Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Upper Colorado Mission

Not long ago I had the distinct pleasure to be invited on a Upper Colorado trip with fellow wooden river dory enthusiast, blogger, and all around good man Greg Hatten. Greg and I met at the McKenzie River Wooden Boat Festival several years ago and then connected again at the Snake River Wooden Boat Show last summer. we made off handed plans to try and get together this summer and do some trips. Well winter happened then spring and just about the time I thought to call Greg about boating he called me. 

From the get go I knew this trip was going to be different. I was not in charge of anything, a rare thing in my life and a much welcomed relief.  My only job was to trailer my boat and gear to a place called Pumphouse just outside of Kremmling Colorado. Once their I would meet Greg and a slue of other folks that were just odd phone numbers in a group text.

After pulling into Kremmling and checking my map again I gassed up and headed for Pumphouse. One of the fun things about being around whitewater for such a long time is a chance to experience places around the world that are famous only to the ranks of other river nerds. The upper Colorado is home to the legendary Gore Canyon. While we had not come to run Gore Canyon (don't think I'll ever do that in a wooden boat) it was fantastic to pull out at a overlook and have a look. 

From my vantage point I could see the last of Gore's power meander away into a pristine alpine valley. As the phone in my pocket lost signal I became more and more excited about getting to hang out here for the next couple of days.

Springtime in the Mountains was just getting wound up (a bit of a surprise for some of the folks from lower climates) temperatures at night dipped below freezing and much of the forest was still without leaves.  But everything else had turned emerald green and smelled of fresh sage.

I drove around for a while looking for anyone I thought could be associated with our crew and finally ran into David Ellis of Ellis Canvas Tents. The tents he had set up were instantly recognizable as the type of tent Greg used in the Tetons. I stopped, introduced myself to David and confirmed that this was the place.

I added my gear to the growing pile and got down to some serious lounging about. While hanging out in our five star riverside restaurant I got to know the rest of the group. Along with Greg and David their was Tim, Darrell, Royce, Andrew, Josh and Bill. Everyone but David Tim and I were from St. Joseph Missouri. We had a great time eating and drinking until full bellies, cold, and road fatigue drove us into our tents.

The next two days run together. Cold beautiful sunrises followed by fantastic whitewater all set in two lovely canyons. The run itself from Pumphouse to Rancho Del Rio is spectacular. From the put in the next canyon can be seen yawning up at the sky. Upon entering the current quickly picks up forming fun s-bends ending in a beautiful left eddy above a horizon line. From this eddy you can see the big rock river left that forms the Eye of the Needle. At 3500ish cfs the eddy is deceptive, the cleanest line we found was river right to left passing behind the big rock. Getting in the left eddy makes getting back on line a really interesting speed killing ferry. Once past the "eye" its smooth sailing past some hot springs (they were under water) and into the next park (open area between canyons where the river calms and begins to meander). 

Photo Greg Hatten

On our first run we had planned to take out at Radium but we found that their was to much daylight and fun to be had so to hell with shuttle problems lets run more river. After Radium yet another canyon loomes. The cherry of this canyon is Yarmony. This is a longish rapid with a couple of moves to be made in the top section, then its hold on through its lower wave train.The whole rapid drops along a river left cliff (slight right bend) giving the viewer positioned on the bottom right a fantastic view of the "action". The park, canyon, park, canyon nature of this section seams to set the tone for the whole Colorado, the canyons and water simply get deeper and bigger. The good spring runoff, great scenery and muddy water really drove home that I was on the Colorado, it felt great to finally have a wooden boat on her mighty waters. The take out is located at Rancho Del Rio, its private, cheep, and if you are into river dirtbaggery amazing. This is where the Gore Canyon Race party is held, so...

After the runs we headed back to out camp. Greg had brought along some Pendleton wool blankets, their added warmth very welcome after the cold water on the river. Their is nothing  better than sitting in a blanket next to a fire listening to the conversation drift along.

After a few nights on the river we packed up and headed to YMCA of the Rockies. I was asleep almost as soon as i was settled.

I woke the next morning to smell of coffee and breakfast. The rest of the party (members of Darrell's church from St. Joseph) had arrived in the night to fill out two of the YMCA bunkhouses.

The night in the bunkhouse while not as scenic as the camp at Pumphouse it did help avoid frosty pre-river sneakers.

The Gang from St. Joseph were here for a men's retreat and some rafting. Sadly my only picture is of the riverside lunch provided by Mad Adventures

Photo Greg Hatten

Just about the time I really began to get into the river routine it was time to head home. With a early morning start I put the Rocky Mountains to the left of the truck and headed north.

I'll leave you with a high quality driving selfie from somewhere in Wyoming.

**I will be posting some other pictures of this trip in a later post, stay tuned.

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