Sunday, December 1, 2013

Upper Whitcombe, NZ

Upper Whitcombe, NZ 

Another North American summer was coming to an end and the thoughts of warmer destinations were circling in my dreams: Where to go? For how long? Is there anything I need to get back to the states for? Any crazy remote missions? Political Nightmares? Work opportunities? Graeme Singleton hit me up, "Do you want to work in NZ for Eco Rafting? You'll get to go heli rafting!" Yes, that is what you think it is. Instead of meeting the rafting clients and getting on an old beat down bus, you get in an old beat down helicopter and fly up a remote canyon.

hard earned cash transforming into unimaginable transportation, cash for helicopter, kayak, heli, nz, new zealand, chris baer,
hard earned cash transforming into unimaginable transportation
How could I say no? The smooth rock features, helicopter access canyons, and the idea of coming out of the winter financially stable all seemed rather intriguing.

over the ocean somewhere... long flight, whereisbaer, NZ, New Zealand, Chris Baer, kayak, travel, flying, airplane
over the ocean somewhere... long flight

The first weekend in New Zealand

was a whirlwind. My kayak got confiscated and fumigated for transporting a couple of live ants from West Virginia. Paul Siratovich took me out on the town but we got denied access into the downtown bars for wearing "jandals" (flip-flops). I bought a used Nissan mini van, and traveled six hours to Queenstown.

getting the kayak out of hock at the international fumigation terminal, NZ, new zealand, chris baer, whereisbaer, international travel
getting the kayak out of hock at the international fumigation terminal

Go figure, none of the US certificates transfer to NZ. So I spent a week in a New Zealand swift-water course, after which I was seriously itching for some real creek boating.


was the next destination, known as being the "creek boating capital" of New Zealand. Swinging through Hokitika for some groceries, I poked around looking for anyone that was paddling. Bumping into a paddling crew, that I am sure to paddle with in the future, we did the classic. "Hi… yea you paddle… well we are going into this hard section… and umm…" I have the utmost respect for that crew to deny me a spot on the difficult, helicopter access, river section. For gods sake we just met in a parking lot. Stated in many previous stories, it is imperative to know your crew. That crew did help me out with some beta. Another group of paddlers was heading to the same helipad the next day to do a slightly easier section. I was jonesing hard enough to paddle with strangers, especially if it was not going to be a super hard West Coast run.

Special Note for traveling internationally: Make sure you wash your boat and gear WELL! Not just to save the eco system you are visiting, but also so you don't get hassled at Customs. Another new trick I implemented this year: tip out the curb side baggage guy. $40 bucks made the imposing task of getting the boat past the check-in agent smooth. The curb side guy pocketed the cash, gave me a hand getting all my stuff out of the cab, wheeled it to the first class counter, and everything went on the plane without getting weighed or charged for being over sized.

The next morning I arrived at the helipad. The crew from the previous day, along with a few new faces, were all getting prepped for the incoming helicopter. Once again they stated there was another crew coming that might be in for an easier section.

A few minutes passed and another kayak laden car pulled into the parking lot. The occupants got out and after a quick couple of seconds, Mark Basso and I made the connection. We had bumped into each other seven years prior at a race on Big Timber Creek in Montana. Hands shook, and some catching up started, as he introduced me to his traveling companion Dag Sandvik. Dag classically shares a ton of mutual friends, and has become an instant buddy.

Traveling paddlers unite! 

The days paddling strategy was agreed upon. We would go up the namesake river the Hokitika and paddle back to the cars. Moments later we received some beta from the helicopter pilot. A landslide had come in on the Hokitika and had changed a particularly narrow and inescapable canyon, not to mention the flow in the Hoki was really low. Mark went up for a quick reconnaissance flight and confirmed our change in strategies. We reassessed our options and decided to put-in at the same place the other crew did, and paddle the "difficult" canyon.

