Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Yesterday I took my first solo Lake Superior paddle in quite some time. The VOR wanted to knock off a chunk of the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, a 200 plus mile trail that follows the ridgeline above Lake Superior on Minnesota's North Shore. I just needed more time on the big water, especially since I noticed that many leaves that had already turned color. I was dropped at the mouth of the Baptism River in Tettegouche State Park and agreed to be back there in 3 hours or so.
A solo paddle on Lake Superior always makes a person a bit more cautious. The wind and waves are evaluated a bit more carefully and you run through the mental checklist of all the things you might need to have. Timing is everything of course, and the final run through of my mental checklist was about the time the VOR was driving up the hill and out of the park. I realized that my bilge pump, paddle float, and spare paddle were all heading for the Caribou River. Now the question, from a risk management standpoint, was do I still paddle or do I stay and practice rolls for 3 hours at the mouth of the Baptism?
I really wanted to paddle; had that not been the case I would have been lacing up the hiking boots for the near vertical climb up the spur trail to the main Lake Superior Hiking Trail. This may have caused a bit of rationalization in my risk assessment but I think I was fairly honest with myself. Air temp was about 70F and the water was about 62F. I had my neoprene vest and shorts on so I was good there. Wind was onshore, about 120 degrees off from the direction the NWS kept insistently reporting on the weather radio, and the waves 1' - 3'. I had the radio, gps, compass, water, and all that good stuff. My sturdy basswood Greenland stick would take a major trauma to break and I have a couple solid rolls on both sides. The shore however, is dominated by Shovel Point and Palisade Head, both towering cliffs of rock with no place to land. There are a few small cobble beaches but even the mouth of the Baptism is a cleft between the rocks. In the final assessment I went for it.
It was a great time. Paddling solo once in awhile let you immerse yourself in the enjoyment of the moment without having to worry about group dynamics. 90% of the time I like to paddle with other folks but I do enjoy a good solitary paddle every now and then. I did stay out of the clapotis that extended a couple hundred yards out from the cliffs and was happy to note the stray groups of hikers and climbers along the shore, many of whom would venture a wave. It was bouncy and the Q Boat is not nearly the stable photographic platform that the Ore Freighter (Aquanaut HV) provides but I got some decent shots of the cliffs anyhow. Then it was back up the Baptism to brush up on a roll or two for this weekends Traditional Gathering in northern Minnesota. I hope I'm at the point where I'm doing the rolls that I think I know decently so I don't have to spend time refining them. I'd like to put a few new ones in the repitoire if thats possible. I will not be working on the offside reverse sweep though; I know for a fact that one is physically impossible. But all that is next weekend; the past weekend was great and I was happy with my risk assessment decision. Apparently things went well up on the hiking trail also and we were able to recount the days events over South Shore Brown ale and fresh (caught that morning) lake herring in a small throwback restaurant on the north shore. It was a superb Labor Day.