Made it out to Gore last weekend at pretty juicy flows. I was more nervous than the run really warranted since I hadn't been in a boat for almost two months, but things went well. I had a bit of an ugly line at Gore Rapid; I didn't make a decision fast enough at Decision Rock and ended up getting pushed up onto that rock and the one below it, but I managed to stay upright and both of them had generous enough pillows that I was able to regain control and get out of there. The rest of the run went really well; Scissors was really clean and Kirchbaum's was a ton of fun. I might be able to get back there this weekend; we'll see.


Last weekend Pete, Preston and I headed out to the Upper Animas to run a multi-day trip. We had originally planned to try and sneak in a run on South Mineral, but Pete had some sort of work/investment emergency and we didn't roll out of Golden until noon. We camped off of Lime Creek after talking to the good people at Four Corners and getting our camping situation setup.

The next morning we drove into Silverton and put in fairly late. The first few miles of river was beautiful, though pretty mellow. Flows were pretty low, around 850 cfs, so the boating was a little more technical and not the quintessential big-wave, big-hole Upper A experience. Regardless, it was a gorgeous canyon. We caught up with the commercial trip at Tenmile Rapid, where they were scouting and grabbing lunch. It was pretty mellow too; we could have soldiered through and boat-scouted it if we had wanted. We let them get ahead again so we would know where to socut No-Name Rapid, the biggest drop on the run (including Rockwood). As we boated down, we saw a few trains on the way up on the Durango-Silverton Railroad. I've been on the train before; my parents and I rode it in the winter up to Cascade.

No-Name was quite a bit more technical, with an S-move between holes above a sieve, and then a steep, just off-vertical slide. Everyone boated it cleanly, including the rafts. I was stuck in a little hole after the meat of the drop, but eventually surfed my way out of it. Things picked up a bit below No-Name; fun, technical, III+ creeking for the most part. Eventually we made it to Needleton, dropped off the commercial customers, and then boated with Dana, the head guide, down to 4 Corners' campsite below Needleton. We had kicked 4 Corners some cash, and we were able to use their tents, stoves, water purifiers, etc. We packed in some of our food and our clothes, and they were nice enough to pack in the rest of our food and, more importantly, our beer.

Camp was great; between the food that we and Dana had, we had a huge dinner. Noodles, corn on the cob, chicken breasts, baked beans, boiled potatoes with peppers and grilled shallots, and beef stew. Dessert was chocolate chips and burbon. Tough to go wrong. We all rolled to bed after a good game of Hot Dice.

The next morning, Dana hung back to wait for the next commercial trip, and we headed down towards the Rockwood Box. Broken Bridge Rapid was really straightforward, though it looked like things would pick up quite a bit at higher water. Then it was more III-III+ boogie on the way down to Rockwood, where we met up with some of Pete's friends who would lead us through Rockwood. We scouted Mandatory Thrashing, the first and probably biggest rapid in Rockwood, from the train tracks, though we couldn't see the line we would end up running. We had a pretty big crew, 7 altogether, but things boated pretty easily. Mandatory Thrashing was a little tricky, but the rest of the rapids in the run were really straightforward, mostly IV-IV+. I think the rating gets bumped up a little bit due to the confinements of the canyon; in a number of places the walls were probably 150 feet tall and 20 feet apart. It was probably the coolest canyon I've ever been in; made even better since I had seen it from the train on the canyon rim a couple of years ago. Fun, beautiful boating, without too much stress.

The take-out came too soon, followed by the steep but not too tough hike out to the railyard. We packed things up and drove up to South Mineral, where we scouted the short run which was really low. We could have geared up and dropped the 20-footer, Huck The System, but we were tired, the hike was meh, and dinner was calling, so we drove back down the canyon to look at Ice Lakes Creek. On the way, we managed to rocket-launch 2 creekboats off of the front of the car, since Pete's knots were sub-optimal.

That night we camped on a gravel bar with a group of other boaters inside Silverton. Camping was fun; we hiked up to just under where the firefighters were shooting off the fireworks, allegedly the best in Western Colorado. They were great; the echos bounced off of the mountains around the town and scared the hell out of the dogs.

