Kayakers paddle Eagle River " all of it | AspenTimes.com

Kayakers paddle Eagle River " all of it

Ian Cropp
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Brent Redding, right, celebrates while Kent "Hobie" Hoeve paddles toward Dotsero Wednesday on the Eagle River. The pair paddled more than 50 miles " nearly every foot of the Eagle River " in seven hours starting near Red Cliff and ending in Dotsero. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily)
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. ” Lewis and Clark, say hello to Hoeve and Redding.

From 1804 to 1806, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark became the first Americans to travel from coast to coast. Wednesday, Eagle County’s Ken Hoeve and Brent Redding made an epic journey along the Eagle River.

“We paddled 52 miles,” Hoeve said. “From the top of Homestake Creek by Red Cliff all the way to Dotsero. We did every mile of the Eagle except what’s above Red Cliff.”

OK, so Hoeve and Redding may not have been heading into the totally unknown like Lewis and Clark, but their 7-hour journey on kayaks was anything but an easy float.

The Eagle is running at near-flood levels, which makes already difficult stretches that much more dangerous.

“We were both nervous,” Hoeve said. “At Gilman, nobody goes in at 900 (cubic feet per second).”

Last year, Hoeve attempted to paddle the Eagle, but his journey was nipped in the bud when he rolled into a hole on the Homestake and separated his shoulder.

“I ripped my arm right out of the socket in the first 10 minutes,” said Hoeve, who had to be taken to the hospital and missed a good deal of the paddling season. “I walked that rapids this year. I said I wanted to get through it this time.”

While the pair did portage a small section up by Homestake, they navigated the rest of the river. In Minturn, Hoeve and Redding, who had been paddling in smaller kayaks, switched to longer creek boats, but didn’t get much relief from the big water.

“It’s one big, long rapid,” Hoeve said. “The only break on the Eagle River is that pond in Edwards. Past that, it was non-stop moving water.”

With only a photographer who was documenting the journey as support crew, the kayakers knew they had to be careful at every step of the journey.

“We were thinking, ‘Here we are on our own,'” Hoeve said.

At Wolcott, they stopped to grab some food.

“By time we got to there ” 26 miles in ” we started to bonk. I felt like I was hallucinating. We put our boats on shore, and walked in (to the Wolcott Yacht Club) with our gear on and all wet, and the lady said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We couldn’t’ explain it to her. We gorged for 10 minute, and we hoped back in our boats.”

Although they are avid paddlers and have been on many stretches of the river, Hoeve and Redding gained a greater appreciation for the Eagle.

“It has every single thing a kayaker or river enthusiast could want,” Hoeve said.

Much like Lewis and Clark were the fist documented trip across the United States (Native Americans had done it before, along with a Canadian), Hoeve said he and Redding may have been the first duo to paddle the Eagle from end to end.

“I’d have to say nobody has ever done it,” Hoeve said. “Only a handful of people run Homestake Creek, and they run that and call it a day. The whole thing was amazing.”

With the at near record levels, Hoeve said he doesn’t recommend venturing near the river unless you know what you are doing.

“If you have kids or a dog and live near the river … don’t let them get near it. There is so much overgrowth from the past few years (when levels were low) that if a kid gets hung up, they are gone. Don’t go near it without a lifejacket.”

icropp@vaildaily.com


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