BWCA I survived capsize, rapids and self-extraction. May 14-15, 2022 Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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      I survived capsize, rapids and self-extraction. May 14-15, 2022     
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DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/21/2022 01:27PM  
This is my story. I would like to share for awareness and educational purposes. Any advice as to anyone else that may be interested, please let me know. Thank you.

My permit was for May 14, 2022, entry point 50 - Cross Bay. I was planning on going on a 2 week solo trip down through the Frost River and eventually into Little Saganaga. Typically this route would be ideal in the spring. However, there are record water levels in the boundary waters this year. I discovered small creeks that are typically capable of being walked across were turned into 50 foot wide white water rapids, with water 10+ feet deep.

I made out past 2 sets of rapid covered portage landings and flooded portage trails and was heading through an apparent calm narrow way from the bay just after the 2nd portage into the big part of Ham Lake when a strong current instantly turned me sideways and flipped me into the ice cold water. The current was pushing me into the center of the lake, away from shore and toward the rapids. I hooked and grabbed my canoe, paddle and 3 packs (1 main pack and 2 small food packs) with my one arm and started kicking and using the other arm to swim for the closest shore, which was a rock with a downed tree. I was in icy cold water for about 1 hour swimming against the current. My legs went numb and slowly stopped moving at some point. I had to shed one of my food packs to decrease the drag and continued to swim with one hand.

I managed to get to the partially submerged tree and pull myself onto it and then straddle it like a horse. I pulled my boat onto the tree with the gunwales facing down, and flipped my boat over it to empty the water and get it upright. I then got back in. Similar to an open water canoe retrieval with a 2nd boat. I tried to drag my large main pack but it was dragging my boat sideways from being pulled by the current. So I reluctantly put my main pack and 1 food bag I had with me into the boat. I was top heavy since I was not able to distribute the weight of my packs in the boat properly. I then tried to paddle over to get the other food bag still in the water that was heading for rapids.

The current once again took me and this time sucked me into raging rapids dumping me into the water. Then I was sent down rapids and beaten by trees and rocks. I kept my arms in front of my face to absorb most of the blows. I had my life jacket on but the current and waves were so strong, that I was constantly being pushed under water and would only come up once in a while to grasp for part of a breath. My body was giving out. I kept my legs up to try to avoid being trapped by underwater debris. While my lungs started filling with water, I threw my arms up with one last hope to grab something. Luckily, I managed to blindly grab a tree while I was underwater and pull myself up. My canoe came right up behind, pinning me against the tree and pushing with such force I could barely move. My legs were caught in branches below the water, but my head was now above. I took a few deep breaths and coughed up some water. I saw my main pack barely caught on a branch next to me, I grabbed it and hooked it securely to the tree I was pinned against.

I managed to pull my legs out of the debris and work my way down the tree toward shore, out of the water and onto the land. I managed to go back for my pack and bring it ashore. I am hypothermic and was going into shock. I quickly pulled the tarp out of my bag, ripped my clothes off, wrapped myself in the tarp, fell to the ground and threw up a few times. I turned myself to the side before allowing myself to pass out, to prevent asphyxiation if I vomited while unconscious, which I did.

When I came to, I was shaking and burning cold. I managed to get my head together and focus back. I quickly got dressed in dry clothes and began to assess the situation. My spot tracker, phone, watch and maps were all torn from me in the rapids. I had no canoe and no food. I assumed that nobody would be coming close to me for a while due to the conditions and I wasn't expected to return for 2 weeks. I accepted there will be little to no chance of rescue. I needed to get out on my own and quickly. I am sore, beaten, bruised and cut up but nothing broken and everything mostly works. I looked at what I have... I thankfully had my main pack that had dry clothes, tarp, hammock, sleeping bag, compass, first aid kit and spare water filter.

I then heard thunder and the skies went dark. I set up camp immediately along the shoreline where I landed and where my canoe was still pinned about a foot below the water. I managed to get the tarp up and get into my hammock before a short thunderstorm came and went. I made some weak spruce needle tea, rested in my hammock and began to make an escape plan. While planning, I decided to draw a rough map from memory on a bandage wrapper while the information was still fresh in my mind. I stayed hydrated and rested all night.

