Had another big 4 day weekend. I headed out to Salida with Jason on Thursday night, and then on Friday picked up a new paddle ($300, ug, but at least it's a solid stick) and we headed over to run the Lower Cimmaron, a roadside canyon that's only about a mile long, with a fun, technical V at the top and then a quick IV-ish drop at the end. We did 3 laps on the first rapid, and then headed on our way.
In Ouray we checked out the box canyon in town that sets the stage for the town's artificial ice climbing wall. The gorge itself looked impressive, but we couldn't get down into it. We ended up putting in just below the second scary portagey rapid and boated the rest of the run, some real intimate V- stuff, with a dash of boat scoutable IV in the run out through town.
We then headed over the pass and into Durango. On Saturday, the boys ran Vallecito, a river that ostensibly boasts some of the best expert creeking in the state, but I wasn't feeling up to walled-in class V with no escape options whatsoever. I hiked around instead.
We had plans to run the Upper Animas, but it was somewhat low and some of the crew were feelig somewhat lukewarm about it, probably because if we did it in a day as originally planned, it would be a long, cold day. Hopefully I can get back there sometime and run it as a 2 day, train-supported trip.
Sunday we ran the first gorge of Lime Creek, which boasts the 25 foot tall, 3 foot wide Adrenaline Falls. Josh and I hiked it, since it's a mite bit scary and it'll be there next year. Below the falls, the river walls in. We hopped out to scout a rapid called S-Turn, which had a big hole in the middle of it. Josh and Tom ran first, then I was up. I screwed up my entrance and got flipped in the hole, spun around a few times, then jammed into an undercut wall while still upside down. Not having any of that, I swam. I reached the surface right next to a rock ledge, which I scrambled up onto, watching my gear whirl downstream. I found myself on a 2 foot by 5 foot ledge in the middle of a box canyon with no escape options. Shit.
Goody and Jason ran the drop and set up safety below, and then I had to jump back into the rapid to get to the opposite shore. I walked along the side of the river, found my paddle on the way, and scoped out where the walls closed in again, this time on a 14 foot falls called Dragon's Back. Josh was around the bend, standing on shore. At first I thought he had my boat, but he just stood there, looking sheepish. Then I looked down into the falls.
Josh's boat was getting worked in the bottom of the falls, recirculating over and over again into the froth. I signaled to Jason and Goody that they would want to see it.
I signaled them through, telling them to paddle when the boat was on the left; they ran the falls on the right, and Josh's boat eventually worked its way loose. I still had to get downstream though. I clambered along the rock wall, about 20 or 25 feet off of the water. The rock was chossy, and at one point a TV sized block almost let loose. Once I had the boys check the depth of the pool, I jumped for it, jumping out as far as I could to avoid getting pulled back into the falls.
Eventually everyone was reunited with their gear, and we all paddled out safely.
Monday, we headed to Henson Creek in Lake City, which was encased in a 100 foot box canyon. We scouted as much as we could from the canyon walls, and then jumped in. The first major rapid crept up on us, but everyone had good lines to start the day. Then we entered the canyon, paddling through a holl in the base of an old dam and past some mining debris. I walked one jumbley, ugly rapid, but after watching the boys run it and after hiking the steep portage, I realized it probably would have been easier (and maybe safer) to just run the rapid. The gorges were beautiful, and the boating was adventurous, since though we did scout, there were still some blind corners. Thankfully, the river was clear of wood.
As I walked a big stompy rapid near the end of the run, I talked to an older man who owned property along the stretch and was interested in what we were up to. It was a nice boater PR experience, and he wished us luck.
After a few more rapids, we were back to the cars and ready for the long drive home.