Colorado Trip Report

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Lazer
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Colorado Trip Report

Post by Lazer » Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:13 pm

When we decided back in January to spend a week of boating in Colorado this June, the upcoming snow pack and runoff was still an unknown. Even if it turned out to be as low as 2012, there would still be something to boat on. Plus we’d be in Colorado in the summer, which is pretty damn good anyway. As Winter turned to Spring, it was looking like 2013 would be a repeat of 2012’s dismal snow pack. But alas a late April/early May weather pattern that brought cold weather and snow flurries to the Ozarks delivered a hefty dose of snow to get the Rockies back up to a normal snow-pack level. Now we knew we’d have some good boating options.

On the first day we met Marc, Sara, James, Erica and Scott in Buena Vista and headed up to the Numbers on the Arkansas. It was running around 1700 cfs on the backside of a 2800 cfs peak just a few days before. Ginger and I unloaded the Shredder as the guys got their kayaks ready and off we went for some high altitude rapid running. It was good to be on this river again even though it wasn’t the 3500 cfs of a couple years earlier, the Numbers never disappoints when it comes to some good ole fashion river running: Big waves, Big holes, fast and continuous. Somewhere at the bottom of the runnout from #5, the Shedder slammed the breaks as it it a little wave/hole just as I was leaning out to get a paddle stroke. Next thing I know, I’m a** over elbows and in the water. I quickly swim to the side of the boat and Ginger helps fish me out of the river to continue through the last two Numbers. Now it was time to play musical boats.

We unloaded our kayaks and Marc put his up as Sara joined him in the Shredder to continue down river through the Fractions/Frog Rock section. Ginger had just experienced her first Colorado whitewater and now was going to experience it via her kayak. One of the reasons she started kayaking a year and half ago was to boat in Colorado. The Fractions start off with steady action and a peppering of holes/rocks/waves to keep you on your toes to move through unscathed. She didn’t square up on one mid-stream hole and after some determination found the upright position and an eddy. Altitude (aka low oxygen), continuous action and a few nerves were in full effect. After a couple good rest breaks, the breathing got easier, the nerves changed to smiles and action meant enjoyment. All made it to the BV park with a little energy left to surf a few rounds, including the Shredder. Marc and Sara found the sweet spot of the upper hole a few times and got it to stand up. Marc must have gotten scared and exited the boat when it got too vertical.

A lovely night at camp overlooking the valley brought us to checking out Pine Creek Rapid on our way up to Clear Creek of the Ark. While we were discussing the character of The Hole, a lone boater showed up and decided to try his hand. When asked if he was going to boat it alone, he stated “Yeah, it’s only class IV with no must make moves.” I mentioned he might want to make the move to avoid The Hole. He confidently replied, “I’m from Idaho, I play in holes”. With that, we stayed to watch the action. James set up with a rope below the hole as the boater went up to the top of the rapid. He was in a small playboat and got back-flipped in the first wave but recovered and found an eddy. He enters the flume and doesn’t make the cut early enough, finds a seam and spin/stalls in the middle of the current. I tell James to get ready cause “Its on!” The boater drops into the hole and gives it a good ride until it starts to chew on him. He finally punches but doesn’t look for the rope as he and his gear heads downstream in a hurry. We run down the old railroad tracks and see the boat and paddle fly by with no swimmer in sight. After a few minutes, we spot him in the bushes as he’s climbing up the steep bank. I don’t think he’ll underestimate this little rapid in the future.

We head up to Clear Creek and enjoy an express ride down the first two gorges. This is a fun, fast and beautiful creek that keeps you moving the whole way down. It builds up intensity in both gorges, but stops short of getting to the gnar stage. However, a bad line can cause some trouble including pinned boats overnight, lost paddles, hard hits to helmets, etc. Don’t ask us how we know. All had good lines, including James’ interesting backward line through the main drop in the second gorge. After tracking down the shuttle vehicles, we headed back to the Numbers for another run down to the BV park. At the park we met Monica and Mike, who told a tale of picking up a boater on the banks of the Numbers in their raft until he found his boat sans paddle. It was the same guy we watched get hammered in Pine Creek that morning. After a few laughs and a bite to each we finished the day with an evening trip to the West side of Cottonwood pass.

Day 3 begins with a stop at the Taylor River, although I have driven through the canyon several times, I had yet to boat this stretch of water until now. Although the dam wasn’t releasing as much as years past, it was more than enough to create a class III creek feel with lots of fun moves to make among the scenery of the gorge. After a quick lunch at the take-out we ventured over to Crested Butte and the Upper East river. Again, we found it on the lower side of medium flow, but it was still enough to beat the shuttle vehicles to the take-out. Everyone was looking forward to finishing the day with the best pizza you’ll ever eat only to find out that the Secret Stash was in the process of moving locations and wouldn’t be open for two more days! Deflated, we cut our losses and decided for the best burrito you’ll ever eat at Teocalli Tamale then it was off to one of the best camps around at Oh Be Joyful.

A morning scout of the creek found it was low but scrapable. Instead of losing plastic or waiting until late in the day to lose a little less plastic, we headed back to BV for another run on the Ark and night at our BV camp. The next day Scott, Marc and Sara joined us in the truck for a trip to Aspen. Along the way we made the obligatory stop to look at The Cauldron on Lake Creek and also noticed a small area of smoke up on the mountain above Twin Lakes. Heading up the pass Ginger and Sara made comments about the lack of wildlife seen on the trip so far although the scenery is always rewarding.

