Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Day 8 in Colorado: South Boulder Creek

Polk Our Leader On South Boulder Creek

So I think today Polk, Erik, and I had our tighty whiteys on. We went up to South Boulder Creek and Polk knew the lines. The water was a little high I guess. It was 550 cfs and that sounded good, but for some reason we didn't bring our balls with us. There was some wood around and a sign at the put in talking about wood all the way across the river.

The Sign That Had Me Thinking

Or maybe it was the sign at the put in warning about the Mountain Lions that got us all off to a scared start.

It Doesn't Look That Good To Me

We wandered around a few turns worried about wood but it all turned out fine. We got to the first drop. I think it was called the Moist Slot. It just didn't look right. We all bailed and paddled on to the next one hoping for more courage to come from there. We crawled up to take a look at the Brain but still no courage to be found. It was a mess of water piling into rocks. Not interested. I know you hardcore Coloradoans will fire that up but all I was seeing was Shane getting to close and personal with rock.

We were all getting pretty disappointed at this point. There are only 3 main rapids on this section and we had walked two of them already. Luckily the last drop looked a lot cleaner and worth the challenge when we got there. It may have also been a bit of pride that made us step up for this one. Its called Bridge Falls. Its really a three part drop. Boof, Deal with a Pile of Rocks, and Get Through The Bottom Hole.

The First Boof in Bridge Falls

Erik Landing The First Boof

This drop is called Bridge Falls and it is a very cool drop because there are several parts to it. First is the boof onto a moving slope of water that colides with a pile of rocks but pushes up and over it. Then its a couple big waves and a drop through a pretty stompy hole. This rapid pretty much brought us back from feeling completely inadequate. Its funny how one very cool rapid can make a river run worth it. I have to say this is one of the more fun rapids that I have run in Colorado.

Polk Approaching The Final Hole

Me Boofing the Final Hole

So we were saved by the final drop. It made us all feel a lot better.
More to come soon.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Day 7: Lime Creek

Fearless Leader Dunbar

All you ever hear about Lime Creek is "adrenaline falls". I have heard about, and seen video of people crashing, scraping paddles, getting worked up against the wall, going deep, and all that stuff for years. I haven't heard about another rapid in that first gorge before.

The other thing that I had heard is that the run is kind of boney at the top of the run. That you have to get through a little gravely bumpy stuff to get down into the gorge where the river narrows up and gets good. There was one problem there was no boney part. We put in on very very fast moving water with almost no eddies. Dunbar gave us the appearance that all was good but I wasn't convinced. Jennifer was gung ho but anxious, and Dunbar wasn't showing any signs that he was nervous so I just went with it. It all seemed good.
The first sign that the water was higher than Dunbar was used to was that he didn't exactly know where each rapid was coming up. "Okay so the next rapid is a couple turns down there should be an eddie on the left no worries". We would then float around a couple turns and then a couple more and then we would all scramble for a tree to grab onto, get the beta, and then run the drop it was all going smoothly but it just seemed not quite 100% right.
As we approached Adrenaline Jenn was getting nervous. The tree branch eddies were working but it just wasn't normal. The approach went great and we got the eddie and started to go scout the drop and I was feeling pretty good and excited about it so I was looking closely Jenn and Dunbar had decided to carry, and I was walking up to run it when a guy comes walking down the hill from above yelling at Dunbar, "Dude, I ran that yesterday and pretty much saw god. My friends said that I went deep in my kayak like 10 seconds got pushed against he wall, then I swam and then I went 35-40 seconds deep. I saw god, dude, I wouldn't do it. So that kind of blew my voodoo to run it. Can't say I wasn't glad to have some of that pressure off. As it turned out the guy had lost his boat and we found it in the next drop downstream. We dumped it out and pulled it up on shore, and then headed downstream.

