Saturday, February 26, 2011

Season Opener! What? Just Two of Us?

This is my 6th spring being the watcher for the Vermilion River ice out. This year I faithfully checked each day after work but my friend Tony beat me down there on Thursday and announced it was open.   I must be slipping.  Or maybe he was too excited to try out his new Allstar on a river.
 We made plans to paddle Friday and put up the posts on Facebook and the local forum.  We had no takers.  A few said we were crazy. The others said take photos.
  Tony bought a cheap rope to install on the trail down.  Each year this part of the trail is by far the most dangerous thing on the river.  With deep cold snow it was much more easier to traverse the trail and install the rope. When it is in full melt the ice mixed with mud has made many paddlers slip and drop their boats and/or paddles down the cliff into the water.  I refer to it as the Express Put in. The rest of the trail below this was still steep and dangerous.  While hanging on to my boat I had to rely on my paddle placed horizontal in the uphill snow to stop me from sliding off the trail and down the slope. It was a tough climb and trek through the snow down but we were walking into a fantasy winter wonderland untouched with the exception of a few critter tracks.
  We launched off an ice ledge and started down.  The level was pleasant and not pushy.  Higher than the day before. The ice formations were still incredible to see. Quiet with the exception of the river we paddled just soaking in the view from below.
  This was the first paddle of my 7th year kayaking and Tony's 2nd year.  His first time paddling through an icy wonderland. Once in the river it all becomes worth it!  Tony has unlimited enthusiasm for the sport and combined with the energy of the young he played hard despite the temperature of 11 degrees.  When we arrived at the top of Triple Drop I saw that it was a narrow chute down the middle with ice ledges the whole way down on both sides.  Narrower than I would have guessed from the bridge above.  I told Tony I was running straight down, no stops and to keep in the middle and led off.  It made for a harder run avoiding the ice but fascinating to see the difference in the river.  Like running a whole new run.
  Down at Donut Hole it looked like great play.  Again Tony had  fun in the hole taunting me to jump in.  I had worn the wrong boots today for my playboat and couldn't fit into the boat completely leaving me partially off the back of my seat and not very comfortable in my kayak at all.  I used the patience and wisdom of experience and said there's all of next week to play and it's going to be much warmer than 11.

  The take out was slabs of ice right up to the cliff trail. Hard to get up with our boats and gear.  I thought the last time I was on ice and snow this steep I had my crampons and tools with.  Again using my paddle horizontally in the snow helped immensely.  The Verm is officially open. 

Click on any photo to enlarge.  Sorry about the spots in the camera.  Ice is hard to get off a lens.

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