part of the lower canyon looking reasonable from way above, Chris Baer, NZ, new zealand, whitcombe, upper, kayak, blue water glacial, winning, helicopter
part of the lower canyon, from way above
Watching the helicopter take flight with your kayak dangling 100 feet below in a tangle of cargo net is pretty awe inspiring. A few minutes later the chopper flew back in and we boarded for a 20 minute (18 kilometer) flight to Price's hut. Upon landing on a small gravel beach, we hopped out of the helicopter and unloaded our boats. The helicopter pilot then turned to us and said, "give me a text when you are out of the canyon, so I don't come up here looking for you tonight." The words were comforting, eerie, and stunning; we were way up a drainage with one imposing way out.

make the easy leg of the journey, heli kayaking, NZ, new zealand, Chris Baer
make the easy leg of the journey
None of our crew knew the section, or even the character of the river bed. We quickly started scouting any and all horizon lines. Putting the fun back in siphon (si-FUN), there were tons of undercuts and missing water in every rapid, along with some absolute exquisite rock formations. Every rapid had a hidden hazard and most had an appealing line.

Dag Sandvik, on one of the countless fun moves, waterfall, nz, new zealand, upper whitcombe, chris baer,
Dag Sandvik, on one of the countless fun moves
Slowly we tackled the first gorge, paddling most of the rapids, but finding a few that did not reach our risk to reward threshold. Portaging was tricky and some awkward seal launches where necessary to make downstream progress.

The crew was rather dynamic. The fact that I didn't know either of the guys really well meant that we all kept the communication lines wide open. Chatting about different paddling options, and laughing at off color jokes, all while staring at death defying rapids.

As we exited the first canyon, the walls start to widen but the rapids did not let up. Huge boulders from the canyon have been strewn downstream and it took another kilometer of tricky boating to clear the class 5 whitewater. Finally the "difficult" section was over and the next few kilometers through the "flats" went rather quickly. Our stomachs were starting to grumble as we spotted Frew's hut. The rather well kept backpackers hut was a great lunch location as it offered resistance to the obnoxious sand flies. We took a few extra minutes at lunch getting to know each other and refueling for the final canyon.

Back on the water the final canyon arrived quickly. Thankfully the second canyon looked much more paddle-able than the first, from 1500 feet above in the helicopter. As we clamored out of our boats for the first scout of the lower canyon, the rapids exhibited the same eerie construction. Nothing was boat scoutable and hidden hazards were everywhere. Gracefully the rapids had a larger margin of error and the overall gradient was less than half of the upper canyon making the downstream progression much easier. A few hours and more than a few generous boofs later we made our way into the last flat section. Another couple of kilometers of conversation and a quick, but not very obvious hike, brought us back to the vehicles.

Mt. Cook in the distance, new zealand, panorama, lake, blue water, snow covered peaks,
Mt. Cook in the distance
Old friends reunited, new friends made, and an awesome first day of steep creaking on the West Coast of New Zealand was celebrated with a couple of solid high fives and warm beer.

another adventure from Chris Baer, kayak, class 5, NZ, New Zealand,
another adventure from Chris Baer

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 Race Season In Colorado

Crushing dreams, or offering a kayak hug? 8 Ball Kayak Race!, Chris Baer, vail, go pro games, mountain games
Crushing dreams, or offering a kayak hug? 8 Ball Kayak Race!

Vail Mountain Games

are always a heated event, a ton of world class paddlers converge on Colorado to start a competition circuit. The Mountain Games holds events ranging from rock climbing, mountain biking, fly fishing, dog jumping, and a few fun kayak events, including two distinctly different races. The first is the "Steep Creek Race" held on Homestake Creek just outside of Red Cliff CO. The course is rather short, less then a half mile, but is full of offset ledges and manky mandatory lines.

Trying to control my panting in the Steep Creek Race, Chrsi Baer, Kayak, vail, go pro, mountian games
Trying to control my panting in the Steep Creek Race

Bryan Kirk charging through the last drop and into a 3rd place finish, gopro, vail, mountain games, chris baer,
Bryan Kirk charging through the last drop and into a 2nd place finish

8 Ball Race

was unintentionally created for me. As many people know I can't take kayak racing too seriously, partially because I'm just not good at it. I can take the 8 Ball race seriously, it is the most haphazard, fastest person usually doesn't win, pure chaos event I have gotten to participate in. The 8 Ball race pits 4-8 kayakers boater cross style down an easy class 2 stretch, the catch is the 8 Balls, me and a hand full of other kayakers robed in black waiting in the eddies to charge out and drastically change the outcome of the race. I like to think about it as the American Gladiator version of mass start kayaking. Take no prisoners and do not allow any heat to finish without some serious destruction. Needless to say this is a crowd favorite and the banks are lined deep with spectators cheering for every bone crush impact.