I woke up Sunday morning at dawn, hydrated well, packed up camp, threw my main pack on my back and headed out into the woods using my compass and little hand drawn map. My visibility was limited at times to only a few feet in front of me. My feet were sinking in muck if I stayed too long in one spot. I could not follow the shore line as the water was so high. So I had to go inland. I was zig-zagging through the flooded terrain, going up steep climbs and rocks covered with such thick brush it's like trying to run in a dream. The constant resistance was unimaginably exhausting.

Adding to the struggle were the branches whipping me in the face and jabbing my body as I walked. Due to the Ham Lake fire, the terrain is covered with younger trees that still have their low branches tangled with thick and gnarly ground cover. Even the highlands were saturated with the recent rains and snow melt. Every step was a mushy, entangled, uneven nightmare and strains the ankles and knees. A few times I had to throw my gear down the edges of rocks and climb down, hoping there was a way out. I started hearing the 1st sets of rapids grow louder and began to head toward them.

This led me through a flooded lowland area that was covered in thick, submerged brush but had small grass patch clearings above the water line. I tried to keep to these, but then realized I was walking in piles of fresh wolf scat everywhere. I stopped for a moment, but could not see anything through the branches. I could only hear multiple animals scurrying and splashing all around me. It seemed that the wolves were using the dry, grassy patches for bedding and I was walking on their beds. I continued through this for a few minutes without confrontation. I then had to cross a section of flooded forest in chest high water while navigating the submerged underbrush for about 10 minutes. I was slowing significantly once I got out of the water. I was water logged, freezing and shaking once again. I decided to go a bit farther and reach higher ground to assess again.

As I pushed a bit farther, I suddenly popped out of the wilderness directly behind my car in the entry point parking lot. For four hours, I trekked, drudged and bushwhacked with a 60 lb pack on my back and ended up directly behind my car at the entry point parking lot. After my return, the Forest Service subsequently temporarily suspended permits for EP #50.

I would like to thank Tuscarora and Voyageur Canoe Outfitters for their help and support upon my return.

 
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Canoearoo
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05/21/2022 02:57PM  
wow, I'm so glad you survived! Thank you for sharing
 
andym
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05/21/2022 03:04PM  
Glad you made it out. That is a harrowing story. I’m impressed by your strength. I’m sure your story saved others by them closing the EP.
 
deerfoot
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05/21/2022 03:17PM  
What a story - glad you survived. If you ever care to analyze your trip and list what you did and shouldn't have done please do. It would be a good learning experience for the rest of us.
 
Northwoodsman
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05/21/2022 03:19PM  
That is one heck of a story. Glad you are able to tell it. I was on that exact same route exactly 3 years earlier (almost exactly to the day). I have seen several recent videos of the area and those portages, nothing even looks familiar.
 
TaylorRN
member (34)member
 
05/21/2022 03:53PM  
Holy smokes, what a read! You’re very descriptive. I’m glad you’re alive, I’m sure you learned a ton!
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(2422)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/21/2022 04:01PM  
Dave, can you go back and make some paragraphs? There is an edit button when you are logged in. It's a tough read as one super-sized paragraph.
Tom
 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/21/2022 04:08PM  
Thank you for the advice. I will try to analyze the details more and discuss the choices made, both good and bad. I will also be making a video of my account of the experience. I will try to go into depth in my video as well.
 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/21/2022 04:27PM  
Thanks for the tip Tom. Hope it is easier to read now.
 
05/21/2022 05:03PM  
What a frightening story Dave. I’m so glad you were able to get yourself out of that bad situation. Like Northwoodsman, I did that route a year ago last fall and could not recognize it from the videos.

I appreciate your being so open in sharing your story. It will both serve as a further warning to everyone about the elevated risk with high water and hopefully cause people to think through detail by detail what to do in such situations - I sure have been doing that.

Take care, and I look forward to your video.
 
hobbydog
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05/21/2022 05:07PM  
Wow, what a story. That is always such a tame little stream. Usually just a trickle. Can’t imagine what that looked with that amount of water. That had to be an incredible feeling stumbling into the parking lot.
 
straighthairedcurly
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05/21/2022 05:25PM  
I am very glad you made it out alive. That was an extreme situation. Thank you for posting as the conditions you describe and the current that flipped you is exactly why the FS is warning that only people with extreme wilderness experience should be traveling many of these routes right now.
 
