Colorado 10 1/2 days, 13 new rivers.

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We loaded up my trusty Honda CR-V, affectionately referred to as Lady nasty. 3 people Collin Hunt, Brian Snyder, and myself (Sam Ovett), 1 bicycle for shuttle. 5 kayaks. (One playboat that needed a cross country shuttle to its owner and one back up boat. When you go to Colorado it is not a bad idea to bring a back up boat if you have the luxury. The rocks are sharp and mostly unforgiving.  Lady Nasty was also loaded down with camera equipment, camping gear and most importantly a way to make coffee!

Half day Monday
Driving

At 2:00pm on Monday afternoon we rolled out of Asheville fired up and ready for an adventure. The pre road trip excitement is one of my favorite parts of a kayaking road trip.

Day 1 Tuesday
Driving and Clear Creek

26 hours later and almost running out of gas once in Kansas we arrived in Colorado at the put in of clear creek. In order to shake off the road trip we put on and ran the upper section of clear creek. 26 hours straight of driving made me feel like a bad kayaker, who knows maybe it wasn’t the driving, either way it was nice to be in a kayak in Colorado.

Day 2 Wednesday
Gore Canyon

Day 3 Thursday
El Dorado Canyon and South Saint Vrain. One paddle lost

Day 4 Friday
Proving Grounds North Saint Vrain. Starting to feel like a Zombie

Day 5 Saturday
North Saint Vrain. Good nights rest, energized for a big mission day. Friendly local paddlers made shuttle possible and park rangers incredibly forgiving.

Day 6 Sunday
Upper South Boulder put in, but did not put on. Tired, feeling sick, not fired up resting and driving.

Day 7 Fun Day Monday!
Yule Creek, hairy side up, big and awesome, great burritos at the end of the day. Wow what a cool day and place.

Day 8 Tuesday
Meat Grinder and Narrows Crystal Gorge. Round 1 awesome, round 2 let my guard down worst swim of my life. Stay focused in class V!

Day 9 Wednesday
2 breakfast biscuits and the Crested Butte Quadruple Crown. OBJ is oh wow awesome!

Day 10 drive back to Asheville.

Round trip from Asheville, NC back to Asheville, NC it took us 10 days in that time we managed to paddle 13 sections of creek and river. While all of it had been run before it was new to us.

-Sam Ovett

Homestake Creek

Stuff all the gear in the car, stuff all the people in the car, did anyone tie down the boats? Ok cool, let’s roll! Drive to Owensboro, Kentucky. Hang out with John Schroeder (he is the reason Kentucky is cool, not to mention a great paddler).

John Schroader, making Kentucky cool!

Wake up, drive through Missouri/Misery, I am not sure how it is spelled? Now brace for the awfulness of Kansas, it is such a wide state, however it is surprisingly beautiful in its own way, a lot of windmills near the end most of which are not spinning. Not really sure why. It is windy. Now wish you had an aero plane to fly across Kansas! Finally arrive in Colorado. Oh wait, it still looks like Kansas. Make it to Denver and realize you are home free and the high country is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

We rolled into the dirt parking lot above Homestake Creek at 3 AM, very excited to have finally arrived in Colorado. On the other hand, we were all exhausted from the drive across the country starting in Roswell, GA. So we set up our tents and crashed hard hoping to recharge the batteries and keep our body clocks on a healthy schedule.

 

Camp Site

Even though we were tired from travel, it was hard to sleep in for long. After all we had just arrived in Colorado, and we only had so many days to do as much kayaking as possible! As Max and I were cooking breakfast and drinking fresh brewed coffee, we spotted a moose crossing the calm waters above Homestake Creek. I struggled to think of any better welcome into Colorado!

Can't think of a better way to start off the day.

As we were eating breakfast, a dude with a green Dagger kayak showed up in the parking lot, and we got to talking. This dude ended up being no other than Team Dagger paddler, and more importantly a Colorado local, Chase Nobles. Chase had raced the creek before in the previous year’s Teva Mtn. Games and knew Homestake Creek well.

Chase Nobles Training on Homestake

Homestake Creek is a great creek for a race due to a couple of factors. It boasts a healthy gradient of 480 feet per mile. It starts at an altitude of 8,000 ft., which levels the playing field due to the fact that most of the kayakers racing live at much lower altitudes. Since the air is thinner at higher altitude, I found myself sucking wind as I neared the last set of drops. It is entirely roadside, which makes for easy access for spectators. This is convenient because it draws a fairly large crowd to watch all the kayakers in big plastic tupperware containers race down the creek. If you can imagine pouring lots of water down a set of stairs and turning all the stairs into sharp rocks that is essentially the nature of Homestake Creek.

Looking down on Homestake from across the Valley

Chase and Max and I geared up and spent the morning training on the creek doing our best to pick out the fastest way to go down the creek.

Walking the banks. This guy was nice enough to give our boats a lift!