We arrive at the land of the beautiful people and head up to Castle Creek and find the Aspen Music School under a major expansion and the parking lot used in the past is now a new building. After a brief chat with one of the workers, we find access just upstream at the next road. Castle Creek is a narrow fast stream with narrow slots to keep you on your toes. Shortly after entering the boulder section, I spot a log across the main channel and duck into a very tight slot on the left to avoid it. I squeeze through just in time before Marc enters and I head down another 20-30 yards until I find a good eddy. I look upstream and see Scott scrambling up the bank and pull Marc off of a small wood pile he managed to stick on just below the slot. The rest of the run was clean except for one log just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork.
After a picnic at the park and Ginger overcoming some nerves, we continue downstream through the Slaughterhouse section. This run is one of great runs in Colorado or anywhere, lots of fun and challenging moves among the abundant boulders. It had been several years since I had been on this run and almost forgot how good it was. Ginger was puckered up as we started working our way down the slalom course of rocks, but with each rapid and eddy her confidence and smile grew. By the time we got to the bottom, she had a new favorite run. We proceeded to load up and head back up Independence Pass.

As we climbed up the narrow section of the pass, an officer was blocking part of our lane and motioning folks to slow down. Around the corner, a small SUV had its nose smashed into the cliff and the back end was ripped off. Thinking WTF for a moment until the next corner where the semi truck and trailer was stopped at a pulloff with another officer. Not sure if the truck driver didn’t see the multiple signs saying “NO VEHICLES over 35-ft” or just ignored it, but I’m sure his fine will be one he won’t forget. Coming back down the East slope, Ginger yells “There’s a…a…a!” I look up the hillside and see a spot of brown fur. The others start asking what and Ginger finally gets out “an elk”. As I pull over, we spot a deer running near the spot we were watching. “No it wasn’t a deer, it was and elk” Ginger says confidently. I turn the truck around and go back a little ways and then we spot the brown fur again. I say, “It might be a bear.” Just before it raises its head and confirms just that. The whole truck gets excited, especially Ginger and Sara, who has always wanted to see a bear. They got out of the truck with Marc to get a better view for the camera as the bear continued to traverse the hillside, stopping occasionally to check us out. Even though it was a good ways up the hill, it could likely get down to us about as fast as it’d take to get back in the truck. But it decided we weren’t worth messing with and disappeared into the trees.

Still amped up from the bear sighting, we arrive back at Twin Lakes and find some fire personnel watching the smoking hillside we spotted that morning. Then we spot the helicopter and stop to watch it make a couple trips down to the lake, scoop up some water and dump it on the smoking area up on the hill. Luckily this one got under control before turning into one of the bigger fires that were ravaging other parts of the Rockies.

Dinner in Leadville and then a drive over the Climax Pass brings us to a late arrival at camp near Coors Falls on the West Fork of Clear Creek near Empire. The morning started off with a quick run of this two-tiered drop before heading down to Lawson for a run on Upper Clear Creek down to Idaho Springs. The flow was a healthy ~650 cfs through this narrow run which consists mainly of ledge type drops, many with some lively hydraulics. The first section from Lawson to Dumont is continuous and has several sections with back to back to back holes. Sara was back on the Shredder with Marc and on the busiest water they have seen from the same boat. Ginger was having her hands full for a second day in a row. Not sure which one was more anxious, but after a rest break above Dumont, the nerves calm down, but the excitement continued. The name of the game was keep it pointed downstream and breathe! We stopped to scout the main rapid, Outer Limits, located shortly above the takeout and as we were discussing the line, Ginger says “Let’s go before I lose my nerve!” Punch the first wave hole, move left and stay left is the move. She finds a piece of the second hole and after a quick round, escapes and meets us at the bottom. Reaching the take-out elated, she had completed her first Colorado boating trip and with no swims to boot!

After an early dinner at Tommyknocker and some ice cream, it was time to say good byes. Scott headed back to Reno, Marc and Sara headed back to Springfield and we headed back to the Arkansas Valley for a couple more nights. The air in Salida and the lower river valley had the smell of ash, as the winds brought in the smoke from the wildfire near Wolf Creek Pass. Hopefully the damage from the fires isn’t severe and the forests recover soon so we can enjoy many more good times in the Rockies.

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Deuce
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Re: Colorado Trip Report

Post by Deuce » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:51 am

Great report. With your permission I'd like to put this in the newsletter if there's room.
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jonest
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Re: Colorado Trip Report

Post by jonest » Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:33 pm

Interesting report Mr. Jones, well done.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
they will not overwhelm you.....Isaiah 43.2

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kayakmamma
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Re: Colorado Trip Report

Post by kayakmamma » Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:03 pm

Fantastic read! Wow Ginger, well done!!! I get to paddle in CO next week and your report makes me very excited to get to paddle there. Thanks for it :clap:
Lorraine McPhee

"Catch every eddy, Surf every wave"

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Life is Good
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Re: Colorado Trip Report

Post by Life is Good » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:03 pm

Now Lance you should have have really told them more about me pulling ur a** out of the river! Lol.... :fish:
Lets get wet n wild!

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Life is Good
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Name: Ginger Root
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Re: Colorado Trip Report

Post by Life is Good » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:07 pm

The last year and a half have been amazing and largely due to Lance Jones and many others fellow boaters. :kayak:
Lets get wet n wild!

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