The next morning we started the drive back to Denver, which turned out to be a lot longer than expected. Monarch Pass, between Gunnison and Salida, was closed due a big highway smashumup. We ended up driving down a dirt road through another pass stuck behind a host of RVs and boat trailers that were taking a beating on the rough road, and it added about 2 hours to the drive time. We had originally planned to run the Numbers, but after grabbing food in Buena Vista the boys decided to head home, and I stayed out in BV for an extra day to boat with Jeff and company, who had driven out from Indiana.

We camped up in Cottonwood Pass, and the next day got onto the Numbers bright and early. I put on just below Pine Creek and met up with the boys below #1. The run went smootly, though Kyle had a bit of a swim. The level was good, 2300-ish, and everything boated smoothly. After the run, I headed home.

Yesterday, Jeff, Preston, Kyle and I got onto Black Rock at around 500 cfs, medium levels. Things were pretty mellow, especially in the in-between bits, though the entrance to the Narrows was a lot trickier and narrower; I ended up getting typewritered quite a bit to the right and almost ended up in the rocks. That rapid is such a blast though; I always come out of it with a smile on my face once I get through the run-out. Preston and I took a hard look at Rigor Mortis, but when we looked at it from upstream it looked a fair bit worse than it did when we looked at it before putting on. Funny how that works.


Got out on Black Rock and Upper Clear Creek the other night, and another Black Rock run a few days before that. BR is a really fun run; the Narrows is always a blast. I tore up my thumb a bit during our mid-week run; got caught on a funny rock in the Narrows that flipped me, but I recovered in plenty of time for the main event. On Friday I was turned around a bit in the bottom drop of the Black Rock rapid, but things worked out all right. I'd like to get out next weekend, but we have a simulated practice exam that is going to keep me around Denver. After that, hopefully a 2 day trip on the Animas if we have enough water for it.


Upper Death. Real real scary.

Free campsite with a view of the Maroon Bells. Nice.


Hopped on some good rivers this weekend. On Saturday, Bridger and I headed for Aspen to run Castle Creek and the Slaughterhouse stretch of the Roaring Fork. Castle Creek was fun, though far too short. Narrow slots through big boulders was the theme of the run. We ran into wood in a couple of spots, including in the crux drop, which required us to sneak around it in a bony channel. The level was fairly low, but the rocks were smooth and so were the lines.

Slaughterhouse was a lot of fun; it reminded me quite a bit of the Upper Yough. Big boulders in a fairly wide riverbed, with a fun falls in the middle of the run. The drops were all fairly easy and straightforward, but you could slice-and-dice the rapids into some fun moves if you were looking for them. While the boys ran shuttle I tried to catch some dinner, without any luck.

We camped up near Glenwood Springs at a nice little campsite in some BLM land. We heard more coyotes than cars, and I thrashed Bridger at Scrabble. The next morning we headed toward Vail, and scouted Upper Death of Barrel Springs on the Colorado. It was probably the most intimidating rapid I've seen; 6600 cfs dropping a ton of gradient into a huge, scary hole. We passed on Upper Death, and headed to Gilman Gorge, which was running high. The lead-in was a lot more interesting than usual, and the main drops were beefy. We walked the crux of fall creek, which dropped into a very ugly looking hole. The rest of the run ran clean, though I had a few issues with Boof Rapid. We walked Slurry Pipe as well, which looked passable but with a lot of room for screw-ups. It was a good run, but we'll have to get back there again once the flows drop a little bit so we can run the rest of it.


Stepped things down a little bit this weekend. Yesterday I met up with a couple of guys from mountainbuzz and got on the Proving Grounds section of the North Saint Vrain. It was gorgeous, non-threatening class V-. I had a bit of an ugly line of the first major rapid and didn't make it to the section of it I wanted to (it was channelized, and I ended up in the right channel instead of the center one). The other drops went smootly. The canyon was really pretty; it was a nice break from paddling the blast rock of clear creek.

Speaking of blast rock, today we got on Lower Boulder Canyon, just above Boulder. We did the entire stretch, down from Blue Bridge. It was a fun run, and though Elephant Buttress was a lot of fun, it didn't really have any other "classic" rapids. Everything sort of blended together as the river kept cruising downhill. The playpark holes were surprisingly sticky, and at one point we saw three kids mucking about in a big, tow-behind-a-boat sort of an inner tube. I hung out to make sure they finally got themselves to shore, and managed to nose them into an eddy a bit. It was cold and hailing on us for a while, and I didn't want anybody to take a bad swim or go hypothermic. Though I liked the run, I'm not sure that I'll go out of my way for it all of that often; it seems like Black Rock or other front range runs give you more bang for your buck when it comes to class IV boating.