The first two laps were spent focusing hard on finding the best lines through the rapids and dialing them in. The next two laps were spent working on linking everything together as fast and smoothly as possible. Throughout all of our training laps on day one we all had minor hang ups on certain rocks. The nature of the creek creates a very high likelihood of pinning a boat, so we kept a close eye on each other, prepared to hop out of our boat at any moment to help each other out of a pin situation, which we all experienced at some point throughout the training laps.

Day one training concluded with exhaustion from the altitude and Max and I collapsing next to the car worn out, tired, and hungry. We slowly loaded boats onto the car and headed into Vail for the afternoon and found a little place named La Cantina for lunch. The burrito I had for lunch was only a little bit smaller than a full size football. It tasted so good after a morning of paddling at an altitude higher than I was used to. I was so hungry I could have probably eaten two more burritos.

 

Giant Burrito!

That afternoon we walked around Vail Village and just enjoyed hanging out in the mountains.

Vail Village in full Swing!

We decided to train in the afternoon on day two, the goal being to wait till the sun was out and the air was warmer. The water in Colorado is fairly cold since it is all snowmelt, so warmer air temps help increase the amount of fun you’re having while on the creek. We hung out in Vail in the AM and registered for the race and then drove out to Homestake for afternoon training laps. We did 5 in total, and the water was higher than the day before, which was nicer because it cleaned up a few spots where kayakers had been pinning.

Max training hard on the course!

Race Day!

We woke early to make sure we could eat a good breakfast, but got distracted by all the people showing up at the put-in and ended up just eating Cliff Bars. We geared up while the air was still cool and crisp. We had left our gear on top of the car that night, and it was frozen solid when we woke up. So we turned on the car and de-iced the gear with the car’s heater to the point where the gear was flexible and no longer one solid block of ice. The race course was set up and was quickly filling up with paddlers and spectators and the media crew there for the Teva Mountain Games. It seemed as though every other person had a full-on camera set up and a little tag hanging around their neck that said press pass, ready to document every second of the day.

Max and I both did training laps, zoning out and doing our own thing, focusing on the course. I honestly didn’t really see any of Max’s training runs. I was in my own pre-race world. Once I finished my third lap, I was happy with my lines and ready to race. I ate another Cliff Bar, drank some water, and stayed away from the crowd of folks waiting for the pre-race meeting. The pre-race meeting gave everyone the race format: It would be women first with 2 minute intervals between the start of each racer, then Men with a 1 minute interval between each racers’ start time. This meant that if you got hung up, pinned, swam, or were slow, there was another racer barreling down the course ready to boof on your head should you be in the way! We were also given notice that the safety crew would not help you unless you asked them for help, or you were pinned upside down.

Pre Race Meeting. Not sure what that guy is doing?

I was bib number 33 and Max was 32. This meant Max was putting in right before me, and I got to chase him down the course, YES!

Max launched, and as he paddled hard around the first bend in the river, he was out of sight. I heard the announcer say a few things about Max’s lines through the beginning of the course and after that went into my own world. As I put my skirt on my boat and readied myself on the starting ramp, the clocked ticked down 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 3, 2, 1! The horn sounded and I was off hurling down the put in ramp. I hit the water, took a big righty stroke on the entrance, and booked it downstream through the class II lead in. I hit the first part of boulder garden, and even though there were spectators lining the banks and announcers giving a play by play of my lines, I heard and saw none of it. My sole focus was on the water. I was super smooth through the boulder gardens cleaning my lines.

Manky Boulder Garden Fun!

I hit the first drop and boofed hard stomping my bow down so as to come out planning with speed.

Planning out of the drop with speed

Planning out of the drop with speed

I was taking strong strokes to pull through some boulder garden boogie and cranked hard on a lefty boof stroke into the first and only big pool. I paddled strong and fast across the pool into baby sunshine, and I got pushed further right on the eddy water than I would have liked. I dug in to make up for lost time and came off the next drop with good speed coming over the broken-up ledge drop that led into the final drop, Leap of Faith. I came in hot and bobbled my bow on a little rock. I got it straight, pulled a lefty boof stroke, subbed out under the water, and came up next to the right wall, a nice undercut with a cave underneath the right wall. Exactly what I wanted! Holding a lefty stern draw as I resurfaced and as soon as my head was above water, I saw Max and Bryan Kirk waiting at the finish line yelling at me to “PADDLE!” I crossed the finish line smiling and out of breath!

I sat in the eddy congratulating Max on his clean lines. We were slapping each other on the back, both of us fired up to have just completed our first ever creek race!

As we climbed up the bank feeling the effects of altitude, we loaded our boats into the Thule-sponsored golf cart that brought our boats back up to the put-in!

Also, I would like to throw a shout out to my buddy Ben Pattison  for his 7th place finish out of 17 for the citizens’ bouldering comp during the Mountain Games. And his brother Dominic and him also summited Mt. Massive while we were out there, well done!

-Sam

Ben and Dominic (Brothers) on Mt. Massive Summit, well done fellas!

 

More pics of Homestake

Max lining up the boof!

 

Max cranking a lefty to avoid the pin spot!