Sat 9 Jun 2007
Posted by erasteve

Wow! The end of the fifth day of our Rocky Mountain adventure and we are both feeling the miles–from both the road and river.

We drove straight from Bryson City to the Embudo, roughly 1 hour south of Taos, New Mexico. By driving in shifts we made it in 24 hours! Unfortunately that left both of us pretty exhausted of the road. The Embudo is known as the desert creek run and lived up to its reputation fully. After putting in a serious looking storm began to swallow the previously blue skyline. Being in a desert environment we realized the potential for flash flooding and pulled out above the first committing gorge. After watching the rain for a few minutes we began to prepare for an overnighter on the river. We found fire wood, and shelter, and moved up well of the river to scout what lay ahead. After an hour, we lucked out as the river only raised by a small bit, and after out scout we continued downstream. The rest of the river failed to disappoint. In fact the Embudo far surpassed either of our expectations. What a great class five creek in one of the most beautiful settings!

After the Embudo we camped under the stars near Taos, NM. The next day we put in on the gorgeous Upper Taos Box. It’s hard to believe that there is whitewater in such a flat part of the desert, but this section of the Rio Grande has carved a beautiful gorge into the northern NM landscape. The water was warm, and the rapids complimented the scenery in amazing fashion. Another great desert run.

The next morning we drove north to the city of Durango, home of the lower Animas. After a quick talk with some locals about why the runs in the area where so high including the classic Vallecito creek we were directed to the first gorge of lime creek. After some scouting and realizing the time of day and water level, we opted for a retreat to the high in the sky city of Silverton, the headwaters of the legendary Animas. After a couple local brews we hatched the plan to run the 26.8 mile of the Animas from Silverton to the Rockwood Box. The next morning we woke to 28 degrees F, 70 mph winds, and beautiful sunshine. Not to be deterred from our goal, we decided to pack for the adventure and possible cold weather overnighter. We ran about 14 miles of our goal before the ice on our drytops and pogies got to thick to paddle in and we hopped the train from needlton to Silverton, a very neat if not pricey shuttle, but at the time the only option before hypothermia.

Feeling defeated by the weather and lack of cold water experience, we headed over through the snow storm to the town of Ouray, where we found an excellent low elevation creek run in the Ucompaghre. Short sweet and very fast is the nature of this run and we enjoyed a little redemption from the mornings upset.

In looking back we still ran thirteen mile of the Animas including a rapid named no name that I think rivals any river not creek rapid that I have run to date. So maybe the Animas adventure was not such a let down.
After the Ucompaghre we headed into the town of Gunnison in preparation for the Crested Butte Quadruple Crown. This Trophy includes the Upper East, the Daisy, The Slate, and the crown jewel, Oh-be-joyful. After a speedy descent of the upper east we headed to the next drainage over to begin the last part of the crown, only to find that the storm that had caused us such strife on the Animas had locked all the snow down, leaving the other three of the 4 creeks nothing but glorified trickles. Slightly discouraged we headed east to Buena Vista, CO.

Here in the Arkansas drainage we decided to take it easy with a short river-not-creek section of the Ark. We had heard legends of the Pine Creek section, and decided that would make a great evening jaunt. The river was beautiful and at the best level to make the Pine Creek Rapid as scary as possible. What a great rapid. As described in the guide book, “what every class four run needs…a great class five rapid! Feeling satisfied after our run through this great section of river, we settled into our bags under a sky so bright with stars falling asleep was tough!

The next morning we awoke in the clear creek wilderness with expectations of creeking. Again that storm only a few days earlier had foiled us. Clear was empty! What to do? Head back to the Arkansas of course. This time with a little more daylight, we decided to run from Pine Creek through the Numbers. Again what a great run.

Our plans for the next few days are up in the air depending on what weather does, so we will where that takes us.

We look forward to checking on with you soon!
Steve and Brian.