Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Colorado 2015 - Part I: Browns Canyon and Clear Creek

This year's trip out west began like they all do, with a long drive through the night, across the flat plains in the middle of the country.  With a dismal snow pack in the PNW and California, our sights were set on Colorado again this year.  John Kern and I made the normally 22-hour drive from Chattanooga to Buena Vista in a surprisingly fast 21 hours and were ready to get on the water.  After our all night drive we were operating on almost no sleep, so we decided to paddle Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River, thinking that despite the record high water it would still fit the bill as a not-too-threatening warm up run.  I had never run Browns Canyon before, but reading the guidebook describe it as the best class III run it the state... it certainly seemed like it could only be made better with extra flow.  It was true!  At 5200 CFS Browns Canyon was a big water freight train headed downstream in a hurry.  The whole run didn't take long at all and despite being more challenging than we expected we were both impressed by the quality big-water feel to this normally Class III run.  It was certainly not Class III at that flow!

Below: Adam Goshorn heading down Clear Creek on a different day at a much lower water level.  Photo by John Kern

On our second day in Colorado, John and I met up with a friend of mine from Alabama, Kyle Clark, who now lives in Colorado.  We met up in BV and then headed up to Clear Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River, my favorite run in the area.  It too was running higher than the recommended maximum, but having run it at a variety of levels over the past decade I felt like it would be fine with our crew.  Below is the helmet cam video of our run.  As usual, the helmet cam angle flattens out the prospective considerably and does not do justice to how continuous and full-on this run is at high water. 

While Clear Creek is usually a run that lends itself to multiple laps in a day, on this day, after the first one we all agreed that is was a high quality run, but the level resulted in no practical way to keep an eye on each other or to stop if there had been log or other hazard. "That was fun, but not safe!" -everyone

Until Next Time...

kayak session