On the River: My Fork fix
This past weekend, I collectively spent 14 hours on the Roaring Fork. My river-rat friends and I knew in the back of our minds that the water level is going down fast, so we needed to take every advantage we could to get our Fork fix. On Saturday we did laps from Gerbazdale to just past the Snowmass Hole, where the takeout is just beyond the Snowmass Conoco. Running between 750 and 850 cfs, it was a perfect level to get my paddling technique back in order after being off the river for the past five years while living in California. We paddled on a Shredder, a two-pontoon raft that is supposed to seat two people. But we’re creative. A cooler fits just perfectly in the back of the boat where the third person sits, a coveted position known in our circle as the “prom queen.” The primary job of the queen is to refresh the paddler’s Tecate, complete with a fresh-cut lime. The other task is to shift your weight when needed, because you definitely contribute to the extra drag going over and through rock fields. Of course, the cooler of beer doesn’t help with weight, so we drink it as fast as we can. The prom queen also is at the ready to pull in anyone who has fallen out of the boat and also scouts for rocks ahead. The first run over Toothache, a class III rapid just above the Snowmass Hole, was successful. I was prom queen for that run and came out unscathed. We pulled over at a nice little beach across from a grassy area where a wedding tent was set up on Saturday afternoon. We toasted to a successful run and watched kayakers play in a nice little wave train in front of us. Our takeout was not as pretty as our run down Toothache. I was paddling with a partner, and the prom queen barked orders at us to go this way and that way. We missed the shot to the left and ended up below the takeout. Too many captains on that run. On our second run late Saturday afternoon, it was just two of us. We mastered the rapid and the takeout. We spent some more time at our favorite beach, and by that time, the wedding was in full swing. We thought we’d take in some music across the river, but it ended up being heavy metal. Not exactly the sounds you’re looking for on the river. We took out just as the sun was setting and headed to the Woody Creek Tavern for a burger and beer. We switched it up on Sunday. We put in at Wink Jaffee Park and made the run a bit longer. It was a virtual rock field all the way to Gerbazdale. We spent most of our time dodging rocks and sucking in our guts so we wouldn’t get stuck. I was prom queen nearly the entire trip and it was sweet. My primary job was to drink beer, hold on and take in the sweet sights and sounds of the Fork. Unfortunately I did notice a big change on the riverbanks from the old days of running the Fork. The river is lined with trophy homes all the way up and down our stretch. If that wasn’t bad enough, nearly every house had its curtains drawn and was closed up tighter than a drum. What a shame. Now it’s time to move on downriver, and run Cemetery and Shoshone, where the water levels are conducive to the Shredder. The best part of it all is that it’s still in our backyard. This is why I love living here.
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In September, Front Range water providers released some water downstream — which they were storing in Homestake Reservoir — to test how they could get it to the state line in the event of a Colorado River Compact call. But accurately tracking and measuring that water turned out to be tricky.