Mocha
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05/21/2022 05:52PM  
Thankful you are out and safe.

We’re you able to recover your gear or canoe? Or is you canoe wedged good enough it won’t get away.

 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/21/2022 05:59PM  
Mocha: "Thankful you are out and safe.


We’re you able to recover your gear or canoe? Or is you canoe wedged good enough it won’t get away.


"


No gear has been recovered yet. Tuscarora got eyes on my canoe today (May 21) and took the pic I attached. They said it looked intact and should be able to get to it in a week or 2 when the water drops low enough. It looks as though it is still entangled in the debris holding it fairly well in place, but we will have to wait and see.
 
Northwoodsman
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05/21/2022 06:28PM  
Earlier today my brother and I were talking about situations like this. He is a strong and experienced paddler and is going on a BWCA trip in 10 days with his 29 year old son who is also a strong paddler. I conveyed to him that I am worried about him. One problem is that when you come up to these areas that have these "new" and unexpected rapids and strong, swift currents you are often going in bow first. You have three ways to get out - 1) back paddle like heck which isn't easy because it's hard to paddle backwards and look behind you and it's almost impossible to steer in a current, or 2) turn your canoe 180° which isn't smart because you will have the flow coming at you at 90° in the process which is when you capsize, or 3) paddle like heck towards the closest shore jump out and extract yourself and gear out of the water as quickly as possible which isn't always possible based on the type of shore (this would work best if you had lines already attached and ready).

Many people overestimate themselves and their abilities. Paddlers may have whitewater experience on rivers and streams but how many paddlers have whitewater experience paddling on flooded portages and on raging waters running through the forest? You have trees and limbs coming at you knocking you out of your canoe, branches coming at you like spears, logs and debris floating all around get tangled up in your legs and feet. The water is ice cold!! If and when you are lucky enough to get to dry land where is your gear? Where are you? How do you get out? Do you have to cross that rushing water again to exit?

I would hope that with the busy holiday weekend coming up at the end of this coming week that people would pay attention to the conditions and make smart decisions. Wear a PFD at all times. Don't take risks when you have children with you; if you have to cancel the trip or do something else, they will get over it. People may be camping closer to EP's because they can't get any farther for safety reasons. If you can't find a campsite turn back, don't risk it.
 
05/21/2022 06:35PM  
Glad you are safe and thanks for sharing.
 
billconner
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05/21/2022 06:50PM  
Thanks for sharing and kudos for your presence of mind to survive.
 
cyclones30
distinguished member(3903)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/21/2022 07:28PM  
I saw the almost daily video posts from Tuscarora on Instagram from that EP and it looked downright terribly dangerous. No thanks.

Glad you made it back! It sounds like it's a bit better now but still high of course. But right around ice out it was a raging class III in spots
 
05/21/2022 09:57PM  
Wow! That was quite the ordeal, glad you were able to make it out. I have been through there several times but nothing like that. Lots of food for thought.
 
TRadam
member (37)member
 
05/22/2022 07:55AM  
I am glad you survived to tell the tale. With the power of hindsight, what lessons do you think we should know, what would you do differently? I think you showed amazing skills in a very stressful and potentially tragic situation.
 
scottiebaldwin
senior member (83)senior membersenior member
 
05/22/2022 08:35AM  
Super thankful you’re okay.
 
05/22/2022 10:22AM  
Northwoodsman: "Earlier today my brother and I were talking about situations like this. He is a strong and experienced paddler and is going on a BWCA trip in 10 days with his 29 year old son who is also a strong paddler. I conveyed to him that I am worried about him. One problem is that when you come up to these areas that have these "new" and unexpected rapids and strong, swift currents you are often going in bow first. You have three ways to get out - 1) back paddle like heck which isn't easy because it's hard to paddle backwards and look behind you and it's almost impossible to steer in a current, or 2) turn your canoe 180° which isn't smart because you will have the flow coming at you at 90° in the process which is when you capsize, or 3) paddle like heck towards the closest shore jump out and extract yourself and gear out of the water as quickly as possible which isn't always possible based on the type of shore (this would work best if you had lines already attached and ready).