Jennifer S-Turn

The only two that were of concern left were S-Turn and Dragons Back. We caught the eddies above S-Turn and I scouted from river left. Looking down in there all I could see was super boily water pushing through against a big pillow and then forcing through a slot to the left of the boil. It was a messy cauldron but it all went through so the beta was go left through the pillow and hang on. Dunbar went first and made the move left of the pillow and then the boils sunk him down almost to the armpits and then spit him through the next slot and into the eddie below. All good signal came from behind the rock and Jenn and I followed no problem, but pretty much it was a hang on type rapid, and roll up at the bottom. It was really fun.
Next came Dragons Back. The hole looked okay but if you messed it up at all you were going to typewriter back into a gnarly pit and definitely swim and the swim didn't really look like you would come out of the hole for sure so we did the Huck and Jump technique.

Ancient Huck, Jump, and Swim Technique

After that it was a run out to the take out. Super fun but a little high to take advantage of the runs potential.
The video is a little big. 22MB
but pretty funny.

Peaks at the Takeout

Lime Creek, Click It

Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 5 and 6: The Black Canyon

I don't really know what to say about this trip. It really was indescribable. The Black Canyon is one of those places that you just have to see to believe. It has Grand Canyon grandeur, hard rapids, scary sieves, portages that make you grunt and sweat, and we had perfect weather yet again. We also had a secret weapon....Milo.

The Put In

It was a very spur of the moment deal. Woody gave me a call and said that he had gotten a call and there was a group headed up to do the Black Canyon. This is a run that Woody and I had both wanted to do. Its a very strange feeling. Immediately after Chuck's accident I didn't want to ever see this place but now nearly 10 years after I was immediately excited about the idea. I wanted to see it all for myself. It was made even better by the company into the gorge that we were going to have.

Lunch High Above The River

Woody, Jennifer, and I were joined again by Billy and Aaron. We were invited by Brian from CKS. The six of us were signed up for the overnight experience. We were also joined by one of the Black Canyon homeys. His name is Milo, and from what I am learning as I travel around Colorado, everyone knows Milo. We also had Tommy, and Jules along for the ride. They drove in late in the evening for the full on experience with Milo of the one day Black Canyon trip.

Jennifer (chickodini) and Milo on his 38th trip

The Painted Wall

I had traveled to the gorge and looked over the edge once. And it had blown me away. The Canyon itself is so impressive it rivals any gorge, or canyon I have ever be in or seen. As we drifted through we all found ourselves constantly leaving our mouths hanging wide open. The cliffs seemed to over hang the river from a couple thousand feet up. Birds surfed the thermals and drafts from the bottom of the gorge. It was very cool to be in there. Brian kept saying he wouldn't be surprised if a Pterydactil came flying around the corner. Someone else said it was serious Lord of the Rings land. Yes all weak analogies compared to what the place really was. So we just keep trying but you just can't do it justice.

Desert Camp

Our trip started with meeting at the take out in the evening before we were to get on the water. We all camped in a desert pullout on the Chukar Trail road. We woke up with a very bright high desert sun 30 minutes from hitting camp. It would go from a cool mellow morning to a hot breakfast in the sun.

The shuttle itself is pretty full on. An hour on a fairly brutal dirt road, and then 45 minutes back up to the park. Then the precipitous road down to the East Portal access to the river. Once we were down at the put in a quick overnight packing session took place. Lots of debate on what to take. Some took pads no sleeping bag. Some took bags no pads. I went without the bag but a good pad and a shell jacket to sleep in. I loved my decision except I forgot something for my legs. It was fine but next time I will have some tights and paddle pants. Weight is a serious issue because the portages are pretty hard because you are going up and over quite a bit of rock. By the end of the trip my arms and legs would be tired from the portages not the paddling.

A Couple Pretty Sieves

We had a mellow paddle into the gorge and then the first rapid we hit was a tell tale sign of what was to come. Sweet tight moves, with nasty sieves awaiting a missed line. We all walked. The whitewater in the Black Canyon is great but there are a lot of sieves, and undercuts, but I don't think that I would ever consider this to be an incredible whitewater trip. Just like the Colorado book says, its an adventure. You just have to make up your mind that you are cool with the experience. Lots of fun rapids, lots of walking and lugging boats. But the payback is being able to pass through one of the coolest enviorments in the world.

