Monday, October 7, 2013

River Rumble '13 -Day 2

Sunday (28 July) was cloudy with a forecast high of 72, a perfect paddling day. Jean and I got to the put-in early, so we had everything set up before the trailers and crowds appeared. As usual, it took awhile to get everyone organized and launched, but we were still underway by 8:30.

The St. Croix River put-in off the Highway 70 bridge.
The river’s water level was very low. The whole day was a challenge of negotiating the day-long chain of rock gardens. One down side of paddling with a large group, or for that matter doing anything with a large group, is it takes awhile for a spirit of cooperation to develop, and for the first day or two, everyone is out for number one. Rex Klein, the group organizer, had even warned people to take their time and to expect places where we could only go through single-file. For the new paddlers, he even emphasized just keeping their canoe or kayak straight with the current, to not allow themselves to get crossways to the current.

As more paddlers arrive, the area around the ramp begins to
get overcrowded.
Naturally, a half-dozen boats would show up at nearly every tight opening. Almost immediately one boat got jammed broadside against a line of rocks, and since few had yet learned to space themselves out, a second rammed him amidships and swung crossways to become pinned against the first canoe, then a third rammed them, but was able to extricate himself by just sliding off the two pinned boats. Slowly, paddlers began to spread themselves out. Several people capsized from running up onto submerged rocks and boulders. We encountered two gravel bars where the water was shallow enough that we had to get out and walk our canoes. The first was only a couple hundred feet long, but the second was about 150 yards long with a very uneven bottom. I’d be standing in ankle deep water one second, and up to my crotch the next, and then step back up out of the hole to where the depth was hardly knee deep. The rocks on the bottom made walking the canoe very tenuous. The rocks were as round as cannonballs and slimy. I’d just have to put my foot down and let it slide about until it came up against something solid where I could then put my weight on that leg.

Buddy's set to go.  The shallows are full of rocks, so those of us
that arrived first had to launch to make room for those behind us.


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