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After getting off the river, we went back to Lakewood and broke camp in the middle of the rain. A real pain! We then set off for 3 nights in a "rustic" cabin at Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort. These people are wonderful. They are there to teach kayaking, canoeing, cross-country skiing and also have some modern cabins as well as the rustic cabins.
Monday morning brought a steady rain front that was slow moving, but as there was no threat of lightening, we decided to go for it. After arranging a shuttle, we put in at Irrigation Hole, just a few miles north of Langlade. My friend has run the Wolf many times over the last 20 years and is very adept at reading the river and is very in-tune with hydraulics. (Thank goodness, as this was my first time in a canoe on a REAL moving river-I've been in canoes on slow water and a raft on the Rio Grande but this was to be a first!) I was excited but a little apprehensive as my friend was schooling me on what my job was to be.
I ran stern and am fairly proficient at my strokes, while my friend was in the bow so he could get good looks at the rapids. You start out with several small rapids(Sherry and Larzalere-I think) before you get to the Langlade bridge. The second day we ran this same section and saw tons of wildlife in just those few miles. We ran across a coyote swimming across the river, mergansers, bald eagles, heard a ruffed grouse "drumming" and saw several species of grosbeaks and orioles.
After Langlade bridge, there is some flat water and we came across an island where we saw a deer. We didn't see her until she took off and we were both startled but very glad to see it. Then you come upon your first set of decent rapids and we picked our line and went. What an adrenaline rush! The river reading for that day was at 13 and actually was an average reading. According to Steve (my friend) whom had run it at various levels, from very low to very high, he said this was perfect. I was working my draws, prys and rudders and having some success at getting through some massive rock gardens. It was a blast!
But the big ones were still to come. After several miles of smaller rapids you come across in succession-Twenty day, Boy Scouts and Hansons. At Boy Scouts the first day, we took on sufficient water but were able to eddy out and dump the boat. This was some BIG water with all kinds of combinations of rollers, holes, slides and rooster tails. (I picked up all the whitewater lingo from Steve!) We had his Mad River explorer with center and end bags for flotation and this helped immensely on the amount of water that was taken on.
From Boy Scouts, you basically go right in to Hansons and this took some serious concentration, as it was a pretty technical boulder garden. But we made it both days with nary a scratch. This was way boosting my confidence level and I was feeling like a real pro! But the best was yet to come. After Hansons the river widens and slows and you can relax for awhile. I said awhile , but not too long as you start to hear Gilmore's mistake coming up! Now we had scouted this out earlier from shore before we even started our trip and Steve had already been telling me some good stories about other times he had run the Wolf. The river narrows to maybe all of 25 feet and is a truly serious chute of fast water with ledges and rollers galore. After putting on the brakes and talking it over, we had decided on our line and went for it. As quickly as it all happened, I thought this was a piece of cake through the first half as we had the boat doing exactly what we wanted, but then all heck broke loose. Man, there was water coming from all directions. The slide on the right was throwing big water at us and almost knocked us out of the boat. We stayed upright through the rock garden that follows and paddled over to the take out just below; we had taken on so much water it was like we were sitting in a bath tub!. Actually, on the second day, we decided to carry back around and run it again. I'm telling you, this whitewater has me hooked. As long as I have someone like Steve with me. Very intense, but huge fun!
PFD's (Life Jackets)
Classic Freestanding Rack