On the River : A welcome to whitewater
August 29, 2006
I just moved to Aspen from western Massachusetts. After a busy first week at The Aspen Times, I figured I’d turn myself upside down in a whitewater river a few times to shake out the new-job jitters. The local Roaring Fork River is just a trickle now, so I aimed my Subaru for the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.A Glenwood Springs kayak shop gave me the scoop: Get off at the Shoshone exit of Interstate 70 and put in just below the power plant for an easy section of class III river. Rounding the curve near Grizzly Creek, I saw them. Like a bag of Skittles dumped in a bathtub, tens of multicolored plastic pods bobbed and rolled in frothy whitewater: kayakers!At the put-in, I felt like the new kid in school hoping to be picked for kickball. Whitewater kayaking adheres to a loose “buddy system” – and I wasn’t about to run an unknown-to-me section of river alone – so I waited.But who should happen along right away but a young couple from Aspen, Joe and Monique Spears. Joe and Monique have it locked. Joe paddles and Monique jogs, so Monique dropped Joe off at the power station put-in and drove downriver to the Grizzly Creek takeout. From there, Monique jogs upriver along the path while Joe paddles down – a match made in heaven (or Colorado).Our first run on the short Shoshone section was uneventful. Paddling the Colorado was a shock – more “pushy” than Eastern rivers – and some waves felt like Volkswagens, but we had a good run and lots of “play.”Monique was waiting for us at the bottom to shuttle us back to the put-in for “take two,” a good chance to catch some of the surf waves we missed on the first go. Then drama: Pushing salmon-style upstream among rocks to ride a wave again, Joe wedged his boat against a rock – and he really stuck. But before I could get out of my boat, Joe pried himself off the rock with his paddle. The paddle, however, wedged between two rocks and he went down the river without. He slipped to the side, hopped out of his boat and adeptly used his rock climber’s reach to extend into the current and retrieve the pricey blade.He was all smiles and even got back up to surf the wave again – a cool kayaking cucumber, this one – and we’re already talking about next weekend. Stay tuned.