We all knew that 2011 would be a year for the record books in the Colorado kayaking world, but none of use knew exactly how it would turn out. After an absolute whirlwind the past several months, I finally have a few moments to recap some of the most memorable trips from this exciting kayaking season!
During the month of May, I spent almost every waking minute that I wasn’t working on my van installing the turbo charger and the solar panels, so I didn’t have much to show for kayaking, but on Sunday the 22nd, I had the opportunity to join some friends on the Upper North Fork of the Poudre River which is a beautiful wilderness run that cuts through the rolling grasslands north of Fort Collins and just south of Wyoming. We had plenty of adventure including extraction of a kayak that was pinned on a log above a class V waterfall. The day was beautiful and the photos actually do the scenery justice quite well, so be sure to check them out in this photo album.
A week later, I embarked on a 10 day kayaking roadtrip that we dubbed the Colorado Runoff Tour and Whitewater Buffet! There was plenty of boating to be had in the southwest corner of the state including Dowd Chutes/Upper Eagle, Crystal River – Avalanche to BRB, Lower Frying Pan, Slaughterhouse, North Fork of the Gunny, Sawpit section of the San Miguel, Upper Rio Grande, Lake Fork Box of the Gunnison, and Gunny Play Park! Wheh! That’s enough to wear a guy out and being worn out may have contributed towards the infected salivary gland in my jaw that landed me in urgent care, an emergency room, and multiple pharmacies in the middle of the trip. It was definitely a bummer to get so sick during such a terrific adventure, but thankfully my friends were great sports about the whole thing and carted me around from doctor to doctor while they still managed to get some boating in. But enough of the negative, it was a great trip and I pulled together some highlights in the video below.
For one of the first times in years, the Poudre and Arkansas rivers didn’t dominate my weekends away, but I still enjoyed both rivers including a weekend on the Poudre at 4.8 feet. Our Poudre runs encompassed almost the entire river with Upper/Lower Rustic on Saturday and Upper Mishawaka through Bridges on Sunday. Then it was off to FibArk weekend, which included a nice, big 3300cfs run down Brown’s Canyon and Parkdale at 3700cfs, and CW’s Arkansas weekend with runs from Fraction’s through Johnson Village and the Numbers at over 2000cfs.
I was also lucky enough to get in a multi-day Yampa River trip through Dinosaur National Monument the week before July 4th (Yampa River photo album). The water was still at very high levels with 15,000cfs on the Yampa and 24,000cfs after the confluence with the Green, but the high water wasn’t even the most memorable part of the trip. One day as we unexpectedly floated through flat water, a massive storm rolled through like a freight train with 50mph wind gusts, horizontal rain, and hail. All of this precipitation and wind turned the canyon into a living, breathing beast that had become awakened! Torrents of muddy water gushed over the thousand foot high canyon walls and boulder careened down the cliffs. It was complete madness and also one of the most amazing natural demonstrations I have ever witnessed. Apart from that, it was a beautiful 5 days in canyon country with friends and to make things even better, we managed to include some quality boating before and after the Yampa. On the way there, we squeaked in a trip down the Lower Blue (Lower Blue photo album), a ripping-fast run down the Lower Elk (Lower Elk photo album) at 6000cfs, the Steamboat Town run, and some sweet, super-stompy surfing on the C-wave in Steamboat Springs. On the way back, we got to take advantage of high water on the Colorado River with my first-ever experience on the legendary Big Sur wave (see following video), then a quick trip down the Cemetery stretch of the Roaring Fork all the way to the Glenwood Wave for some more big water surfing!
After getting a little taste of Big Sur, I vowed that if it was still surfable, I would spend the next weekend doing nothing but surfing it all day Saturday and Sunday. The thing about Big Sur is that it takes a lot of water in the Colorado River (over 22,000cfs) plus the correct combination of down river dam gates for it to come in. At that point, the flow was dipping down towards the unrunnable range and the dam gate status isn’t posted online, so the only way to figure out if it was surfable was to drive 4 hours to the middle of nowhere to check it out. Robert and I had a blast on it all day Saturday, and on Sunday, Jennifer got in over 30 laps on the famous wave. I compiled video footage from my camera, Robert’s camera, and a surfer camera and wound up with this fun little movie!
