Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pilgrimage to Oh Be Joyful Creek

Oh Be Joyful creek is a pilgrimage for paddlers every year.  It has all the makings of mecca for paddlers.  If the season in the Crested Butte valley were a couple months longer there would be 100s of paddlers moving in for the summer but because the season is only a few weeks long it has the feeling of a carnival camp with new members rolling in daily and a frantic pace of paddling and partying up and down the valley.   Camp itself is an awesome scene.  Its a beautiful spot directly at the base of the Oh Be watershed with the Slate River flowing by.  Just upstream is Daisy creek and up the valley from camp is a fantastic view of the mountains of Gunnison National Forest and the snow pack that promises the next days adventures.

If you haven't paddled continuous fast pace stuff your first time on Oh Be can be disconcerting at best.  As you walk up the run, earning every turn, you see lots of slides and fast paced whitewater.  The 9,000 foot elevation makes the eddies look very small and the holes look bigger but as the light headedness dissipates and the first run is under your belt the butterflies calm and you become more comfortable.  Most folks do a few laps on the first walk up from camp.  Two things happen during the session.  You as a paddler get more comfortable and the river begins to rise.  The morning runs are often a little bonier and the evening runs can get downright juicy.  And as the paddlers come down off the mountain side the excitement is intense.  The stories are of all kinds.  First timers are jacked with adrenaline and excited about how fast and long the last slides are or how sick their line off the big drop was.  There is goodness for the old pros and the setting itself is different from just about any river you will ever paddle.  There are stories of whoa from missed lines, tortured gear, and drowned vehicles that didn't quite make the trip across the Slate river.  This year in the first 36 hours we were in the area 3 vehicles were stuck in the river while trying to cheat the hike up to the put in.  I did climb into one rig that was stuck mid river to have dinner and a couple shots.  It was a pleasant mid river camp spot but expensive I think.

The Glorious Ride Across in the Morning.
The Unfortunate Aftermath in the Evening

Even putting in on OBJ is a different experience.  You have a couple choices.  One option is to put in above a drop called Ankle Breaker which is fun but it does land in 3 feet of water (not many people do this).  The other option is to put in, I kid you not, 15 feet and 4 to 5 paddle strokes above a good 15 foot drop that they call the 18 footer.  Fortunately you are well warmed up and light headed from the hike up the valley, or holler as we call it here in the Appalachians.  From there the river is pretty much non stop with small eddies and lots of willows overhanging the banks.  We coined a new phrase this time up..."willow turns".  There are times instead of doing eddie turns you have to do a "willow turn" to stop and set safety.  Here are a few shots and a slide show as well as a link at the bottom to 100 shots of our stay at Oh Be Joyful.


Put In Above the "18 Footer"

The 18er
The 8 footer
Grace Stylin' the Big One

Headed back to Camp

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