Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gitchee Gumee's waters: liquid and frozen

Hasty paddle plans were laid on at a bar concert Thursday night, which resulted in Mr. EngineerGear and I heading for the south shore of Lake Superior on Saturday morning. I felt pressure to get on the water since the VOR and I will be on a first ever two week vacation beginning next weekend in a foreign land. The two of us had a lovely day on the Duluth ice mountains last weekend but she is infinitely more dedicated than I in 'ant vs. grasshopper' situations and opted to stay and get some work done. Our intention was to paddle the mainland sea caves but we were prepared to take whatever 'The Boss' decided to give us. After finding Bark Bay and the Bark Point boat landing iced in solidly, we found Siskiwit Bay in Cornucopia wide open and Meyers Beach in Mawikwe Bay kinda sorta open.

We planned to launch from Meyers Beach and paddle over to the sea caves, just like a couple of July tourists. Unlike July however, we had no trouble with parking spots. The problem was a shelf of ice that extended out into the lake about as high as the typical bar, and seemed to offer little opportunity to get on the water easily. We could have seal launched but weren't dead sure of how deep it was and if we would be able to clamber back up on the ice shelf when we got back. Plus our kayaking problem solving process was a bit dulled from 5 months of no paddling. We wound up lugging the boats about 250 yards west to a creek that had melted the ice down to the edge of the shore and launched there.

It was a great first day on the water. I always like to hit Superior for that first paddle, partially for the rush I feel when I get back on the lake but mainly since its the only non flowing water that's open this time of year. We had a 10-15 mph west wind which kicked up some chop and the a few mini swells. This provided some nice clapotis off the caves, just the right amount to remind us that we needed to keep loose hips and 'keep dancing' to keep the boats under us. Mr. EG opined that, "I don't feel quite like I did when I got out of the boat in Rossport after a week long paddle up from Silver Islet last summer". I felt rusty but really good. The ice falls around the caves were spectacular and the brilliant sun contrasted the white ice, reddish brown caves, and blue water very nicely. Some of the ice stalactites were dripping and others had broken off at the base as the wave action moved them back and forth. We remembered that spring is when the Miners Castle, Oak Island arch, and north shore arch all collapsed and stayed a respectful distance from the ice and caves. Like most first paddles, we went too far as we meandered east along the caves then had to hammer it back to Meyers Beach with the wind in our teeth. We chided ourselves as morons when we noticed a small exposed section of beach about 10 yards from the foot of the stairs, invisible from the foot of the steps but apparent had we walked 10' out on the ice. It was nice avoiding that little portage that we did when we launched.

We dined on fresh broiled Whitefish washed down with Summit EPA and Porter at the Port Bar in Port Wing, WI and bonded with a bunch of friendly and spectacularly intoxicated fisherman. The chop had been a little hard on their kidneys and the fish aren't really biting well yet, so most of them had been in the bar since mid afternoon. We arrived around 6pm and politely declined the generous offer of shots of Rumplemintz. A bunch of really good guys and, as one of them explained, "We all got a bad case of spring fever up here today". A warm April sun, spectacular yet fleeting scenery, a little bouncy kayaking refresher courtesy of Lake Superior, and a couple of fine tap beers made for the perfect first paddle of the season.

1 comment:

rocksandfeathers said...

This is so's not so much where I paddle as who I paddle with.
Thanks for a great post.
BTW - that's a Motley Crew in the Superior Photo. :)