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Colorado Roadtrip

School finally ended and I got a well-deserved break and a chance to enjoy myself for a few days. Alexis and I have been planning to do something fun on our break and we decided that we’d take a short roadtrip out west so she could get a jump on grad school selection. After much deliberation, we decided to visit Boulder, CO so she could look at school there.

Kansas – yeah, that’s the curvature of the earth you’re seeing

We left NC Friday. May 8th, drove to Chattanooga and visited with Alex’s Mom on our way west. We got up the next morning and drove…and drove…and drove, finally arriving in Colorado on May 10th. We spent the first day in Colorado resting and getting acquainted with the city and most of the second day taking care of school stuff. That afternoon Ed Gaker called me and asked if I wanted to run Eldorado Canyon with him later that evening.

More Kansas…I was bored

The Eldo section of Boulder Creek is a fun little creek run about ten minutes from Boulder. It’s tucked away in a steep, scenic gorge that local boaters, climbers, hikers, and trail runners seem to love as one of the area’s many after-work hangouts. There were a lot of friendly folks up there, including the park rangers and we had a lot of conversations with folks on our way to the put-in. There was also a friendly dog, who we found out later belonged to a climber, that tried to go kayaking with us. Since we put on just above the first rapid of consequence, there was a little excitement with the dog for a few minutes.

Eldorado Canyon

You could drive a car to the top if you wanted to, but we decided to shoulder our boats and leave Ed’s truck at the takeout so we could scout on the way up. I really enjoyed the scenery and the warm, pine-scented air as we hiked up. The creek seemed like it was a good medium flow and the riverbed reminded me a lot of the Cullasaja back at home. It’s a steep, low volume creek full of sharp, badly placed rocks with a few sieves and undercuts thrown in for more pucker factor. Mostly continuous boogie whitewater, there is a good eight-foot boof and an awesome rapid toward the middle of the ¾ mile section of whitewater – Harmon Falls. It’s a long, tight rapid with several drops and a few tough moves. I dropped in first while Ed filmed from a high overlooking rock then I held a rope for him and filmed. Between the second and third drops, I grinned when I heard the dog howl at me in the rapid from the bank.

Driving shuttle for the USB

Later that evening, I talked to local creeker, Nick Wigston, and he suggested that we paddle his favorite Front Range run the next day since he thought it would be running: Upper South Boulder Creek. Upper South Boulder is actually near Pinecliffe – about half an hour outside Boulder. When it’s going, it’s a treasure for the local hairboaters. I had the opportunity to get on this creek twice on my trip at two very different levels. My first run was with a big crew at about 300cfs and we opened the creek up with the season’s first run. We did a bit of filming at the most notable rapids since we were already out and looking for new wood.

USB put-in

A couple of days later, Nick and I headed back to USB with a third paddler in our group to find the creek at nearly 500cfs. The difference in the character of the run at the two levels is night and day. On our first run, we had a pretty scrapey level with little push in and between most rapids. I would have rated the overall difficulty of the run at about the same as the Green Narrows, minus the Big Three. Our high water run ranks up there in difficulty of things like high water West Prong or Raven Fork, only not nearly as steep. A word to the wise: don’t go firing off downriver without someone who has run USB before. There are several places that you need to be aware of. Mayhem would be the result. If you know the info on this run, it’s a great place to paddle near Boulder.

S-Turn on USB at high water, photo courtesy of Nick Wigston

Because the season was so early when I was there, things were just starting to come in on the Front Range. That meant that every day wasn’t great for paddling. So I explored. One day I paddled at Matt’s Whitewater Course in downtown Boulder and had a really good time in the new Z.One. I had heard that the playpark wasn’t that good but decided to go anyway, and was glad that I did. The park is about a quarter mile long, with pourover ledges every 50 or 75 feet. The holes range from shallow and flushy to pretty retentive. This seems like an awesome place to teach someone interested in creeking proper boof stroke timing and placement. Most of the holes had some play potential when I was there but there was one about halfway down the course that I had a lot of fun blasting and throwing cartwheels in. The Z.One has turned out to be an awesome kayak for people who like to paddle downriver and play along the way. More on that later.

Boulder Playpark in the Z.One, photo courtesy of Alex Decosimo

Another day Alexis and I got some trail beta from University Cycles in downtown Boulder and decided to head up the road through Boulder Canyon to the town of Nederland for some mountain biking at West Magnolia. Being Western NC locals who race cross –country and downhill, we’re used to the wet, rooty, technical trails of Pisgah National Forest and we asked for the worst (best) they could give us. Magnolia turned out to be a pretty easy trail by our standards, but the high elevation kept our minds off that most of the time and turned our attention toward getting enough oxygen. Actually, while I was collapsed on the ground after climbing singletrack up a hill, the thought that the trail wasn’t that hard never crossed my mind.

On the Magnolia trail above Nederland

During our time in Colorado, the whitewater in the rest of the state started to come in. We considered driving all the way out to Durango to meet up with Tommy Hilleke and others before things got too high but we decided that would be too much extra driving on our short trip. I really wanted to head over to Crested Butte to run Oh Be Joyful Creek and Daisy Creek as soon as they came in, but that was even too far to be feasible. The remaining time we had left was spent exploring the city of Boulder and the surrounding areas and the fun there was to be had in town.

Pinning it on a berm at the Fix dirtjump course in Boulder, photo courtesy of Alex Decosimo

Ten days after we arrived in Boulder we began packing the car to drive back to NC. My break from school was entirely too short but I enjoyed every minute of it. After this summer session is over, I don’t expect to encounter any more mandatory summer nursing classes, meaning that I will be able to travel more next year after I pass boards. I’m very excited about getting more freedom to paddle soon but for the next year, I’ll be busier than I have been to this point. All I have to say is that I hope it keeps raining in the southeast! This trip to Colorado reminded me that we have some of the best whitewater in the world here in Western NC and made me appreciate all my home runs that much more. But to all of you that are traveling to the High Sierras and BC this summer, keep me in mind. I’d be there with you if I wasn’t doing Maternal/Child nursing this summer.
Good lines out there.