Many people overestimate themselves and their abilities. Paddlers may have whitewater experience on rivers and streams but how many paddlers have whitewater experience paddling on flooded portages and on raging waters running through the forest? You have trees and limbs coming at you knocking you out of your canoe, branches coming at you like spears, logs and debris floating all around get tangled up in your legs and feet. The water is ice cold!! If and when you are lucky enough to get to dry land where is your gear? Where are you? How do you get out? Do you have to cross that rushing water again to exit?

I would hope that with the busy holiday weekend coming up at the end of this coming week that people would pay attention to the conditions and make smart decisions. Wear a PFD at all times. Don't take risks when you have children with you; if you have to cancel the trip or do something else, they will get over it. People may be camping closer to EP's because they can't get any farther for safety reasons. If you can't find a campsite turn back, don't risk it."



This is spot on advice. We just got back from the baker entry point. After the first portage we scrapped our planned route and base camped. Between my brother and I we have 100 years of paddling experience, many rivers in the Canadian far north. The bwca is dangerous right now, access to the portages very difficult, we had to pull our canoe through what had been shoreline, but was now three feet of flowing water.

In the event you find yourself swimming you do not want to be downstream of your canoe. You run the risk of being pinned against an obstacle. This can be deadly. Swimming keep you legs pointed downstream, you want your feet to hit the rocks not your head. Walking in rapids or fast current is also a risk as there is the risk of your feet getting jammed in rocks or tree debris.

Some rivers will remain risky for the next week. The water is ice cold. Be ultra cautious and know that it is fine to abandon plans if you aren’t comfortable with the risks
 
05/22/2022 10:41AM  
straighthairedcurly: "I am very glad you made it out alive. That was an extreme situation. Thank you for posting as the conditions you describe and the current that flipped you is exactly why the FS is warning that only people with extreme wilderness experience should be traveling many of these routes right now. "

I was not aware that the forest service was warning people. However with these conditions even very experienced paddlers are going to find Conditions very challenging.

On our drive back to Duluth, stopping at the raging rivers at temperance river and the split rock overlook, we had two separate group ask us about the bwca conditions. Both groups took our advice and canceled their trip
 
05/22/2022 02:20PM  
Thanks for sharing your experience, we are all so very glad you made it out!

T
 
ockycamper
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05/23/2022 08:37AM  
Thank you for sharing this. Would probably serve all of us well to check with outfitters and Forest Service regarding flooding and rapids before planning our routes.
 
Speckled
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05/23/2022 09:45AM  
Wow! Glad you're ok.
 
pastorjsackett
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05/23/2022 09:50AM  
What a story. I a grateful you survived and also for your helpful warnings.

 
05/23/2022 10:31AM  
Glad you're ok!

Out of curiosity, I'd love to see a little marked up map of where you dumped and where you think you trekked. It sounds like you were near the very first campsite on the north side of Ham...where there is no portage marked. And then walked northwest to the EP 50 parking lot? Did you go south of the Cross River "ponds" or north of that?
 
05/23/2022 10:58AM  
I was kayaking the Mississippi River Headwaters last week. My goal was Minneapolis. I paddled the Mississippi River to the Gulf last summer. I aborted Lake Itasca Headwaters to Minneapolis as the water levels were so LOW. I was back to finish my trip.

What a difference a year makes. The water levels were almost at a record high. I am embarrassed to say that I also flipped my kayak after hitting a submerged log when making a S Turn in very strong current. I have been paddling canoes and kayaks for 42 years and have never flipped over.

Like DaveKasprak I survived. I only lost a hat. When I flipped over my leg got pinned in some underwater tree limbs for a few seconds but I was able to pull my leg out. I held in to my paddle but the kayak floated on downriver. I had knee replacements in 2020 and I thought I broke my leg and knee cap as my leg bent back all the way back to my butt.

I made it to shore about 50 yards from the flip and after bouncing off several big rocks. The water was about 49 degrees. Unfortunately I came ashore on river left. I walked along the shore about 1/4 mile and I saw my kayak upside down on the right shore. Thankfully the Headwaters is quite narrow … so I was able to slowly walk across the river about 200 yards downriver from my kayak at a low spot. It was difficult to cross to the right shoreline as the current was very strong but it was doable.

