Before even leaving Ashland, we knew being in the right place at the right time for the weather and crowds would be key. In general, we’ve been pretty lucky. We timed Utah and Hueco Tanks perfectly. For most of Colorado, we were a little early due to snow (hence the Gunnison snow storm.) Salida, CO, however, we timed perfectly.
We arrived in Salida, the center of the universe if you’re a raft guide, late on May 14th. Surrounded by the highest concentration of 14,000ft. peaks in the lower 48 and on the the Arkansas River, there is some amazing white water to be had. We spent a total of four days kayaking and biking in and around Salida. We slowly worked into the paddling groove by starting on an easy section, Fractions, just above the town of Buena Vista. The next day, we paddled Brown’s Canyon (the most commercially rafted stretch of river in the world–like I said, middle of the universe). That afternoon we went for a short bike ride in Buena Vista and met up with Rachel and Mackenzie, some of our Durango friends who came to do some rafting and show us the meatier sections of river.
Saturday morning we got to it right away and did two laps down the Numbers section with a crew of kayaks and rafts. The Numbers is an incredibly well known stretch of almost continuous class IV with some fantastic drops; Nathan says it’s his favorite stretch of river he’s ever paddled. Afterwards, we headed back downstream to Salida and checked out the trails on S. Mountain with Rachel. The trails certainly held up and were far more technical than we had anticipated. Sunday, we paddled the Royal George where Nathan, once again, pulled off a couple of incredible combat rolls in Sunshine and Wall Slammer rapids. The river was running at a very kind level and we were lucky enough to miss the eminent crowds of Memorial Day weekend by a few days. As our friends drove back to Durango and work we headed north to Boulder. We pulled into camp on Magnolia Road late and quickly passed out.
We spent a casual Monday morning grocery shopping and flipping through guidebooks at the local REI trying to decide what to do. We opted to ride Valmont Bike Park, a free bike park in Boulder with single track, 2 pump tracks, a dual slalom course, progressive dirt jumps, and progressive slope style courses. Valmont was a pretty neat park to have in town and the biking community thrives because of it. In the evening we stayed with Emily, a friend of Nathan’s brother, and she loaded us with all the best climbing beta.
Tuesday morning our friend Jeroen, who we met 2 months prior at Red Rocks, showed us the climbing at Dream Canyon. The granite was awesome and we found some great sport and mixed routes. Around noon, our dirt-bagging buddy Dave from Joe’s Valley showed up and climbed with us for a bit. Unfortunately, we all failed to bring lunch, so we hiked back to the truck, ate some food, and went to check out the Flagstaff Boulders. The lack of rest and consecutive long days meant for an afternoon of less bouldering than anticipated, but it was still a great place to do a little climbing and hang out.
The next morning we got an early start and headed towards the First Flatiron, an iconic Boulder climb. With Dave, we roped up and set out for the 1000 feet of 5.6 climbing. After a mere 150 feet, it began raining, so we rapelled off a tree thinking it may be our last opportunity to bail. Naturally, by the time we were all on the ground, the sun came out. We opted to call it a day for fear of further thunderstorms and spent a couple hours slack-lining while Nathan got some Ukulele lessons from Dave. When the rain did start (we didn’t bail for nothing, there was even a tornado warning), we headed to Neptune Mountaineering to check out their museum of climbing gear, including the boots worn by Sir Edmond Hillary on the first (proven) ascent of Everest.
After bailing on the First Flatiron, we had a fight to pick and returned Thursday morning to do so. Dave, unfortunately, re-injured his back and was unable to join us, but Nathan and I climbed using a mix of sketchy run-outs and a good dose of simul-climbing. We topped out after four hours, just as the rain started to fall. That evening we went to mountain bike instructor Lee McCormack’s house to stay the night. We ran into Lee at the Arizona Leaders’ Summit, and he invited us to stay with him and his family (and ride his pump track) while we were in Boulder. They were all great hosts and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Lee gave us some beta on his favorite trails, so the next day we checked out the Picture Rock trail in Lyons. With a fantastic mix of technical and flow, it was a great way to spend the day and we escaped without being caught in the afternoon thunderstorms.
After doing plenty of climbing and biking the previous few days, we decided it was time to get back on the water. Saturday we headed towards Alto Alto, the upper-upper section of South Boulder Creek for a supposedly IV- creek run. We put on and floated down the class II creek until we reached our first real drop. At the end of the rapid, there was a fairly nasty ledge-hole where we both flipped. This was our first warning from the river. We continued on, having both successfully combat rolled. The next major drop was about 200 yards of back-to-back holes, many of which were quite sticky, with barely enough time to open your eyes and choose a line. Having begun to learn the character of the river, we decided it was a little too risky to continue with just the two of us and began the tiresome 1.5 mile hike back to the road, which was definitely a good call.
Sunday was our last day in Boulder. Lee took us out for a quick morning pedal and we rode a couple laps down the Links trail. Afterwards, Lee and family went to watch his daughters’ Ballet Recital while Nathan and I did some much needed laundry and organization and got in a couple good laps on the pump track. We all went out for a great dinner at Radda and got to bed early in preparation for our long drive.
We left boulder at 6am and arrived in St. Louis at 9pm making it our longest drive to date, 14 hours on the road. My Cousin Ralph and his girlfriend Liz have been kind enough to put us up, feed us, and show us around the city for a couple days. Today, we went and checked out the City Museum, an M.C. Escher style jungle gym for all ages that seems to stretch on forever. Soon, we’ll be making another long drive to Boone, NC, where we’ll meet up with Zack and Alicia Green for some more adventures!