Brian and Milo gave us great lines on rapids and good paths for the portages. Thanks for that. Let me just tell you that very good beta or someone on your trip that knows the gorge will save you alot of grief on this trip. They even clued us into the poison ivy tactic that worked wonders for Woody and I. They told us to put dishwashing soap on before the hike like lotion and then just wash it all away when you get to the end of the hike.

We camped at the end of the long portage down river right in a very cool campsite under a big overhanging rock. Miles, Tommy, and Jules carried on trying to finish their one day trip. The goal was to be at the take out before dark and up to the car by midnight. They all made it but it sounded epic.

Hanging at Cave Camp

We cooked up a fine tuna and rice meal under the rock, passed a flask, and told stories. I scrambled around in the rocks and found another rock for my collection. We also found a huge perch rock that stuck out into the air of the gorge probably 50 feet off the ground with a perfect flat area for us to look over the stuff we were portaging and look further upstream and downstream. That was a cool place.

A Few of the Cool Places in the Canyon

Here are two videos from the trip. They are around 10mb.
Black Canyon Part 1
Black Canyon Part 2

It is a trip I will always remember and I consider a must do.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Day 4 in Colorado!


Earning Our Turns

This is one of my favorite runs anywhere in the world. I hadn't done it in years. In fact the last time I was up there was 1998 I think. Once again we had the crew we had been traveling with. Billy, Aaron, Jennifer, and I were joined by Luke from the
Durango area, and at the take out we ran into an adventure waiting to happen.

Looking At The Rock Shift In No Way Out

There was a small group of folks at the take out trying to get all set up to actually do the first RAFT descent of Vallecito. We were a little skeptical to say the least. I had been skeptical before when the fellas ran the Green a year ago, so I tried to stay open minded as I watched them heft the raft and head up the trail. If you don't know Vallecito it is a tight tight technical run with a couple spots in it that exiting the river is nearly impossible. The potential of those guys for swims and flips was very high.
We headed up the trail with the intention of helping those guys out if they needed it, but we also had a first timer with us and some nerves about the new shift in the rocks at "No Way Out" that we had heard about. It was a great first time level, and I was psyched to be back after so long.

Nice Line Jennifer

The very first drop is a sweet 6 foot boof, then a sketchy little log dodge, and then a little warm up and get ready for Entrance falls which is a beautiful drop. One of my favorite boofs around.

Trash Can Rapid

We waited a long time at the bottom of the drop for the raft as well as scouting out Trach Can which just below Entrance falls. The raft didn't show for a long time so I started wondering if they had second thoughts and the group including the other potential safety boater started downstream thinking that maybe they had bailed.

Fuzzy Bunny One of the Softest Boof Around

The fun thing I remember about Vallecito is that most of the directions for the rapids are "just follow the water", or "give it down the middle". We were doing pretty well for the most part. There is this one funky rapid call Pick Up Sticks that pretty much tumped everyone over but no issues. The video footage of that is pretty funny cause no one really made it look smooth.

We got a ways down there and got to a two rapid series. Very small eddies between the two rapids and both are fairly substantial drops. It was taking us a while to get all scouted and lined up when around the corner came, the RAFT. We had all our group down except Jennifer who was scouting and getting in her boat when the raft came down and that is when all hell broke loose. One guy falls out in the first rapid and doesn't get back in the boat until the end of the first drop. The other guy in the raft didn't see his buddy get in the raft and he must have thought he was in an eddie or something because the next thing I know is I see this guy jumps out to try to stop I guess but doesn't stop the raft pretty much at the same time as the first guy is climbing in. So there he is just getting it together to drop into the next rapid by himself. He actually ended up styling the drop, but the other guy was in an eddie where he couldn't walk upstream, downstream, or out of the river. So he had to buck up and swim across the river between the two drops. Luckily he made it and after a bit we had them back together.

The Jump From The Raft

Going Solo Through Paddle Bitch

This all took about an hour to get sorted out so our whole group had gotten a little disconbobulated. So peoples rythms were off and bad lines ensued for the rest of the run. Makes for good video but a slightly nerve racking finish to the run. The raft flipped in No Way Out and some wall banging happened with the kayakers, but it seemed to me that the new rock shift was good to go. Luckily the run ends with a super smooth little 6-7 foot boof so everyone could get the good feel back.