Welcome to the Coliseum of Carnage, 8 Ball destruction derby!, Chris Baer, Gopro, mountain games, vail
Welcome to the Coliseum of Carnage, 8 Ball destruction derby!

Pine Creek Race to Prom

is anther impromptu event that I have taken the reins on over the years. For lack of any planning the race is held as a mass start. Any craft is acceptable, no judges, no timers, no prizes, pure laughing and bragging rights, all to be celebrated in a Prom theme party to follow the race. This year I was stood up by my 11 year old  paddling partner and made the last minute change to share a two person kayak with long time friend and original raft guide instructor Tom Zimmer. It only took a couple seconds on water to realize that Tom and I were going to dominate. Passing boat after boat through Pine Creek rapid proper we cruised out to the front of the pack and had a couple supper fun candid conversations while blasting through the numbers section and arriving at the finish line in first place. 

Dave Fusilli charging down Homestake Creek, chris baer, gopro, mountain games, vail, red clif
Dave Fusilli charging down Homestake Creek

another adventure by Chris Baer

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Too many people on the creek?

Too many people on the creek?

Big South fork of the Cahce le Poudre, Rocky Mountain National Park, kayak, Chris Baer CO
Big South fork of the Cahce le Poudre

Thirteen people on the same creek run is way too many, unless of course there is above par communication and the water level plays graciously in your favor.

Casey Tango getting the action started, Big South, CO, colorado, Chris Baer crack drop
Casey Tango getting the action started

Wes Dewitt and I had been chatting for most of the summer about wanting to get on a couple of the Colorado classics. It was a phone call from Casey Tango that finally got us motivated. We packed the car and drove three and a half hours to paddle a creek in the middle of Rocky Mountain Nation Wilderness. 

You wouldn't have thought we were in the middle of nowhere when we showed up to the camp the evening before the run and bumped into another five buddies. Everyone was fired up about getting on one of the true CO classics the next day. We shared stories of previous descents and a whisky bottle, but it was the talk of more people joining that had me a little unnerved.

Ben Newman getting warmed up in the Big South fork of the Cahce le Poudre, Chris Baer, CO, colorado
Ben Newman getting warmed up in the Big South fork of the Cahce le Poudre

The next morning vehicle after vehicle came screeching into the parking lot and our group started to grow and grow. There was no doubt in my mind that we would have to split up the pack, the problem was how? Yea there were some strong boaters that new the run and could help lead two different packs, but the fact of the matter was that most of us were buddies and didn't want to split up.

Putting on the upper tributary, Weird Creek, the group quickly spread out. The creek is rather bouncy and wood choked, and most of us got pinned a couple times, and a couple new cracks opened up in some of the boats. Eventually we reconvened at Starter Fluid, the first solid rapid. The large posse was launching pretty haphazardly but having clean lines. Quickly we took off paddling down to the next rapid Fantasy Flight. A light scout, and one by one people started charging into this unique pitchfork rapid. There are two different slots entering Fantasy Fight and neither provides a clean entrance. This day the crew was split on what entrance looked better, and both avenues where used to varying degrees of success.

Kyle Johan, making Fantasy Flight's lead in look good... Chris Baer, big south, CO , Colorado
Kyle Johan, making Fantasy Flight's lead in look good...

Kyle Johan, proving that Fantasy Flight isn't that easy, big south, CO, colorado, Chris Baer
Kyle Johan, proving that Fantasy Flight isn't that easy

Caroline Moon is a rowdy class 5 kayaker. Unfortunately female paddlers seem like they get discriminated against on true class 5 runs. As Caroline dropped into Fantasy Flight she produced a super clean line. Looking up, watching the guys grinning and fist-pumping, all previous discriminations were gone. Caroline was a more than solid attribute to the team. We were all rather diverse, converging from all over the United States and with a myriad of paddling backgrounds… we were going to be an awesome team.