After Big Sur weekend, the idea of a weekend dedicated to a very specific style of boating appealed to me greatly, so two weekends later, Robert, Mark, and I headed out to Marble, CO for Creekin’ Weekend! (Creekin’ Weekend photo album) On the way up there, we stopped near Frisco and did Middle Tenmile Creak to Dillon reservoir at low water and discovered a cool tiki bar that the Frisco Marina. The original idea for the weekend was to run the iconic Crystal Mill Falls and then the Crystal River down to the put-in for the Crystal Gorge, but half a dozen other kayakers demonstrated that the waterfall was in charge and that swimming out of it was mandatory. Instead, we put in below the water fall and enjoyed an adventurous little run down a remote section of the Crystal River where its namesake becomes obvious. After a few beers at the only restaurant in Marble, we decided to head back up another 4×4 road to give the North Fork of the Crystal a shot. The North Fork consists of 4 main drops and then a very difficult gorge that is rarely attempted. The last of the 4 drops was a clean, 10 foot waterfall that we spent several hours hucking with huge smiles on our faces! Finally, we gave the 3rd drop a shot and found out that it boated a bit trickier than it looked. But who cares?! We got tons of great photos and videos that you should check out below!
At the end of last year, I ran Bailey Canyon for the first time which opened my eyes to a whole new world of creeking. At the time, I wasn’t quite comfortable enough to run all of the drops, but I decided that the following year I would get a proper creek boat, practice a ton on Lower Boulder Canyon and Clear Creek and finally step it up on a bunch of harder creeky runs. And that is just what I did this season! With high water throughout the state, it was a banner year on Boulder Creek and I got 6 days on Boulder Canyon and 7 days on the town run, including the highest water I have ever run it (~1000cfs)! I also accumulated a bunch of time on Clear Creek, with routine play park sessions, a few trips on Lower, my first time on Upper, and 9 days on Black Rocks! It was amazing to feel my progression in the creeky water, but I was also humbled by how serious conditions are when I had a nasty pin & swim on Black Rocks at very low water (170cfs).
One of my highlights of the year was participating in BaileyFest! Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous August day and there were close to two hundred people enjoying the 400cfs of water that was released for “recreational purposes”! I managed to snap some fun photos in this album and was also filmed doing a clean run of down the Tampax drop. For once, I didn’t compile a video from photos and video clips, but Daniel Lundberg and someone else pulled together these two videos that included me and some of my friends during BaileyFest weekend.
One of the last kayaking weekends of the year took me to the upper Colorado River for CW’s Colorado River Weekend. It was a lot of fun to paddle with a huge group of 20+ folks down Pumphouse on Saturday and then to play Shoshone three times on Sunday. I managed to capture some photos that are in this photo album.
Without a doubt, the highlight and the capstone to my 2011 kayaking season was my first descent down Gore Canyon of the Colorado River which I also orchestrated to be my 100th day of kayaking for the 2011 season! Gore Canyon was the most difficult run I had ever done and it was extremely gratifying to reach that pinnacle on the same day that I achieved my 100 day goal. I spent an enormous amount of time chasing the 100 day goal and probably an equivalent amount of time thinking about the quest, which I described in this previous post. I captured some photos and videos from the momentous occasion and compiled them in the video below.
It was a fantastic kayaking season, but I still have a few days of boating left in my for 2011 so I can accomplish my other goal of kayaking during every month of the calendar year…
- Upper North Fork of the Poudre River
- Lower Blue
- Lower Elk
- Yampa River
- Creekin’ Weekend
- Colorado Weekend
Slideshows and Videos: