On the River: And standing in this corner …
It had all the makings of an epic battle to be uttered in the same breath as Lakers-Celtics, Yankees-Red Sox, Wings-Avs.It was a contest staged in an arena more revered than Wimbledon, more storied than Wrigley, more beautiful than Augusta National. And at the center of it all were two contestants stronger, fitter, more focused than, well, Homer Simpson.On the River is talking, of course, about that age-old battle between duckie and kayak on the coursing waters of the Toothache section of the Roaring Fork.It’s near the tail end of a finger-licking good paddling season and the upper Fork’s water is now too low for a big yellow raft but too high to surrender totally to the fly guys just yet. So out came the duckie and the kayak.The water still feels like the fresh snowmelt that it is, but with temperatures pushing 90 degrees this week, it suddenly feels more refreshing than painful. And since the water’s gone down, you can have the whole river to yourself – if you don’t count the fishermen on the banks.There are still tons of playspots on the river, from smooth little waves to powerful Snowmass Hole. Apparently someone forgot to tell Snowmass Creek the peak runoff has passed, so don’t miss the roaring wave/holes at the confluence with it. And there are lots of spots for squirt turns and the like here and there along the way.The duckie is a strange beast – part kayak part raft. It has the inflatable comfort and self bailing capabilities of its raft kin but with the maneuvering, paddling style and cigar shape of a kayak. Kayaks can get a little uncomfortable all wedged up in there with no room to stretch out, but they’re certainly more stable and maneuverable in the bigger rapids. And they can be rolled.It was set up to be an epic battle, the tried-but-true kayak versus the upstart duckie on its first Fork voyage. But the contestants fought more with the river – getting thrashed by holes and trying to catch waves – than against each other. Both took home tired arms and soggy torsos. Let’s call it a draw.
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