My incident was not near as life threatening as DaveKasparak’s but it was eye opening for me. I was able to use my INREACH to text for a pickup.

I will be going back up to Bemidji in a few weeks when the river calms down to finish my last 497 miles.

Word of advice. Be careful. Especially in cold water conditions and strong current. Be prepared with equipment attached to your life vest to get a quick fire going if you end up in the cold water.
 
05/24/2022 10:19PM  
Wow, this story reads like a movie, and could probably be turned into one. It sounds like you were very close to not making it. I'm impressed with your survival skills, I think many of us would have perished. As a hunter, I'm often thankful wolves, coyotes, and black bears, aren't interested in us. Good thing they were interested in you.
 
05/24/2022 10:27PM  
Your story and other capsized stories from this spring are the reason I scrapped plans to portage on my solo trip next week. Now I’m going to base camp on a larger lake. While I’m an somewhat experienced paddler I don’t trust my survival skills!!
 
OgimaaBines
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05/25/2022 09:53AM  
treehorn: "Glad you're ok!


Out of curiosity, I'd love to see a little marked up map of where you dumped and where you think you trekked. It sounds like you were near the very first campsite on the north side of Ham...where there is no portage marked. And then walked northwest to the EP 50 parking lot? Did you go south of the Cross River "ponds" or north of that?"


Thank you for sharing your story. I'd also like to see a workup of where these things took place. I've got plans to do the same route Cross bay>Frost River>Gabi>Gillis>Round late next week. Levels will be down, and I'll consult with Tuscarora Lodge regarding safety at that time.
 
05/25/2022 10:44AM  
Holy cow, Dave! What a story of survival. So glad you made it out. Your survival skills have made me want to review what I know and don't know - I don't think I would have made it like you did. Great job navigating all of that to appear out of the woods at your own car!
 
Twins87
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05/25/2022 01:15PM  
OgimaaBines: "treehorn: "Glad you're ok!



Out of curiosity, I'd love to see a little marked up map of where you dumped and where you think you trekked. It sounds like you were near the very first campsite on the north side of Ham...where there is no portage marked. And then walked northwest to the EP 50 parking lot? Did you go south of the Cross River "ponds" or north of that?"



Thank you for sharing your story. I'd also like to see a workup of where these things took place. I've got plans to do the same route Cross bay>Frost River>Gabi>Gillis>Round late next week. Levels will be down, and I'll consult with Tuscarora Lodge regarding safety at that time."


Would love a report when you return. We have a Cross Bay permit in two weeks and I am hoping that water levels are down by then. We are not looking for high adventure on our vacation this year.
 
LaVirginienne
senior member (52)senior membersenior member
 
05/25/2022 02:34PM  
So glad you’re ok. Thank you so much for this beautifully written account of survival and self rescue. I will study it and learn from it. You were very strong under unimaginably tough circumstances. Your account of disturbing a Wolf pack is one I will never forget—and will probably never read about again, either! Once again, thank you.
 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/25/2022 10:40PM  
Hopefully my description of the location is helpful. Let me know if more info is needed.
 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/25/2022 11:00PM  
TRadam: "I am glad you survived to tell the tale. With the power of hindsight, what lessons do you think we should know, what would you do differently? I think you showed amazing skills in a very stressful and potentially tragic situation. "

There were quite a few things I should have done differently. To name a few, I should have trusted my gut initially and turned back when I saw the first portage covered in rapids. I should have been better prepared for the current under the calm surface at the narrowing at the north of Ham. I should have not gone for my 2nd food pack so close to the rapids, especially while I knew I was unstable and already starting with hypothermia. I should have gone right for safe, solid ground.

Some lessons that helped me in this situation:
-How to manage a canoe while capsized in open water. Research and practice (in warm water) the multiple retrieval techniques that coincide with different scenarios you may find yourself in.
-First aid
-Hypothermia management
-Knowing how to swim
-Techniques that will increase survival while going down rapids
-How to navigate with a compass, setting and following bearings
-Survival priorities and techniques
-Self control and emotional management under stress
-Will and absolute determination is more powerful than I thought
- *Most importantly* - Wearing a proper life vest saves lives!

