Saturday morning I headed up to the north shore to meet Jason, a guy I had paddled with on the Kettle. We found out the water was turned on from the Beaver river on up, so we drove another hour or so up the shore to run the Upper Baptism, a class II-III. We ran a shuttle and then got on the river, which was mostly manuvering around boulders and boogie water until we saw a bedrock intrusion and a big rooster tail shooting off to the side. We eddied out quickly and pulled our boats off the water, which was good, since the river dropped over a 20-25 foot broken, ugly, rocky waterfall to the river below. We saw one possible line, but the water was low enough so it was likely we could get our boats pinned at three separate locations. We decided to walk it. I put my boat in to slide down the last five feet or so, then we paddled onward through some more rock-dodging and a few 2-3 foot ledges. It was a good run, though not much of a nail-biter.
We camped at a campsite that happened to be the take-out and hiked the Lower Baptism, which is a solid class IV with some class V. We saw Two-Step, which was a 10-12 foot falls to a small pool, then another narrower, meaner falls of about the same height. We realized we couldn't run the river with just the two of us, since neither of us knew the river and it would be impossible to set saftey. Later, we ended up hanging out with another group of paddlers who were at the campsite, and we decided to paddle the Manitou with them.
Sunday, after a long shuttle and waiting for everybody to get ready, we set off. The first mile or so was slow goings through an alder swamp, then we heard thunder and saw a smoking horizon line. We portaged a 60 foot, broken, mean looking waterfall which, though it may have been run, is basically a mandatory walk. We then were treated to some fun rock-dodging boulder garden paddling before we had to portage along the Superior Hiking Trail around an unrunnable Class VI canyon. We put in again into some more boulder gardens. Jason and I were the last two in a group of 11, and as we rounded a bend we saw them taking out on both sides to scout a significant horizon line. As I was eddying out Jason got flipped, then his boat pinned on a rock. He struggled for a moment, then popped his skirt and swam. I turned my boat into the current so I could catch him and paddle him to shore before he was pulled over the rapid. He let go of his boat and swam, making it to the eddy. I missed the eddy and realized I was going to run the rapid blind. One guy, who was at the brink of the falls, motioned me over until I was on line, then I plunged over an 8 or 10 foot falls. My line was good and I was spit cleanly out the bottom, where I chased down Jason's boat. I had run my first big falls blind, while chasing a boat. Good times.
We had another series of ledges and boulders, with one of the more experienced paddlers swimming after getting stuck below a technical ledge. Later, dropping down a 3 foot ledge Jason was flipped again. He tried to roll up, half-assed his roll a couple times, then swam again. We scrambled to get his boat and gear to shore, then it was a pain in the ass to get his boat back to him, since they were on opposite sides of the river, which was full of boulders, and we were above another Class IV drop. Eventually we managed, and as Anette (one of the rescuers) and I got into our boats Jason headed downstream and swam again over another ledge. Apparantly it was an ugly swim, and this time he lost his paddle. When I got downstream and ran the ledge (part of it backwards after getting turned around and recovering) Jason was hiking out, since he lost his paddle the 3rd time. The group went on, down to 10, and we ran a larger, maybe 12 foot, falls, which was a blast. More boulders and ledges ensued, then we took out before a monster waterfalls that has never been run and probably never will be. We saw the falls with the sun at our backs, and the mist created a perfect rainbow bridging the canyon.
We hiked out the rest of the way to Hwy 61, then I threw all of my gear in Jason's truck, remembered how to drive a stick shift, then headed out to pick him up near the put-in. After that, I headed home.
I'll have photos soon.