steep, loose dirt, and no support. I emptied the boat to make it lighter. I put the gear into the IKEA bags I brought with me. I wheeled/slid the boat down to the bottom. Then, with little energy, the heat of the day pressing down, and the mosquito unions waiting for me, I tried to pull it up this steep embankment. I was on a hand and my knees trying to navigate the boat up to the path. I could not get it. It was too steep to handle myself. I recrited Liz, a friendly cyclist, to help me out. She was short, but fit. She kept the back end of the boat from slipping back down as I pulled it up to the trail. I went back to get the rest of my gear as I would be playing leap frog with the items until I hit water. Another passerby told me of a longer, but easier portage. I had to track back on the bike path to get to it. I looked do-able with two people, but there was just me. I had to figure out how to make it work. I put the bags ahead of me on the trailer and then went back for the boat. I ended up rolling and breaking my flag pole in the process of getting it down the next ravine. I was hot and getting frustrated. I figured the gear would not walk itself, so on I went. I finally got it down to the water. I was close to the dam, so the water was rough. The water was just pounding the shore that I would be leaving from…..after lunch and a cool off.
I tried to launch it myself but the waves filled the cockpit with water before I could get in it. I had to back it up and drain it. Another guy joined down where I was and helped me launch again, this time with me in it. I was pushed out only to be battered back by the waves. I was pushed into a tree are and I was in deep water. Not the best place for me to be. I was fighting the waves and trees to stay upright and to get me out of this sticky situation. Once out, I was right into white water. I had to fight my way out of that too. That portage took a lot out of me. I still had 23 river miles to Saint Cloud. I would make it 15 before asking some kind folks if I could crash in their backyard. That is where I am at now. 10′ from the river and ready pass out from a great day.