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Joined: 06/03/2010


          Years ago my friend Dennis and I bought a canoe together. We
had gone with some friends a few times on scenic river paddles and liked it
enough to get our own ride. We spent a good part of the spring and early summer
getting to know our canoe and how to use it until we felt comfortable enough to
do a long river trip solo and see how it went. We chose the upper Menominee and
paddled down for two days, camping one night and portaging a few times until we
reached our pickup point by one of the power dams.

            That fall I tried a little river
duck hunting from the canoe with not much luck since my only other duck hunts
had been on the bay from a blind. It was a great experience anyway but I gave
up trying to hunt from the canoe. Over the winter we discussed our future canoe
trips and decided on at least one whitewater rapids excursion. We have some
fine rivers in the area with some nice rapids and depending on the time of the
year these can be challenging for even experienced paddlers. We felt confident
enough in our abilities and our physical condition and chose a fine area on the
upper Peshtigo. In the spring the rapids on this river can be class III or even
IV and even in the summer several rapids still equal class II or III.

            Our day finally arrived and we had
our drop off on the upper river well above several of the best rapids with an
expected descent of about 4 to 6hours depending on the unexpected. It was a
warm almost hot afternoon so we were hoping to at least get a little wet a few
times to cool off. We should have hoped for less! The first stretch of river
was quiet and gentle with rustic surroundings of forest and farm land as we
floated silently downstream.

            We hit our first rapids and they
showed white foam and froth but we managed to navigate the shoots easily and
then we floated quietly again as the river slowed and widened. The next rapids
were a little bigger and longer and we paddled aggressively avoiding rocks at
times but hitting soundly at others. Luckily our fiberglass canoe held firm and
we escaped any major damage or leaks. Scraped paint and ugly gouges were the
worst at that point.

            We hit the real hairy rapids now and
flew through a narrows by the skin of our teeth or with only inches on the
sides as we passed granite rocks on each side higher than we could see over.
Paddling furiously we managed that one again with little damage but we got the
soaking we had wished for but when we saw the next set as being too dangerous
we franticly paddled to shore to scout it out or find a way around it. We were
young and brave or maybe just foolhardy so when we scouted the rapids out we
thought we could make it. Our mistake and we later learned this set was a class
IV+ at that time of year.

            We hit the first roaring white wall
in a splash and took on water heavily as we bounced off rocks and lost our
steering ability due to being tossed about like fishing bobbers! Half way
through the roughest stretch we capsized and tried to hold to our canoe but
lost touch as we went under in surf like waves and hit more boiling mad water.
We had our vests on but helmets were optional back in those days and we manly
like declined to wear any. We did however take an old whitewater shooters
advise and tied lanyards on for our paddles. I don’t know if either Dennis or I
were actually smashed about by the rocks but the pummeling of the waves felt as
hard as any rock.

            We survived with a few bruises and a
great soaking and as luck would have it so did our flooded canoe. We floated
with our vests for a while as the water slowed and as we drifted around a bend
we found our brutalized craft wedged in a drift jam along the bend where the
current had pushed it. We pushed it to shore and laid our clothes out to dry as
we bailed the canoe and inspected it for damage. A few cracks in the glass and
many scratches and gouges and a lot of missing paint but otherwise still

            The rest of the trip was sedate and
we hit our pullout after six hours with some periodic heavy pounding and weary
bodies and tired muscles. The trip proved we could do what we set out to do but
we resolved to be better prepared for any future whitewater runs. Helmets and
better scouting of the rapids before hitting them were going to be a priority.
We did several more rapid runs over the summer and even the next spring but as
we grew a little smarter we eventually sold our canoe and went on to other
recreational pursuits.