Noel Parker alluding the ominous crack, Cool World, Big South, CO, Colorado, Chris Baer
Noel Parker alluding the ominous crack in Cool World
Heading down from Fantasy Flight the river continues its high quality characteristics, with clan boofs, fun slots, and relatively strong hydraulics. The next big rapid is Cool World, where a stiff lead-in smashes into a diagonal six foot deep slot. If you fall the off the pad early, you get destroyed in the frothing six foot pit. Once again, with thirteen people there was a variety of good and marginal lines, but everyone was smiling at the bottom.

Rocky Mountain National Park showing her true potential, Big south, CO, Colorado, Chris Baer
Rocky Mountain National Park showing her true potential

Prime Time Gorge is the next major obstacle, but was a little bit of a letdown with relatively low flows in the creek. Still fun, Prime Time offered up a mix of off angle boofs. The center piece of the run is Double Trouble a manky nine foot ledge that leads directly into a eight foot pour-over that usually creates an immense and inescapable hydraulic. Luckily for a couple of our team members the lower water softened up the hydraulic and it became rather escapable, and... friendly?

Noel Parker squaring up for the second pitch of Double Trouble, Big South, CO, Colorado, Chris Baer
Noel Parker squaring up for the second pitch of Double Trouble

Cruising through a few more rapids we were met by our last challenge; the always ferocious Slide Ways. Everyone's energy level was starting to dwindle, we had paddled 11 miles of class 5, that had created a few cracked boats and bruised egos from a couple precarious swims. Still, a majority of the crew charged into the longest and most technical rapid of the day. A couple more interesting lines and the crew was on the home stretch. We paddled a couple last manky rapids and took a quick walk back to the car avoiding the last marginal rapid. If you are looking for another rowdy rapid, start at the camp ground just upstream of the take out. Walk up a small path river left for a couple hundred yards. This rapid usually has wood in play, but if you manage to spot this gem without wood, and at an appropriate flow, definitely give it a solid scout and a charge.

Josh Oberleas auto-boofing in Slide Ways, CO, Colorado, Chris Baer
Josh Oberleas auto-boofing in Slide Ways
At the end of the day it was high fives and big hugs. Ky Hart, Josh Oberleas, Jordan Sherman, Wes Dewitt, Noel Parker, Greg Grahlmann, Kevin Hoffman, Joe, Casey Tango, Caroline Moon, Kyle Johan, Ben Newman, and myself, thirteen mostly strangers at the beginning of the day, had all found new friends, and enjoyed the always entertaining Big South drainage of the Cahce le Poudre.

plural moose or mooses or meese, rocky mountain national park, CO, Colorado, Chris Baer
plural moose or mooses or meese

another adventure by Chris Baer

Friday, August 30, 2013

A solid finally to an amazing Minnesota spring season

A solid finally to an amazing Minnesota spring season

one of the fun off angle boofs, minnesota, chris baer, saint luis
one of the fun off angle boofs

Lower Saint Louis

The Saint Louis River is located just south of Duluth, Minnesota and is the local's playground. There is a large reservoir directly above the good whitewater section and allows almost year round paddling for Duluth kayakers.

The folks in Minnesota have a tendency to use the Louis as a test piece to see if they are ready for some of the steeper runs along the North Shore. Being so, it produces some swims and regular entertainment.

more entertainment on the Lower Saint Louis , Chris Baer, Minnesota, Duluth
more entertainment on the Lower Saint Louis

All that being said there are a large variety of features from powerful hydraulics, to tight slot moves, with a little exploration this run could be an absolute gem of a training facility.


The Lester is the first sign of true gradient heading north out of Duluth, this river is in the fringe of the city limits and is the first solid creek to thaw out in the spring.

The Gauge on the Lester has always been a little unpredictable, and after the massive floods during the fall of 2012 the river basin has changed, the original gauge rocks are now totally useless.

The first run of the season we were skeptical that the water might be a little low… WOW we were wrong; It might have been my highest lap to date. Quickly the Lester reminded me why it's a true high-end classic. The rapids come in relatively quick succession with just enough leaky eddies to watch your buddies get trashed in the big hydraulics.

The crux of the run is Almost Always; the original naming was for the fact that it was almost always portaged. As time has past and the boaters have improved it is now referred to as almost always paddled.

