This is Part 4 of a Series that introduces the members of the 2007 CKS Squad. Included in each section is the squad member's Bio and a brief photographic Trip Report of their Top 3 days on the river during the 2006 season.
North Saint Vrain, below Cali Section. Paddler: Leif Embertson. Photo: Kyle McKutchen
“Strap your helmet down tight, check out your group and try to find the victim...if you don't see him in your group, IT'S YOU!” Gary Edgeworth
Oh, how true that is but what a great day, an awesome run, and a special place. The North Saint Vrain is one of the least impacted rivers along the front range of Colorado. Being within its canyon and along the river is akin to glimpsing into the past and seeing the landscape unaltered and as it was before the area was settled by early Americans. As soon as the larger than expected local crew meet at the java shop, aka the crack shop, in Lyons it was on. Within the first ¼ of a mile our group had cracked two boats with one person walking out, broken one paddle, and pinned one boat requiring a delicate z drag extraction. After the initial excitement, things calmed down and everyone seemed to fall into their grove. The crew worked great together with veterans showing the lines to the newbies, people setting up safety where needed, everyone cycling through the rotation and basically working great together as a team to make sure we all had a safe and rewarding day on a classic Colorado front range creek.
Yule Creek, Ball Check of the Big Four. Paddler: Leif. Photo: Kyle McCutchen
I don’t really have words to describe how big the “big four” on Yule Creek are but they are big. Dropping into the big four is one of the more committing things I have ever done while kayaking. Peering over the edge of drop 1, Ball Check, felt somewhat similar to looking out over the edge of the earth. On this day we were lucky enough to have fellow CKS Squad member Kyle “Cutch” McCutchen show us aspiring Yule creek students the lines, plus, the conditions were great. The drop that sticks out in my mind is drop 2, Wall Check. After watching two paddlers leave the safety of the eddy below drop 1, I was alone and wondering how their lines went. Not being able to hear very well below drop 1 I eventually decided just to go for it. Now the general plan with Wall Check, is to enter far left; get your nose over a slanting ledge 20 feet below the entrance; then brace for a rough impact against a vertical wall 40 ft below. While at first glance the slanting ledge looks like a reasonable line, it leads a paddler dangerously close to a rock pile at the bottom of the drop. After dropping in on the far left where I wanted to be, my nose didn’t quite get over the ledge and instead turned down the slanting ledge towards the rock pile. Before I knew it, I was hurtling at an ever increasing rate towards the rock pile. Just before the severe impact, my boat deflected away and off the rock pile putting me in the safety of the eddy below. Whew, thank goodness for displacement hulls and bow rocker. Drop 3 and 4 went surprisingly smooth and before I knew it we were paddling across the lake to our shuttle rigs, but not before finding a few marble river
While I’ve done the Big South many times, it is always one of my best days from each season. It’s great getting up there and seeing the younger crews figure stuff out and also catching up with the old guard who are getting in their obligatory 100th run. Coincidently the gate to Long Draw Reservoir, the access to the put in, normally opens right around my birthday, thus creating the perfect opportunity to give myself the best present a kayaker could ever want, a day on the Big South. On this particular day, another fellow CKS squad member, Evan Stafford, and I made plans for an early season mid week run. After calling in sick to work, and securing access to Long Draw Reservoir, we were off. While I didn’t run every drop that day, it was just a great day out on the river. We had the whole run to ourselves and practically blue angled the entire run without incident, only stopping to scout or portage the big three, and get a few pictures along the way. Days like that are why I choose to be a kayaker.
Bonus: Some photos of the Big South by Leif below-