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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 the Homestake Race, we rolled down to Carbondale to visit a friend for the night. The following morning found us up and going again, back to the Arkansas Valley to check out Clear Creek of the Ark. This is another classic which I had overlooked on previous trips. Andria had attempted it very early in her creeking career years earlier, but a shoulder dislocation kept her from finishing the creek. We scouted some photo locations, then found the put-in, where some other paddlers were getting ready for a run. We raced back to the gorge rim, where I got this great shot of Joe Keck:

After shooting that run, we met the guys at the take-out, where we talked Joe into doing another run and showing us the lines. Clear Creek turned out to be a tiny, continuous, classic class IV creek - a true Colorado classic that I will definitely be making an effort to get back to. Thanks to Joe for showing us the good lines!

After a fun night camping in Clear Creek Canyon (although we did not attend the massive Anheuser-Busch "corporate" party at the next campsite over), we headed back down to Durango, where the water was coming up for a last hoorah on their meager snowpack. I had a very strong need to get back to Vallecito and have a good day in there. Vallecito is an incredible place, where I had some of my most memorable days of boating ever in my early travels as a paddler - and I felt that I needed to go back to drop in and remind myself of the magic of that place and of all rivers, that makes the risk we take when running them worthwhile. We went to Vallecito first, but nobody was around for Saturday, so we went over to try and get a low water Lime Creek descent before it ran out completely. When we got there, we decided that the lack of shuttle (requiring a walk) combined with the low water warranted skipping the first couple of miles and just putting in at Adrenaline Falls. I hiked down, waded the river, hiked up above the drop, and gave it a go. What a crazy drop! Thanks to Andria for getting this sweet shot of me:

Leland at Adrenaline Falls, low water.

Andria runs the final drop of Lime - Dragonsback.

We returned to Vallecito that night, hoping to find Brad Higinbotham - a local we had met the week before who was living in the campground for a couple of weeks leading up to his wedding (also in the campground). Brad might have more runs on Vallecito than anyone - he's been running laps for years up there and knows it really well. While we were camping that evening, Brad stopped by and told us he would be up for a run Sunday morning.

Vallecito camping - our take-out was about 20 yards behind that picnic table.

On the hike up the following day, we stopped along the trail to walk down and look at various points of the gorge. Brad's father, brother, and uncle were along and wanted to know where they could watch from. Brad's brother Chad was also wanting to take some photos of us on our way through the gorge. After that we finished the hike to the put-in and headed downstream a ways toward the crux move.

Here's a shot that Chad took of me at Entrance Falls. This move requires a tricky LATE boof to the right, avoiding the melt down that can bob you up into the cave. Vallecito is an amazing creek, but is VERY committing due to this first drop into a gorge that pretty much has to be run to get out.

Brad dropping into the most fun drop on the run - Fuzzy Bunny.

Andria in the section below, with Fuzzy Bunny in the background.

This is where the heat really turns up at the end of the gorge. Brad is showing Andria the lines on Paddle Bitch, which leads fairly directly into the unscoutable unportageable gorged in rapid below - known as "No Way Out."

After "No Way Out," this exit boof is the icing on the cake - a relatively clean 8 footer to exit the gorge. Andria shows us the line here in her Baby Burn (photo by Chad Higinbotham).

Thanks to Brad for showing us excellent lines on his back yard creek, and big congratulations to him and Megan on their marriage at Vallecito the following weekend!