Hey all! The season is about to kick off in Colorado, so I loaded up the rig and headed out to catch the last of the frozen goodness before catching it again as it plunges its way through the river gorges.
Came into the rockies low via 160 through Durango, passing many a location that reminded me of adventures in the past. A few that jump out at me were the adventure into the Rockwood Box gorge of the Animas to run the Crazywoman Creek (aka Canyon Creek) with the likes of Tommy Hilleke, Daniel DeLaVergne, Dave Garringer, Brian Knight and Jason Hale. Great waterfalls up in that gorge, and a fun big water runout via the Animas.
Driving over the bridge that spans over the San-O-Rita hole in Durango I reminisced of the time I was traveling around with Bill Edmonds (my 'big brother' and creek coach from 12 to 16) and I had run my travel budget dry. The punishment thought up by my parents was to give lil pat a big jar of Jif peanut butter. I hated it at the time, but it was a great lesson. The rodeo that year was just when the Jib was transitioning from prototype to production stage. Alan Braswell and the Perception boys had an extra one that I could paddle, and it instilled a huge boost of confidence in me for my eventual freestyle success.
This day I had higher elevations and frozen water on my mind, and we (fet. my four legged sidekick Zudnik) carried on past the whitewater park parking lot, on up and over into the town of Silverton. It was late in the evening when I made it over the pass, but I felt the bigness of the terrain all about us.
I'd been through here back in the Java days with a run on the South Mineral Creek (whose shores I sit aside while I write this) and I remember that it was a beautiful place, with the massifs and flanks of the San Juan Mountains soaring high above, but as I awoke yesterday morning (April 20) I was blown away by the rugged beauty of the place in the springtime. John Muir once wrote something along the lines of, "Snow covers everything like a blanket, covering and hiding any blemish."
My buddy Billy Murphy hooked me up with local badass Stan Pritchard, who, along with his girlfriend Aanika and fellow paddler/skiier Jase, showed me the high elevation beauty of the area.
We followed the 550 up to within a few hundred yards of the summit of Red Mtn Pass and started hiking up the freshly plowed dirt road. Not far around the bend we broke out our skins and I strapped on the splitboard (for the first time) that Stan hooked up for me. The going was smooth and gorgeous up the skin tracked FS road. At a spot which took my attention for a few photos on my cell phone, we broke Right and headed uphill. Chuckling to myself about the simple yet crucial flip of the heel elevators, we cruised right up about 2000 ft more elevation to the top of McMillan Peak. The 360 panorama from this spot was one never to be forgotten, with the Animas drainage across the summit from our skin tracks and NE, with summits of the names of Dome Mountain, Galena Mtn, Handies Peak and Treasure Mtn. Storm Peak was at our East and we could see the still chairlift of Silverton Mtn Ski Area a bit further SE. To the South loomed the Sultan and the Grand Turk and to the West the eye rejoiced in the beauty of the massive ridgeline of the Needles and Lookout Peak.
All this drains down into the Minerals or the Cement Creek, into the Animas as it drops into Silverton and beyond, the Rockwood Box (I think) of the Animas, where Lime Creek drops in on River Right just above the aforementioned Crazywoman Creek. One can spend lifetime after lifetime exploring all aspects of the mountains - whichever mountains - and spend a full, happy life.
The descent started with what my southern ass would describe as harrowing (though some locals would beg to differ) as we dropped in off the north face into a large culouir that rapped around to skiers right. The second crux of the run was a steep choice of two chutes with rocks in the runout, but all worked out for both the southerner and his sidekick pup. Spring corn...good stuff.
I look forward to the next few weeks, which I intend spending time here in the San Juans, exploring the aspects of high mountain terrain on my snowboard, then floating through the gorges on those same (I hope) water droplets, in their sun induced state of existence. I came loaded with my trusty Nomad 8.5 and my new toy, the ultra classic RPM.
Session earlier today at the Gunnison Whitewater Park provided a ear to ear smiles surfing session on the top feature and a few ends and one massive splitwheel in the lower wavehole (yeah! old school!!!). Great day on the water with Johnny Meyers. Glad to see him back on the water after his gnarly back/wrist injury.
Another drive up and over the captivating Red Mtn Pass has brought me here, where I've found a perfect little spot with service for the traveling internet device. Funny how you can be so far out on your own and still be connected - assuming you've brought the proper equipment. So travel ye with thine sat phones, cell phones and buddies, and stay safe out there. Don't wait, go.
Float on all, and make this temporary ride which we have a happy one. (woods helps)
-Lookout Peak as seen from the Silverton side of Red Mtn Pass.
More updates from the Water Droplet Tour to come.