Everyone got out safe and sound and we were all happy to have dry clothes on and a cold beer in hand.

Here is the video footage. I broke it into two segments so the videos aren't quite so large.
Vallecito Part 1
Vallecito Part 2

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Day 3 in Colorado!

Upper Animas

The Put In Is A Stunning Setting

This all started at a bar the night before. I think that many things good and bad have started with a discussion at a bar. Over Margaritas we were trying to decide what to paddle next and it came up that almost none of us had run the Upper Animas before. Others in the crowd decided that that was a travesty and that it needed to happen.

Paddling Into The Gorge

So that is how we ended up putting on the Upper Animas at 1:00 pm. If you don't know the Upper Animas it is 26+ miles of continuous class 2-3 most of the way with some continuous class 3-4 thrown in there and couple drops that you should scout. This drop called No Name is the hardest drop on the run. Not a major major rapid but super fun with some funky twisty stuff in the middle.

Woody In No Name, Styled It

Jennifer In No Name

We stopped for a quick peanut butter sandwich after No Name. We still had a long way to go. Luckily the day was classic Colorado Blue Bird so we had good sun almost the entire trip.

The sceneary is really unbelievable on this run. I constantly found myself saying wow. This was a pretty typical scene. Big peaks, or tight little canyon, small tucked in valleys, all kinds of awesome sceneary.

This run would be an awesome overnighter. From what I understand people use the train to drop gear off mid way down the run and they will leave it for you and then pick it up if you arrange it at the train station in Durango.

The sun went behind the mountains while we were still on the river and that was when we noticed how cold the river was. With just a couple miles and the Rockwood box left to paddle we jumped out at the last spot of sunshine up on the side of a hill. Soaked it in and jumped back in the boats for a very cool romp through another box canyon. The Rockwood Box is alot like the Bakers Box. This section is super tight, a little pushy, and few fun rapids but not as hard as the Bakers Box.

Hiking Out At Rockwood Box

By the time we finished the semi epic shuttle for the run the sun had gone down but we were treated to the full moon coming up over the peaks near Silverton.

Moon Rise Over Molas Pass

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 2 in Colorado!

Bottom Box Again

We woke up on our second day the water hadn't started to rise yet so we needed to find another run that would work with less water. So its back to the Bakers Box. I had done this run last year with Dunbar Hardy at pretty high water. It was incredible and a little fiesty.

Here is the Video from last years run. Bakers Box 2005

This year the water was a little lower and more managable for a larger group. We called up Billy and Aaron, a couple of transient kayaker types who had been sleeping on the couches of all the Liquidlogic staff. We also got old schooler Andy Corra who had run this years and years and years ago to join us, and that put the pressure on Woody to join us for the run. So with Jenn and I that made 6 people in the gorge. Which worked great especially at this slightly lower water level. It was a perfect level for taking first timers in.

The whole thing starts with a mile walk in across private property. Very sketchy access so please please please make sure that you talk to a local before you get on this run.

After the walk its a 100 foot climb, lower, down to the river. The climb is a little sketchy especially if you aren't a rock person. Most folks put in below the first rapid and then jump in. The first drop is a slide over the middle of a large rock filling most of the river with holes on either side. No problem but sketchy looking.

After that the rapids get a little pushy but are mostly broken with good pools at this level. One that stands out is called the Plunge I think. About a 8- 10 foot sloper into super boily water.

This is the Long Rapid. The only really long extended rapid. For the most part this section is drop pool and can take a fair amount of water but if something goes wrong your boat is going a long way. We ran into a guy who had lost a boat on his trip and had to paddle an extra 10 miles or so to catch it. The Box is only 3 miles I think so dude got a little extra training in.

There are a couple places where the river is no wider than the boat is long and it is truly a stunning place.

The run went great no issues. The old school styled it. The new school styled it. Jen styled it and I didn't swim.

Here is the video from this year.
Bakers Box 2006

Day 3 coming soon.

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