I Fucked Up... Adventure Down the Kettle River, MN

That was the quote of the night, said by both Brooke and I. But let me rewind a bit first. I set off to Saint Croix State Park in Minnesota to spend the day. I've been to this park a number of times and wanted to get in 3-5 mile weighted (roughly 30#) pack hike in, while waiting for Brooke to join for a paddle down the Kettle River.

I was checking out different sections of the river to make sure we could still run it, with the water being so shallow. Looked tight in some spots and potential walking in other. Figured it was still a go and told Brooke to make her way up. I took advantage of the waiting time to setup a Time Lapse Tuesday shot and worked on timed photos with my Sony a6300 camera.

After my time lapse I noticed this down tree would make a perfect hammock spot. So I did just that! Grabbed my ENO and kicked back to relax.

We parked one car at the Head of the Rapids landing (mistake) for our take out and drove up the Kettle River to Maple Island Landing. Typically I get out prior to when the Kettle River meets the Saint Croix River but figured the next landing was the Head of the Rapids. We pumped up Nala and Izzy (new boards name!) and launched around 5:30PM. I knew this section would only take 45-60 minutes to complete so we had some buffer before the sunset. Even with the shallow water.

This is when the quote of the night really took place. "Ummm Brooke.. I fucked up", given Brooke said it earlier when she almost ran out of gas getting to the park. She had to turn around to get some backtracking 10-15 miles or so. We are like 2-2.5 miles away from our take out point, which happens to be upstream on the Saint Croix.. Since I paddle up Rice Creek all the time, I didn't think it would be all that bad. We were not going to be in the heart of the Saint Croix just on one of the side branch. Figured the current would be weaker. HA! I was slightly wrong. Plus we had shallow water to deal with so we could not get a solid push from the water with our strokes. We were literally fighting our way upstream.. In many of the sections it was easier for me to just walk, due to how strong the current was.

Then Brooke said, "Why don't we tie them together and both be on Nala like a canoe?" Hand to forehead like DUH! That is a great idea! Worked well until Brooke got burnout paddling and the water got even stronger. So I hopped out and started walking in the water pulling both Nala and Izzy while Brooke rode along.

About this time the water was getting stronger and stronger. Having Brooke on Nala was getting harder to pull upstream as the fins kept hitting rocks. So she hopped off and found out her shoes (sandals) was like walking on ice. Everything was so slippery and she had no grip at all. Instead of her trying to walk her way up river with me, she made here way over to shore and found a hiking trail. Now we are both on solo adventures. Brooke is hiking alone, in the woods, and in the dark for her first time. She said, "I got worried and just started running" because the sun was setting fast, she might get lost, and we might not find each other in the dark. Keep in mind she is not a runner. Guess she ran pretty quick through those woods to make sure we would find each other again.

Me on the other hand, was still fighting the river. One rapid section (class 1-2) after another I was getting pounded on. Legs were putting in some serious work. Then I came to a "calm" section and I hopped on Nala and started paddled away. This was more what I was used to, paddling upstream like on Rice Creek. Little push but nothing I could not overpower without burning myself out. Remember always leave some in the tank! Made up a ton of ground and only had like another solid mile to go now. But the river picked up again.. Sun was set at this point.. For every two hard strokes I would move maybe an inch.. FUCK THIS! Was the only thing going through my head. Hopped off and continued to walk 0.5 miles or so. Awww finally another calm spot. I took a quick breather, gazed at the stars, tried to text/call Brooke (unsuccessful), and drank some water. Fuck this flowed over my mind again, I knew I had to keep on pushing, and I started to paddling again. Finally, saw some light in the distance! YES! The landing is about 0.5 miles away, which I can hear a car horn honking ever so slightly. Guess Brooke was worried and only thing she could think of was to shine her lights off the launch and honking the horn every minute or so, smart girl that one is, so I would know where to go.

Paddled right up to the launch with both hands in the air! YESSS! We broke all the gear down, loaded up, and headed back to my Jeep. We shared each others stories on the drive back. Both amazed at what we just accomplished. We just did what needed to be done. Yeah there might have been easier ways, like paddling down river to the next launch while one went and grabbed a car, but that is shit you think about after the fact. Plus neither one of us had cell phone service to communicate doing that.. Given I did think about paddling down river after doing the splits over two boulders, twice in a row lol. But I was determined to make it up this section to our takeout point. I was more like let's do this thing and hammer it out. Physically and mentally I knew I would make it but things can happen in the blink of an eye.

Aftermath, both Nala and Izzy came out with no real damage! Yeah there are some scuffs on their bottoms but they are built for that. I did lose all 4 fins on Izzy... Thinking it was when I was towing her upstream and it reversed bashed into rocks, popping them right off, knew I forgot to screw them in. Both Brooke and I are totally all good. No injuries or anything. Yeah a little beat up and mentally drained but whatever, we are living. Sure does make for for one heck of an adventure story! But that just goes to show how you should always be prepared and ready for anything. Knowing your limitations is always a great thing to know too! Again, things can change in the blink of an eye. This was not something neither one of us expected was going to happen but we handled ourselves well and made it happen. Oh also quadruple check the fucking map to make sure you don't have to do something like this yourself lol :)

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