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Colorado Trip Report '06

A few weeks ago a surge of snowmelt in Colorado prompted us to rush out of the office and hit the road to work on our new guidebook, "The River Gypsies' Guide to North America." With plans to shoot photos for the book as well as to film the sessions for our upcoming "Yoga for Hikers" video, Andria, Hudson, and I piled into our trusty little Tacoma and headed for the Rockies.

After a fantastic day on Vallecito we had some work to do in the desert, so we headed out to Moab to shoot one of the sessions for our upcoming "Yoga for Hikers" DVD. We found an excellent location just a short distance from town, and got some beautiful footage the following morning.

Andria during the shoot for "Yoga for Hikers."

After the shoot, we stopped off at the offices of Zeal Optics, who have helped us out with some great shades for the DVD and for paddling. Click their name to check out more about them.

From Moab we hurried back into the mountains to get back to boating, making a bee-line for Crested Butte and Oh-Be-Joyful. When we arrived at the campground we found that the Pyranha crew had things pretty well staked out, so we joined in the scene.

Pyranha scene at OBJ campground

Rain and cold that afternoon kept us from trying to cram in a run, and the rain and cold continued to be uninspiring the next day. Heavy rains on Thursday actually brought the creek up pretty high, and it was still swollen on Friday when we headed up for a run. There was much action on that run, and afterwards I got a few photos of the creek:

PA's Don Smith boofing center at the first drop.

Local hero Steve Reska on the 25 footer.

After getting another OBJ run on Saturday morning, we bugged out before the race and headed back over to the Ark Valley, where we still had work to do. We had shot a couple of pictures from the bridge above Number 5 before, but it was time to run the whole Numbers section and get some good shots of this Colorado ultra-classic. We had nice high peak flows upward of 2500 cfs, which made for an action packed day out there.

Unknown paddlers in Number 4.

This crew was a family who had given me a ride for shuttle. On the drive up I informed them that the level was 2500+ and not the 1700 which they thought it was. They seemed confident that they would be OK, but didn't get squared up for the hole at Number 4. We stopped to help, and recovered all of the paddlers and the raft. I wasn't going out to get that oar, though, so it might still be there. The group decided to carry out at that point, and Andria and I continued down under the bridge and through Number 5.

At this point we had gotten pics for most of the runs that I wanted to have in the new guidebook - minus a few that were logistically difficult or which had different seasons - so it was time to get the final yoga session shot for "Yoga for Hikers" and then head home. We drove over to the front range to shoot above the small town where I used to live - Eldora.

The shoot in Eldora.

After the shoot, we drove up the valley to the 4th of July trailhead, where we hiked up to Diamond Lake to get some hiking shots for the "Yoga for Hikers" book. The last mile or so of the trail was uphill in very steep snow, making for an exciting and tiring day hike kicking steps and trying not to slip. We topped out at the lake at 11,000 ft, finding a really beautiful scene up there.

I'm pretty sure the snow hiking was Hudson's favorite part of the trip - except maybe partying with all of the dogs at the OBJ campground.

Us at the lake, 11,000 ft.

After the hike, we headed back down to where the shoot took place, which happened to overlook the take-out for one of our favorite little class V runs - the Source of Boulder Creek. The Source is a 450 fpm screamer through a micro-canyon. The creek has about 4 eddies in a mile, no drops over 6 feet, and is so narrow that you can step across it at the lip of the biggest drop - it's sorf of like a really wet luge run littered with sharp rocks. Although it doesn't get much press, the Source is one of the most fun runs in Colorado. Unfortunately, there is really no way to stop to take pictures, and it's pretty dark down in there anyway. It was a great finish to the trip. We drove out to stay with a friend in Denver that evening, and were on our way back east the next morning, with visions of work and Green runs dancing in our heads.

Now we're hard at work getting products out the door so that we can hit the road again in late July. Until then, have fun and be safe on the rivers!!!

Leland, Andria, and Hudson

AUTHORS NOTE: I've been on some tough paddling road trips before, but this Colorado trip was the hardest one I have been on by far. It was a trip of terrible tragedy and loss, but also an opportunity to closely re-examine and get back in touch with the true motivations for my passion for boating. I spent the hardest night of my life recovering a fellow paddler from the river in 1998, but this trip was the first time I was placed face to face with the reality of the river taking someone away right before my eyes. Losing friends on the river - especially in difficult whitewater - is a possibility that I had carefully examined many times over the years when people I knew were lost to the river. Not only can you lose those you are paddling with, but having the same thing happen to you at any time is an equally real possiblility - and it happens in two minutes or less. I like to think that most boaters have thought about this, but I urge all boaters to come to terms with this idea before running hard whitewater if you have not already. High end paddling is an activity of great risk and potentially bountiful rewards, which should not be entered into without making a well thought out decision as to whether the rewards for you are worth the risk.

Friends of Adam's have told me that he was the kind of person who thought about his own risk, but who also had a great love for paddling and wouldn't want people to stop following their boating passion due to his accident. Knowing this, and also taking into account my own relationship with the river, I feel that continuing this trip was the right thing to do - although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I will certainly move forward in my paddling with redoubled efforts to make boating as safe as possible for myself and those I paddle with - and I urge everyone out there to do the same.