Saturday, June 5, 2010

Westward Waters: Day 2

After spending the evening at a paddling companions apartment, we awoke and sat awestruck at the levels abound in Colorado. A candid discussion of river's to run ensued, and based on the unbelievable levels it was concluded we would run the Black Rock and Lower sections of Clear Creek in Golden, CO. We drove into the foothills bordering Denver and sped into the gorge that contains Clear Creek. Meanwhile, I sat attempting to maintain apathy as to what the day held as a way to pacify my nerves... we were now embarking on our first class V run in CO.

Arriving at the river, we briefly pre-scouted all the major drops as the river flowed roadside through the gorge. We met up with fellow paddlers, geared for battle, and put on. The river level hovered around 1100 cfs... which is consider very high. The run began with non-stop continuous class IV boulder bed. It quickly came to my attention that, unlike Midwest whitewater, swimming is not much of an option. You may survive it, but you easily risk losing your boat and gear in such swift and continuous water. Moreover, any semblance of a gradual introduction to Colorado whitewater was deemed impossible with the state's flooding. It upped the ante.

Again, picture this with twice as much water... Clear Creek's "The Narrows"

Before long we had reach the gnashings of Black Rock which was our first class V drop.We bombed in amongst giant waves while fighting hard to avoid giant holes and an undercut that much of the river swept towards. I pounded through exploding waves and found myself pushed towards the undercut. I barely missed the undercut ledge and paddled onwards breathing hard.

I came to a second realization. The combination of high altitude and the continuous non-stop nature of the whitewater was getting breathlessly tired... I had never experience creeking as such a aerobic workout (with the exception of those unique moments of getting worked in hole). Paddling onward, the river mellowed as it came closer to the "Narrows" the next class V. Having just arrived in CO and feeling fairly youthful to this type of whitewater, I determined that that I would portage this drop.   Putting on below the river turn to miles of mellow class III and IV boulder bed. I began to build a rhythm and felt myself loosening up and becoming more comfortable. By the time we had reached the take-out and shuttle I had a grin unwaveringly plastered to my face. We basked in the 80 degree heat and parted ways with our paddling compatriots.

After a hearty meal and some analysis of the river levels, we determined the next reasonable stop would be in Buena Vista, CO along the banks of the Arkansas river. After much befuddled driving on my part, we reached the Clear Creek reservoir late in the night. We set up camp amongst the star filled dome of the sky and settled in for the night only vaguely aware of what the morning would bring.

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