Had a good batch of boating this past weekend. On Thursday, Zach and Joann were in from Indiana on their way out to Washington. We got on Lower Clear Creek and ran it to the dam with some new boating friends. It was fun; lots of bouncy wave trains and a few holes to watch out for. Then most of us saddled up for a run of Black Rock, which went almost without incident, though Zach was starting to look pretty beat after getting just a couple of hours of sleep and then some class V.

On Friday we got up to the Poudre drainage, and got on the Middle Narrows. It was my first time back there since my swim below the first IV+ on the run. The first rapid was busy, and Joann had a couple of rolls. After a little more boogie she decided that she was out; the outfitting in her new boat had shifted around some and she wasn't feeling comfortable in the big water. She walked the 20 or so yards up to the road. Zach and I continued on, dodging big holes and finishing the 2 mile or so run all too quickly. Then we all headed up to Spencer Heights, a class V stretch that is a significant step up from the middle narrows. We put in below Poudre Falls, and had a good time in the tight canyon below the put-in, though Zach pitoned once. Things opened up a little in Cyclotron, and we both had good lines through both that and Boneyard, though the hole at the bottom of Boneyard caused a bit of a problem. Then it was into another small canyon, with a group of fun, pushy, channelized drops between us and daylight. The class II section lulled us to sleep a bit, and we were woken up by the class IV boogie before the take out. It was a great run, and great to run with the Indiana crew again.

On Saturday, Bridger and I scouted The Source of Boulder Creek, an ultra low-water mank fest high above Boulder. We dropped our boats at the put-in and drove down, then hiked and scouted on the way back up. The level was low, even for that stretch of river, with tons of pin potential all over the place. There were a lot of rapids with terrible spots in them, and as we got higher and higher into the canyon it became impossible to remember them all. That, combined with an ugly, bony crux drop, finally convinced us to leave it for another day.

Finally, on Sunday we met up with a couple of guides and ran the South Saint Vrain, probably the hardest run I've ever completed. I've definitely ran more intimidating and more difficult rapids, but never have I had to deal with so much run-on-the-fly class V water. After scouting the river on the way up, I took solace in the fact that the road was a mere 20 yards away. The opening rapid went surprisingly smoothly, and gave me a needed boost of confidence. Though the level was low, things went pretty smoothly for me on the whole, and I was pretty happy with my lines through most of the junk. I had a couple of moments where holes or eddy lines threw me up on my edge, and I had to make a focused effort to not flip and bash my face into rocks. Fortunately, I succeeded.

I did run into problems above the last big ledge hole above the narrows. We boated down a slot that was only a bit wider than a creekboat, and as I was reaching for another paddle stroke, my paddle stuck in the slot and I cruised past it. I grabbed onto a tree on a small island in the center of the current, and watched my paddle get loose and float past me. Then I started slipping from the tree and the eddy. I floated along, trying to claw my way over to the paddle before I reached the 4 foot drop. I didn't make it. I dropped into the hole at an angle and got flipped. Then I took what was perhaps the least consequential swim on the SSV. I swam directly into an eddy, my boat pinned about 10 yards downstream, and I chased my paddle for 40 yards or so until it was caught in a hole and eventually resurfaced in an eddy, where I snatched it. Lucky.

Only one person from our group ran the Big Narrows, a string of 4 or so big drops with little chance to reset. Then we finished some very busy class V or so boogie until we got to 1 in 5, a small, funky waterfall in a tight slot. The name refers to your swim odds. I dropped in as the last of 5 paddlers, all of whom before me had ran it without mishap. I managed to get through as well, flipping in the runout and scuffing a few knuckles, but escaping relatively unscathed.


The goods, 1st gorge of Clear Creek of the Ark.

Scouting Clear Creek.

The BV Rodeo.

BV Scenery.