On our high water descent Almost Always was looking rather massive, the 20+ foot near vertical drop was starting to fill in, and looked more like a really steep slide converging into an enormous hole. A quick scout, and some safety set, I attempted the direct left line. As I came over the horizon line I was greeted with a couple of mean laterals, an immense impact into the hydraulic at the base all converged into a ferocious fist pump in the eddy at the bottom.

Flow Predictions 


Louis river during full spring melt, Chris Baer, Minnesota, Duluth
Louis river during full spring melt
Predicting the flows in the early days of spring on the North Shore of Superior is rather impossible. A small storm somewhere else could mean an 18 inch dump of snow, or a sunny 70ยบ day. Between huge ranges in actual temperature, there is the anchor ice… The rivers actually freeze solid in the winter, and there can be ice stuck to the rocks under the moving water. Not a big deal as long as it stays there and doesn't become partially lifted during the day causing an impromptu undercut.

home sweet home, dealing with some classic MN spring weather, Chris Baer, minneota, duluth
home sweet home, dealing with some classic MN spring weather


 Race day

The Lester was also the venue for a super fun race this year put on by Ryan Zimney. A cold wet spring meant our race date came almost a month later than originally planned. The morning of the race a strong handful of racers headed up for a practice lap, as they came back down to the pre-race meeting there were strong rumors.

Almost Always was living up to it's old reputation, a relatively low water flow was making the lead in tricky, and the hydraulic at the bottom almost impossible to escape from. Most of the racers shouldered their boats around the drop and the few that tempted the drop had a variety of misfortunes. There were two swims, a broken paddle, and a bloody nose. During the quick pre-race meeting an augmentation to the race course was decided upon. We would finish directly above Almost Always.

A few minutes later the race begun and we were ripping down the creek a minute apart. Two rapids above the finish line I came ripping around the corner trying to straighten out the rapid and crushed into a barely submerged rock and pitoned really hard. The air was knocked out of my lungs and my ankles hurt, I was sitting six inches forward in my boat. I gasped for air pushed on my tender ankles lodging myself back into the seat and took a few more powerful forward strokes to the finish.

about to piton HARD!, lester race, kayak waterfall, minnesota, duluth, chris baer
about to piton HARD!
The finish line quickly became a party as more and more of the racers came across. Everyone was panting and laughing about botched lines.

As the racers picked up their boats to portage around Almost Always I had the thought that I might be able to blast through the intimidating hydraulic at the base of the falls, or at least put on an epic show. After a quick inspection and some more than adequate safety I hopped back into my boat and gave her a try.

The lead in was rather tricky but felt good, on my way down the drop the boat started to drift towards the left and into the thickest portion of the hydraulic. As I resurfaced the thought of everyone walking the rapid made a little more sense. I was getting surfed hard, and my almost 12 foot long boat had no interest in living the hydraulic. Holding on for a solid beating and long enough to smile at all of the safety and crowd, I finally reached forward for some much deserved hand relief. Ejecting from the kayak a short but powerful blast of water hit me, and a second later I resurfaced again in the back wash of the hole, laughing and smiling. Emptying the water out of my boat I looked over at the feature, and had this odd thought… Can I keep my nose pointed just a little more to the right?

round two, time to clean it up, chris baer, almost always, lester, duluth, minnesota, MN
round two, time to clean it up

Putting the boat back onto my shoulder I proceeded back up passing the rest of the portagers to the top of the rapid for a second attempt. This time on the way down I was able to get a powerful stroke and kept the nose angled a little to the right. Upon impact with the backwash I leaned forward for a huge left stoke, pulling through the backwash I felt the grasp of the hydraulic wane, I had just punched through the meat of the rather intimidating Almost Always.

A huge thanks goes out to Ryan Zimney and all the MN paddlers you are tough as nails, and super fun to play with.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Icebergs and mile long slides, Split Rock River, MN at Floodstage!

Ben Kinsella, coming out of the mist of Under the Log, minnesota, Chris Baer, split rock river,
Ben Kinsella, coming out of the mist of Under the Log
Paddling rivers at flood stage is dangerous! This Spring, John McConville and I tackled the Split Rock River in Northern Minnesota at a terrifying level. Not only was the flow significantly above recommended, but there were trees and giant icebergs moving down stream with us.

