On the river: Stillwater float | AspenTimes.com

On the river: Stillwater float

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – I’m inclined to believe canoeing is best relegated to those who actually live on a lake, in the way that living within spitting distance of the slopes negates the hassle factor of skiing in a big way.

Schlepping ski gear, though, is nothing compared to mounting a canoeing expedition, starting with the considerable exertion required to mount the vessel atop a truck – twice.

Still, a float down the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen last weekend sounded like a pleasant way to spend a sunny day. The river is currently high enough to paddle a section that can drop faster than the balance in my IRA once runoff subsides.

Three of us – two in the canoe, one in a discarded kayak (it was seaworthy, as it turned out) – agreed to meet at Wildwood School east of town and float downstream to the lower end of the North Star Nature Preserve. The section is dubbed Stillwater for its slow, deep and rapidless meanders. At this time of year, it’s moving as fast as it ever will.

For we canoe owners, stowing the vessel on a vehicle, driving up to Aspen, taking it off, shuttling a vehicle to the take-out point, fetching the vehicle we left back at the put-in, getting the canoe loaded anew for the trip home and then putting everything away back at home in the midvalley meant the time spent schlepping was easily more than double the time spent actually canoeing.

At the put-in, a couple intending to float on an air mattress and big tube worriedly eyed our preparations, particularly the life vests, a.k.a. personal floatation devices, and wondered what they were getting into. Though the water was cold enough to suck one’s breath away, I wasn’t terribly worried that I couldn’t rescue myself sans life jacket. It was a nod to my nerdish prudence.

Aside from some initially bickering with the paddler in the stern and one portage around the only spot that could be remotely defined as a “rapid,” the float was an all-too-short journey that offered the sort of vantage point for mostly wild surroundings that one only gets from a river.

A highlight was the heron rookery in the tall pines at the James H. Smith Open Space. Their choice of tree is unusual, and the giant birds stood like statues in their nests, watching us warily.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, if only I could do it in a heartbeat. Instead, it would take at least two hours. Maybe three.


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