Had a good string of 3 days of boating, though it should have been 4. On Friday Bridger and I got on Black Rock at a pretty high level. Bridger was in a brand new Nomad after realizing his Habitat was cracked on the way to my apartment, so we had to swing by Confluence Kayaks to get a new rig. The flow was juiced, but manageable. Bridger had a roll in some of the in-between stuff, and I flipped in the run-out of the big hole in the narrows, but I managed to get myself upright before the third drop of the series. In the runout of the narrows, I tried to boof a fan rock that I got pushed into, hung up on it, then dropped into a hole, stern-squirted, and flipped. I got half a roll and a good breath, and then flipped again. I felt myself sliding down a drop, and then stopped. I rolled up, side-surfing, in a huge hole. I managed to pull myself out into the corner of the hole and around the corner. Good thing too; I was pretty winded by that point. The rest of the run was uneventful.

The next day we headed out to Buena Vista for Paddlefest. We got on the Numbers at about 2200 cfs, a healthy flow. It was a fun run, with a lot of big hole dodging and tall wave trains. No real big excitement, aside from the occasional roll in squirreley water. We had planned to camp, but with the incoming rain and a friend of a friend of a friend who owned a house in town, we opted for a roof. We grabbed some food and beer, and then watched the finals of the pro rodeo at the BV play park. Then the rain set in, and we missed getting a table at the new brewpub. We managed to get K's takeout instead, and tag along to a brownie sundae party next door. Not too shabby.

The next morning we got onto the Clear Creek of the Arkansas, a fast-and-not-quite-furious V- that trundles down the mountains of Independence Pass. We blue-angelled the whole thing, dodging some holes (a few of which were a little stickier than expected) and only getting a chance to rest in a couple of eddies. It was a really busy little creek, fun but boat abusive. Afterwards, instead of getting in another lap on the dropping creek and beating up boats and paddles more, we went back to the Numbers and routed it in less than an hour, and then headed home.

Today we had planned to get on the Big Thompson, one of our favorite runs. But for some reason, the gauge reading didn't match up with what was actually happening on the river. The gauge read over 300 cfs; a decent medium level, but the creek could have had more than 150 in it, making it pretty much unboatable, or maaaaybe float-able with massive amounts of boat abuse. What should have been a fun, short run of a great creek turned into a drive to Loveland. Oh well.


Video from Swallow Falls

Photos from the Top Yough.

Me on Swallow Tail
Swallow falls. That little bit in the middle is me.

Zach, Swallow Tail

Zach, Swallow Falls. I'm sitting in the eddy.

Had a great weekend of paddling. Headed out with Zach, Jeff, and Joanne to the east coast. We crashed at Joanne's friend's house in Pittsburgh on Thursday night, which was a welcome change from sleeping on the ground. Then we headed to the Upper Yough in Maryland. The level was padded but not crazy, and we had a good run. Joanne was in a Diesel, while the three of us were in creekboats. She got pushed around a little more than we did and had a few rolls, and I think was pretty gripped when we were in the steep stuff. She did well though. We routed everything pretty quickly, since a release was scheduled for later in the afternoon and it would have made things pretty high. We got off before the bubble though, and headed up to the Top Yough.

The Top Yough was steeper and lower-volume than the Upper. Jo decided to run shuttle, and Zach, Jeff, and I put on. After just a hundred yards or so of warm-up rapids, we got to Swallow Falls, which dropped 30 feet or so, starting as a slide that steepened into what approached vertical. We scouted, Jeff decided to walk it, and Zach and I fired it up. Jo took footage; it should be posted sometime soon. We both had pretty clean lines, with hardly any impact in the run-out. Then we scouted Swallow Tail, a 4-5 foot ledge with a stick hole at the bottom. It looked a little intimidating, but it was pretty automatic.

The three of us routed the next couple of rapids with Zach in the lead, though not too far down Jeff got pushed the wrong way above a drop and ended up getting pulled into the backwash of a hole. He rolled a few times, got windowshaded, and swam. Zach picked him up, while I ran after his gear. We eventually got all of the bits reunited, and Jeff decided to walk off the river. Zach and I routed the rest of it on our own, with him in the lead. The rapids were great; plenty of padding, and everything comfortably boat-scoutable. We walked Suck Hole, which has a pillow that feeds a sieve about half-way through a complicated rapid. When we got back to the cars, I had a message from my realtor that my house had sold. Good day.