Normally, there is a simple spray-painted gauge on the left bridge piling at the take out. There are a few hashes and a couple letters next to them. One of the lower hashes has an S next to it and one of the upper hashes has an M next to it. The locals jokingly refer to these two levels as the Shire and Mordor levels. After completing a descent where the entire gauge was buried under frothing white water, I think a new line and new initial may be necessary.

a fun sequence of Scott White on ski jump, split rock river minnesota, chris baer
a fun sequence of Scott White on ski jump
The put in is on private property and has had a few issues over the years. After speaking to a local resident and police officer, we were allowed access to a small tributary upstream. John and I put our kayaks into the normally tiny tributary… but this day the tributary was cranking! I remember getting a good boof over a downed tree only 10 feet into the creek. From there down the water multiplied and multiplied. By the time we reached the confluence, and were actually on the Split Rock, we both looked at each other with wide eyes and gaping jaws!

As we paddled the first mile or two of "flat water" our conversation went as such… THIS IS FREAKING HUGE! We got to be careful! Did you see that HUGE ice burg! Yeah, I think that was the one that sunk the Titanic! Stay close!

Ben Kinsella realigning on Winfrey's Whimper, minnesota, split rock river, Chris Baer
Ben Kinsella realigning on Winfrey's Whimper
Arriving at the first major rapid, we had already seen tons of icebergs, lots of anchor ice, and more logs and trees then I could count. We scouted the first mile or so to the next reasonable eddy. The directions went as such, "Flow, Left, Right, Middle, LEFT! Middle, Middle, Middle, try to eddy out". Those were the directions I had in my head for more than a mile of Class 5+.

Completing the first chunk of the rapids, John and I were glowing with excitement and sharing stories of being obliterated by huge rouge waves and running lines we never thought could possibly work.

After another huge scout, we agreed the sun was setting a little faster then we were hoping. We rallied a couple more of the big rapids and kept good downstream progress.

Ben Kinsella on the first major slide, minnesota, Chris Baer, split rock river,
Ben Kinsella on the first major slide
One huge rapid after the next, we were getting picked up and flung 15 feet off line on what normally is a bounce micro-creek.

The crux rapid, "Under The Log", at 3:51 in the video, WOW! Looking back at this I have no idea why I wanted to run it. There was almost no chance of a clean line. The low angel slide plowed into a ferocious 8 foot tall hydraulic. Upon contact with the hydraulic the chaos ensued. For a few seconds my 93 gallon kayak felt as small as a squirt boat. Violently window shading into a sloppy brace, then rotating just in time to get the nose up for the final hydraulic.

Flooded rivers will always be the top end of danger, and the top end of excitement. The following morning I spoke with John, neither of us had slept well, I had found myself tossing and turning reliving the days chaos.

another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Forbidden Fruit

The Forbidden Fruit

Once upon a time in Minnesota, there was rumor of a creek that precariously meandered through the most arduous private property along Lake Superior's North Shore. That river is the Forbidden Fruit.

John McConville on the big one

The put-in for this creek is located on a small dirt road with friendly and humble residents. This year we were lucky enough to chat with some of the locals. The folks we spoke with granted us access to the creek. They also warned us about the asininely private residence down stream.

yes it's cold! , Minnesota, forbiden fruit, Chris Baer,
yes it's cold!

The paddle into the gorge is infested with wood. Blind corners held logs and ice damns during our early spring assaults. Upon sight of the first major gradient loss, we exited river right. An amazing series of slides that directly flow into a 25-foot waterfall is the first major attraction.

The rapids following the waterfall are rather continuous, and offer a wild variety of very constricted boulder gardens with the occasional off-angle boof.

Moving down stream we quickly enter into the delicate private property situation. Stealth is your friend, moving quietly is key. To limit our local contact, we made a point of only paddling this section during the week and during the "mud season."

The rapid Cabin Fever is directly in sight of most of private property, and hadn't been completed until this year. John McConville probed the once log-infested landing zone and negotiated the very tricky lead-in firing up a rather smooth first descent.

