We start west of the divide where we battled obnoxious road construction and sweltering heat to spend the night below a run in the bowels of a canyon of the Blue River.
If you have never rowed a raft full of overnight gear let me tell you that you have a real treat in your future. The raft handled like you had an elephant in the back and within the first mile I already had a new found respect for drivers of Grand Canyon cargo boats. The campsite was a few short miles from the put in and was framed by two perfect runs and an elevated (and flat) campsite.
The next morning we had leftover carnitas with corn tortillas, ibuprofen, and lukewarm water before we packed the elephant back into the back of the raft. The second day was focused on trying to fish a little bit instead of just getting the gear to the river. The run above camp held a few fish that were eager to share breakfast with their upright walking land lovers.
We threw some streamers, polished off the rest of the beer, and enjoyed a hot summer day. Most of all I was able to listen to Wells tell me about every bend on the river and how it had changed over the last 20 years. Wells informed me that he had floated this stretch 10-15 times/year since 1996 and if you know this stretch and the logistical nightmare it poses then you will know what kind of feat that is.
Float over, boat on trailer, wheels up, over the divide we go until we end up in Salida. We now have a circus of people, some from as far away as South Carolina ready to experience the Arkansas River in all its grandeur. The day began as most days do on my boat, with a Bud Light Lime to get things started. You know that it is getting serious when you drink a beer that has to tell you it has alcohol in it.
Of course after “BLL” you can start to lose your coordination, potentially endangering the lives of not only your crew, but also the fish.
As we floated through downtown we met a very enthusiastic young man who was eager to show us his cowboy. We gave him a target, the kid just needs some more practice.
The Hayden Pass fire had started on Saturday and by Sunday the smoke was visible from Salida. Tuesday brought even larger clouds of smoke and a faint smell of burning pine in the air. Reminded me of summers in Montana.