We camped at Riversport, a local kayaking school and gear shop, grilled out, and had a few drinks. The next morning we headed back to the Top Yough, and Zach and I put in another lap. My lines on Swallow and Swallow Tail weren't quite as clean; I was put up on my edge on Swallow and had a little too much of an angle on Swallow Tail. The rest of the run went smoothly.

We ran the Loop on the Lower Yough, a class III playboat run with some decent play on it. Then it was back to the cars to the site of the Stony Creek Rendezvous, a paddling festival that was quite a bit bigger than I expected it to be. We got a late-afternoon run in on Stony Creek, which felt low, and definitely wasn't worth the long, long flat water paddle out. The festival grounds were fun though, we cooked out again and had a drink or two. They had live music, gear vendors, lights on the play hole at night; it was a pretty fun scene. Zach got housed and booted out the tent door, but was ready to rally in the morning.

We decided to take the hit and do the driving to get to the Middle Fork of the Tygart, which we ran into the Tygart Gorge. I had done the run a couple of years ago, but the water level this past weekend was quite a bit lower. The rapids were fun though, and everything had enough water so that we weren't grinding on anything. I was on the sharp end, eddy hopping downstream and showing lines with hand gestures and whistles. The whole crew worked well together, and lines were generally clean. That changed a bit on the last rapid before the confluence, a tricky boof above a piton rock. Joanne ran the meat of the rapid fine, but relaxed a bit too much in front of an undercut wall. She took a bit of a beating through the rest of the rapid, getting half-rolls in between getting hammered by rocks. She eventually stuck her roll though, and came out of it all right.

The main gorge of the Tygart had 3-4x the volume of the Middle Fork, so the character changed from low-water creeking to big-water hole-dodging. We scouted a couple of rapids, and caught up to a larger group for a little bit. Everything else was pretty read-and-run, just watch out for the horizon lines. We got into a little more trouble at Hook, a rapid that is tough to read from the top, and has a few tricky holes above a big S-Turn that doges two BIG holes. Zach and I ran through it, but Joanne got caught on a hole on the top, surfed and tossed around for a while, and then swam. At one point when she was swimming through the rapid, all we could see was her hand sticking out of the water, and then it disappeared. Kinda scary. After a two-count, she reappeared. Zach and I were there, and she managed to grab Zach's boat while Jeff and I went after her boat. We got the two reunited, but not until after she saw a black bear during the hike. Exciting day.

That was it for the meat of the rapids; after some smaller stuff we were at the take-out railroad tracks, which we had to hike for half a mile or so, only to find out that Jeff and Joanne had parked the take-out vehicle at the wrong bridge. Fortunately, the other group of kayakers caught up to us, and we were able to hitch a ride with them before the long drive back to South Bend.


Some photos of the Elbow on the Little, taken by a friendly bystander (big audience for that run).


Got some good Tennessee boating in this weekend. Ran Cain Creek into the North Chick on Friday. It was a full-on run, starting with the micro creek of Cain, and flowing into some bigger water creeking on the North Chick. Walked Vortex on Cain, which looked big and scary, and cracked my boat just below the seat on Big Splat, which necessitated some patch work on the side of the river. We worked our way onto the Chick through some pretty intense boulder gardens, and some blind drops on the bottom of Cain. It turned into a 12 or 13 mile day; we were probably on the river for a little over 6 hours. I swam once after getting my paddle stuck between two rocks on a somewhat manky drop. All of my gear was recovered, save one of my gloves. I was fine too; the swim was pretty easy, though I almost leaked out of an eddy and into a rock.

We had 5 swims throughout the group of 12. Everyone was pretty tired by the end, and my boat was sloshing with water from my somewhat-patched crack. It was a great run overall; the gradient just never really stopped. I don't think we ever had an eddy or slack water larger than an average living room. I've ran harder and longer runs, but never a run near this length with this sort of sustained difficulty.

We grabbed a hotel room that night so we could dry out my boat and slap on a heat-enforced duct tape weld, which held up for the rest of the weekend. The next morning, after calling around for gauge readings and visuals, we headed to the Sinks of the Little, up in the Smoky Mountains. It was a gorgeous run. Unfortunately, the biggest drop of the sinks, an 11' or so falls, had a log in it that prevented us from running it safely. We portaged, and ran the rest of the run. Some good, mellow boulder gardens, and a couple almost-blind drops that we boat scouted. It was a good day, and a nice reprive from the intensity of Friday.