John McConville, dialing in the first descent of Cabin Fever, Chris Baer, Minnesota,
John McConville, dialing in the first descent of Cabin Fever

From Cabin Fever down you are in the backyards of most of the "cabins" along the river. There are two more slides on the run that ought to be run blind, as to not interact with the local inhabitants. Charge in and start smiling. The water pushes you in a positive direction while sliding the last 300 feet to the delta entering into Lake Superior.

To finish the run paddle into Lake Superior (if the waves aren't too big), and paddle North or South to your desired less-illegal exit location.

Please do not attempt this adventure if you are not confident in your ability to run the slides blind, and/or to complete the entire run in your boat. Hiking out of this river and through the private property could be catastrophic to the next team of paddlers.

another adventure brought to you be Chris Baer

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Minnesota is COLD! But the rivers are RAGING!

Minnesota is COLD! But the rivers are RAGING!

another cold spring day on the North Shore, Chris Baer, Minnesota Lake superior surf
another cold spring day on the North Shore
Early season paddling in Minnesota started off with some flooding creeks. Temperatures in the Twin Cities jumped in early April, and the surrounding rivers flashed all at once. Mobilizing was unique, there are only a few kayakers based in the Twin Cities that really fall into the class V-caliber. Nonetheless, I was introduced to a hand full of dedicated paddlers, and early season kayaking commenced.

May snow storms bring June flowers?, red and yellow flower close up, Chris Baer
May snow storms bring June flowers?
The first snow to melt was in the vast farm fields to the southwest of the Twin Cities. A few of us felt the early season itch and made our way to a small drainage: Sand Creek. The river was packed full of debris; logs and ice were abundant, the class 2 creek was feeling a little intense. Luckily the river had a redeeming feature; an unmaintained Dam that was creating a fun eight foot pourover. It allowed the local paddlers to practice their delayed boof stroke and even let one of them get in a little swim practice.

Todd Dammitt trying to dial in his boof on the dam, sand creek, minnesota, Chris Baer,
Todd Dammitt trying to dial in his boof on the dam

Originally, when I packed for Minnesota I stumbled upon my self-support equipment. Being the tallest peak in Minnesota is Eagle Mountain at 2301' and Lake Superior is at an average of 591', I knew that the sustained vertical needed for a typical multi-day trip was lacking. Funny enough, on Easter Sunday, my second day of paddling in Minnesota this year, we put on the Minnesota River for an overnight self-support adventure. Thankfully, the weather stayed relatively nice as we paddled through the beaver and eagle infested flat water.

not that skittish, Chris Baer, Minnesota deer
not that skittish
Bald Eagle lurking in his perch , chris Baer, minnesota
Bald Eagle lurking in his perch
proper packing for a flat water overnight, recon 83, Chris Baer, minnesota
proper packing for a flat water overnight
Next up was the mighty Vermillion, a stock low-volume (200cfs) training ground for the city boaters. Lucky for me, the sun was shining and upon arrival I was greeted with approximately 2000cfs. A quick inspection led to the fact that the run still worked at huge flow. There was a couple of monster hydraulics that needed to be avoided. The 2000cfs four minute espresso tour went exceedingly well.

making my way down the Vermillion river at 2000cfs, water is way up in the trees, Chris Baer, Minnesota,
making my way down the Vermillion river at 2000cfs, water is way up in the trees
charging past one of the big holes on the Vermillion River, Chris Baer, Minnesota
charging past one of the big holes on the Vermillion River
Upon wrapping up the Twin Cities metropolitan whitewater tour, it was time to head North to Duluth. If you have never been there, Duluth is classic Minnesota. The accents are more prominent and wearing a fur hat is not just a trend. Upon arrival to Duluth, the snow started; It would accumulate another two and a half feet during my stay. As the snow continued, the Duluth crowd showed off one of their very odd, but rather respectable surf spots, Stoney Point on Lake Superior. The water is COLD! but the waves were fun. The fact that there were a dozen people on the break during a snowstorm attests to the core nature of Minnesotans.

Scott Ewen showing off the North Shore break, stoney point, minnesota kayak surf, Chris baer,
Scott Ewen showing off the North Shore break

adventure brought to you by Chris Baer