South Shore Steep Creeking

I managed to get up to the South Shore of Lake Superior for some spring runoff creeking. I drove up with Zach, Kev, and Jeff, though we didn't roll out of South Bend until 8pm due to Zach working and some jerk forgetting his paddle at his house. It was a long drive, and we finally rolled into L'Anse at about 5 in the morning. After trying (and failing) to find an open campground, we ended up rolling out our bags and sleeping pads in a pavilion in a city park. We slept 'til 8:30 and then headed to the Hilltop for breakfast and to rally with the other boaters in the area.

At breakfast, we tied in with Brock, Brian, and a substantial group of other boaters. We got on the Falls since it doesn't run very often and serves as a good introduction to the creek runs on the South Shore. Things started out with Powerhouse Falls, a 10 footer or so with a somewhat complicated move to setup, and then off of a sweet spout. It's a full-on start to the run, and a few of us fired it up, while the rest of the crew put in below. It was followed by a number of fun little ledges/slides, none of them carrying any big consequences.

Everyone in the group had a full-on creekboat, aside from Jeff, who was trying to be a hero in his Big EZ. It was not to be. After smashing through some rapids on his head and pitoning a somewhat significant ledge, putting a baseball sized dent in the nose of his boat, he walked out.

Then there was asshole, an out-of-character drop compared to the other ledges, where the whole river is funneled into a narrow, steep slot, partially blocked by the "hemorrhoid" rock which tossed lots of the outflow into the air. Many carried, and a few of us ran it (my run was fine, but a little shaky). Then there was a fun 6-8 ft ledge, followed by a mandatory portage around a tree. Back in the water, we hit another 8ft ledge, and after a slight respite we ran a series of small, close ledges, all fun little boofs. Zach joined the swim team there, getting caught in the hole at the bottom, but he was fine after an easy rescue. Two more significant ledges remained, the last which was a fun slide into a boofable 4 footer or so. Lots of fun. After a fast run through a dam and past the fishermen near the river mouth we were done.

It was so much fun we decided to do it again. I half expected the second run to be somewhat uneventful, since we knew the lines. It was not to be. I had a marginal run of Powerhouse, getting knocked off line at the lip by a little flake. I hit the pool at the bottom with too much angle and fell into a hole created by the falls. It flipped me, and I rolled up under it. Then one of our crew swam at asshole after getting flipped in the bottom hole and getting pushed into some rocks; I bagged him out and it wasn't a terrible swim, but it could have been a lot worse. Then Steve ran the wrong side of one of the multiple ledges and got his boat pinned under a birch tree that hit him at about the waist. He managed to walk out of it, but it was scary. Then Zach got thrown into a wall at the dam; he broke his paddle and cut up his hand through to the fatty tissue.

While the rest of the Indiana boys were done for the day, I was still up for more boating. I went off with Brock, Tenzin, and Steve to do the Upper Silver at pretty high water. I walked the first major rapid, Hail Mary, a 3-parter that looked do-able, but it was the 3rd run of the day on 3 hours of sleep, and I didn't really want to take any big chances. The boys ran it smoothly though. Brock told me "things pick up after Hail Mary." He was right. We dropped into about a mile or mile and a half of continuous class IVs, each stacked on top of the next with few eddies in between. Lots of slides, and a few clean ledges, all of it pumping. Things went well, but if they would have started to go wrong, they would have probably gone wrong for a long time. We then all took out at the Cabin Section, usually class V, which was in the high reaches of V+ with all of the water. Everybody took out, though Tenzin and Brock looked at it for a lot longer than I did.

After driving around and looking at some waterfalls, we had drinks and dinner at the Canteen and headed back to the hotel. Duffy and the Arkansans (ar-can-sans, mind) partied pretty hard, while the Indiana boys crashed out, needing more than 3 hours of sleep this time around. Apparantly they had a fun (albeit loud) time, and the birthday boy managed to sweet talk the poor desk clerk a bit.

On Saturday we headed to the Lower Silver, which Brock described as a lot of fun, mostly boat-scoutable class IV. It was fun, but he was wrong about the IV bit. With the water level high, things got busier. We had a swimmer after the first drop, and after we managed to fish him out and look at the next major drop, three of our group of seven walked off of the river. The remaining five of us ran a complex set of ledges, and then took out again in a small eddy, tying our boats to trees so they'd stay in the eddy, to scout a three-tiered class V drop. The line was there, though complicated, and 2 of our group decided to portage. Tenzin, Brock and I ran it, with clean lines all around. 100 yards down, we scouted another pretty big triple drop, this one with a more straightforward line, which was run by everyone. After some flatwater, we scouted the Railroad Rapid, a confused flume that pushed toward a large, jumbled, river-wide ledge that contained a tree, which most of the current wanted to push you at. 3 of us ran that one, with good lines again. After one last class IV flume, we were done. Or, I was anyway.

Brock and Tenzin went on to run Silver Falls, a V+ jumbled waterfall with a tricky lead in and a huge hole at the bottom, which was just below the take-out. Tenzin had a clean line, and Brock had a great start, until he wedged his paddle blade in a crack about halfway down the drop and snapped the right blade. He remained upright, but hit the hole at the bottom like a ton of bricks. He was flushed out, and then it took him a while to roll on his 1/4 of a paddle blade. Tenzin eventually had to ferry my paddle across to Brock so he could make it back to our side of the river. It was a full day.

On Sunday, we did an early morning lap of the Falls in order to get the boys on something steep (they had done the Rock the day before, which was apparently a little underwhelming). Tommy was with us, a friend of Kev's who hadn't really done any creeking before. It was interesting for me, since it was just the four of us and I was leading a river I had run twice, but things went well. I was the only one to run Powerhouse (I had the same line I had the second run on Friday) and we had clean lines all around.

On our way back home, we hit the Peshtigo at high water, which was pretty fun. Fun, big-water lines abounded, and Zach even did a few unintentional creekboat rodeo moves in a big hole. We ran into some of the other HCC members on the way down, and paddled out in sunshine and 75 degree weather.

This is the last trip before Colorado, since a funeral and finals fill up the rest of the weekends. It was a fun trip though, and the new helmet held up well.


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