If I was not wearing my life vest, I would not have survived the first 5 minutes after going into the water.

 
DaveKasprak
member (8)member
 
05/25/2022 11:58PM  
treehorn: "Glad you're ok!


Out of curiosity, I'd love to see a little marked up map of where you dumped and where you think you trekked. It sounds like you were near the very first campsite on the north side of Ham...where there is no portage marked. And then walked northwest to the EP 50 parking lot? Did you go south of the Cross River "ponds" or north of that?"


Yes, I initially capsized just by the first campsite into the north side of Ham, at the narrowing. The current took me into the bay, away from the narrowing and toward the rapids by the portage. The downed tree I swam to and recovered my canoe was on the south west side of the bay, across the narrowing from the campsite. After I got pulled into the rapids, I landed on the southwest side (opposite side of the portage). I was walking on the west side of the cross river ponds back to the EP 50 parking lot.
 
05/26/2022 02:13PM  
Amazing to read this story - glad you had the grit to find your way home. Thank you for sharing this story for us all to learn from & reflect before our own journeys.
 
Minnesotian
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05/26/2022 02:39PM  
DaveKasprak: "
Yes, I initially capsized just by the first campsite into the north side of Ham, at the narrowing. "


I will never stay at that campsite. Too much bad luck associated with it.

Thank you for sharing your story. Many good things to ponder and learn from.
 
05/26/2022 03:13PM  
"


I will never stay at that campsite. Too much bad luck associated with it.
"

Haha - I was thinking the same thing....
 
nooneuno
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05/27/2022 04:30PM  
DaveKasprak: "This is my story. I would like to share for awareness and educational purposes. Any advice as to anyone else that may be interested, please let me know. Thank you.

My permit was for May 14, 2022, entry point 50 - Cross Bay. I was planning on going on a 2 week solo trip down through the Frost River and eventually into Little Saganaga. Typically this route would be ideal in the spring. However, there are record water levels in the boundary waters this year. I discovered small creeks that are typically capable of being walked across were turned into 50 foot wide white water rapids, with water 10+ feet deep.

I made out past 2 sets of rapid covered portage landings and flooded portage trails and was heading through an apparent calm narrow way from the bay just after the 2nd portage into the big part of Ham Lake when a strong current instantly turned me sideways and flipped me into the ice cold water. The current was pushing me into the center of the lake, away from shore and toward the rapids. I hooked and grabbed my canoe, paddle and 3 packs (1 main pack and 2 small food packs) with my one arm and started kicking and using the other arm to swim for the closest shore, which was a rock with a downed tree. I was in icy cold water for about 1 hour swimming against the current. My legs went numb and slowly stopped moving at some point. I had to shed one of my food packs to decrease the drag and continued to swim with one hand.

I managed to get to the partially submerged tree and pull myself onto it and then straddle it like a horse. I pulled my boat onto the tree with the gunwales facing down, and flipped my boat over it to empty the water and get it upright. I then got back in. Similar to an open water canoe retrieval with a 2nd boat. I tried to drag my large main pack but it was dragging my boat sideways from being pulled by the current. So I reluctantly put my main pack and 1 food bag I had with me into the boat. I was top heavy since I was not able to distribute the weight of my packs in the boat properly. I then tried to paddle over to get the other food bag still in the water that was heading for rapids.

The current once again took me and this time sucked me into raging rapids dumping me into the water. Then I was sent down rapids and beaten by trees and rocks. I kept my arms in front of my face to absorb most of the blows. I had my life jacket on but the current and waves were so strong, that I was constantly being pushed under water and would only come up once in a while to grasp for part of a breath. My body was giving out. I kept my legs up to try to avoid being trapped by underwater debris. While my lungs started filling with water, I threw my arms up with one last hope to grab something. Luckily, I managed to blindly grab a tree while I was underwater and pull myself up. My canoe came right up behind, pinning me against the tree and pushing with such force I could barely move. My legs were caught in branches below the water, but my head was now above. I took a few deep breaths and coughed up some water. I saw my main pack barely caught on a branch next to me, I grabbed it and hooked it securely to the tree I was pinned against.