We camped outside of Wartburg, TN, played some dice, and slept through a short thunderstorm. The next morning we got up early, did a quick canvassing of the campground, and headed to the Lower Crooked. We had considered doing the upper, but it was running high and there was a 20' falls that we didn't really want to deal with on the upper. Add that to the upper's short length, and we were in for a high-water run on the lower. We ran into a couple of guys from Knoxville and ran down with them. The run was all right, with some interesting boulder gardens and ledge drops at the beginning and end, though they were separated by a few miles of class II. All of the drops were pretty straight-forward as well; I don't think I'd get back on it unless some of the other runs in the area like the Little Clear or Island were dry.


Kevin, Zach and I got in another weekend of paddling this past weekend. Kev picked me up at O'Hare, we fetched Zach in South Bend, and then rolled all the way down to the Russel Fork, pulling in around 3am. We woke up and grabbed breakfast, and the Russel Fork was on the rise, quickly heading to the bad in-between levels that looked a little scary for us. We headed to the Guest River Gorge in Virginia, which was at minimum flows. We put on around noon, figuring we would hitch hike back up when we got to the bottom.

The run was a lot of fun; plenty of gradient that just wouldn't quit. It was a little low, but still boatable (though bumpy). We walked a couple of drops that needed a little more water to run safely, and a number of times one of us would hop out to scout a horizon line, then give verbal directions to the other two. Other times, we just boat-scouted.

No real carnage to speak of; the river was a lot of fun, with a lot of rapids and a lot of moves that flowed smoothly into each other. We were all pretty tired when we got to the confluence of the Clinch; the take-out was supposed to be nearby. We apparently missed it; floating down miles of the Clinch until it started to get dark. We eventually took out in somebody's back yard and asked for directions, and a very nice coal mine inspector gave us a lift back to the car.

The Tennessee Plateau was getting hammered with rain, so we started driving again. It was a tough drive; we were all exhausted from the little bit of sleep the night before and the long day on the river. We had to stop and nap for a while, but eventually rolled into Wartburg around 2am.

The next morning we tied in with a group of Nashville boaters and headed to Island Creek. Island was packed with people; I counted at least 30 boats on this tiny creek that day. It's a gem that rarely runs, and when it goes a lot of people try and catch it. Our local guides were fantastic, and we were treated with a gorgeous micro-canyon, with lots of little slides, one complicated, manky drop, and another surf wave that was in a cave. It was a great run, and over too soon. While the locals headed to Little Clear Creek, we were forced to head for home, since it was already 2:30 and we had a long drive to get back home. All in all, it was a great trip, with a lot of really fun, class IV boating that was exciting but non life-threatening.

A shot from Island Creek:

Rolling back to Indiana in the Saturn.


Headed down to Kentucky and Tennessee this past weekend with Jeff and Zach. Camped at the Rockcastle Friday night, and had a chilly night. In the morning we got in an early run (post-coffee, of course). It was pretty, with a fun class IV at the start, a bit of flat water, then some fun class III boogie. Then it was down to Tennessee for Clear Creek with some more HCC members. Clear Creek was pretty fun; slalom-style class III ish boulder gardens that allowed for a lot of different moves. Zach joined the swim team after he couldn’t get out of a hole on the Obed (which clear creek fed into), and we muscled through the flat water to the takeout. It was beautiful all day, 45 or 50 and bright blue skies.

We got a hotel room in Oenida and ate some tasty bbq, then dried out our gear and watched the snow start to fall. The next morning it was cold; we grabbed breakfast at the Huddle House (think Waffle House). In the parking lot, some lady was taking photos of the police cars parked outside, and the cops questioned us on whether we saw where her car went. Odd. We ran the Big South Fork of the Cumberland. It was really, really cold. The river was fine; a little underwhelming. Sharon joined Zach on the swim team roster; we were lucky she was wearing a dry suit. We were off the river early, and managed to get home at a somewhat reasonable hour, which was a nice change of pace. I think I’m starting to come down with a touch of a cold; cold weather camping probably didn’t help much. Anyway, it was a pretty good warm-up trip, but we hope to get on some steeper stuff soon.