I managed to pull my legs out of the debris and work my way down the tree toward shore, out of the water and onto the land. I managed to go back for my pack and bring it ashore. I am hypothermic and was going into shock. I quickly pulled the tarp out of my bag, ripped my clothes off, wrapped myself in the tarp, fell to the ground and threw up a few times. I turned myself to the side before allowing myself to pass out, to prevent asphyxiation if I vomited while unconscious, which I did.

When I came to, I was shaking and burning cold. I managed to get my head together and focus back. I quickly got dressed in dry clothes and began to assess the situation. My spot tracker, phone, watch and maps were all torn from me in the rapids. I had no canoe and no food. I assumed that nobody would be coming close to me for a while due to the conditions and I wasn't expected to return for 2 weeks. I accepted there will be little to no chance of rescue. I needed to get out on my own and quickly. I am sore, beaten, bruised and cut up but nothing broken and everything mostly works. I looked at what I have... I thankfully had my main pack that had dry clothes, tarp, hammock, sleeping bag, compass, first aid kit and spare water filter.

I then heard thunder and the skies went dark. I set up camp immediately along the shoreline where I landed and where my canoe was still pinned about a foot below the water. I managed to get the tarp up and get into my hammock before a short thunderstorm came and went. I made some weak spruce needle tea, rested in my hammock and began to make an escape plan. While planning, I decided to draw a rough map from memory on a bandage wrapper while the information was still fresh in my mind. I stayed hydrated and rested all night.

I woke up Sunday morning at dawn, hydrated well, packed up camp, threw my main pack on my back and headed out into the woods using my compass and little hand drawn map. My visibility was limited at times to only a few feet in front of me. My feet were sinking in muck if I stayed too long in one spot. I could not follow the shore line as the water was so high. So I had to go inland. I was zig-zagging through the flooded terrain, going up steep climbs and rocks covered with such thick brush it's like trying to run in a dream. The constant resistance was unimaginably exhausting.

Adding to the struggle were the branches whipping me in the face and jabbing my body as I walked. Due to the Ham Lake fire, the terrain is covered with younger trees that still have their low branches tangled with thick and gnarly ground cover. Even the highlands were saturated with the recent rains and snow melt. Every step was a mushy, entangled, uneven nightmare and strains the ankles and knees. A few times I had to throw my gear down the edges of rocks and climb down, hoping there was a way out. I started hearing the 1st sets of rapids grow louder and began to head toward them.

This led me through a flooded lowland area that was covered in thick, submerged brush but had small grass patch clearings above the water line. I tried to keep to these, but then realized I was walking in piles of fresh wolf scat everywhere. I stopped for a moment, but could not see anything through the branches. I could only hear multiple animals scurrying and splashing all around me. It seemed that the wolves were using the dry, grassy patches for bedding and I was walking on their beds. I continued through this for a few minutes without confrontation. I then had to cross a section of flooded forest in chest high water while navigating the submerged underbrush for about 10 minutes. I was slowing significantly once I got out of the water. I was water logged, freezing and shaking once again. I decided to go a bit farther and reach higher ground to assess again.

As I pushed a bit farther, I suddenly popped out of the wilderness directly behind my car in the entry point parking lot. For four hours, I trekked, drudged and bushwhacked with a 60 lb pack on my back and ended up directly behind my car at the entry point parking lot. After my return, the Forest Service subsequently temporarily suspended permits for EP #50.

I would like to thank Tuscarora and Voyageur Canoe Outfitters for their help and support upon my return.

"


Was suprised to hear your tale on MPR today as well...
 
05/28/2022 08:05AM  
Man, I'm glad you're ok! I had to read that twice. It reads like a fictitious tale though I have no doubts the actual events were an even more imposing experience than your recount. Really glad you're ok.
 
Mocha
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06/08/2022 07:05AM  
Have u been able to recover your canoe and gear?
 
chessie
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06/09/2022 09:30AM  
Thank you for sharing your story, and so very grateful you survived and made it out! Strong work!
 
Savage Voyageur
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06/10/2022 08:36AM  
I’m so glad you survived to tell your story here. When you have some time you should write some thoughts and details down. Great reminder for wearing a PFD and having a ditch kit on your body.
 
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