Piedra with the Culebra Grande
So when the flow hit 1800 yesterday I decided today would be a good day to skip work and go boating. My paddling partner Jeff agreed and we left Durango at 6 AM for the Rio Piedra. There is plenty of snow up there still and the lower access road is indeed closed – so you must run both boxes and the full 19 miles (darn). Thanks to Jack we were demoing a Jack’s Plastic Welding Culebra frameless cataraft which we ran R2 style. Jeff wanted to do a snow launch so we loaded up the boat near the bridge and slid down the snow into the river at 0845 AM.
I was happy to be wearing my new Kokatat dry suit (with the essential pee zipper) since it was pretty chilly with about a foot of snow on the banks. Someone said there was a snow dam across the river near the put in but we did not see any. We also didn’t get stopped by any downed trees but there was this barbed wire fence (more on that later). We had fun watching an otter play hide-and-seek with us and we had successful runs of both class IV rapids in the upper section. Stopped for an early lunch at the bridge to prepare for the lower box (also known as first box).
Our run though the rapids above 1st mudslide went very well and Jeff kept saying how he loved the Culebra (way to go Jack). We looked at 1st mudslide and decided it should be a straight forward run down the left then center – but we hit the left bank and got spun sideways through the drop. After some creative high siding we made our way to the lower part of the rapid where lo and behold a shiny blue kayak lay plastered against a rock underwater. We managed to recover the boat (a nice Pyranna S6) and Jeff swears he will call the number on the boat ‘after he tries it out for awhile’. This is the second kayak I have seen lost at this rapid.
Shortly thereafter is 2nd mudslide a.k.a The Eye of the Needle. Jeff asked if we should scout it or just start lining the boat and I said we ought to at least look at it. After imagining all the possible ways to flip I told Jeff that I would run it if he would. He thought for a minute and said ‘Lets do it’. I have been wanting to run this rapid for the last three years and today was the day! We pushed off – made for the right side and paddle hard. The boat began to get pushed toward the rock – but due to our superior skills and perhaps some luck, we made it pretty cleanly through the right side. Fun! Now I might try to row that sucka next time.
After this we found a broken cataract oar with a nice Sawyer blade on it – which I told Jeff he could have since I get the kayak if the guy doesn’t want to come down here and get it. This is probably the third or fourth broken oar I have found on this river. Most trips I end up loosing gear so it was nice to gain some this time.
Finally very close to the takeout we found that ‘someone’ has strung a very large barbed wire fence all the way across the river and touching the water with a big ‘no trespassing’ sign plastered in the middle. This hazard made the river completely impassible by an inflatable and possibly even a kayak. Fortunately in my repair kit I had a few tools capable of destroying a barbed wire fence – so the river is free again – but watch for some barbed wire on the left bank near the takeout (and also watch for a pissed off rancher with a gun).
Okay thats my report. Hope you enjoyed it.
Please note that Dana and Jeff are the best white water rafters I know. So I trust them with our boats to test out. These guys know where their limits are. Make sure that you do too. Do not get in over your head. If we have a high water year, it would be easy to do.
This happened perhaps 15 years ago when we were first starting to build Culebra rafts. That raft went on to do many other great trips even the upper Taos Box with Jeff and Dana and the Salt with me and Jeff, and of course the Grand Canyon, the Middle fork, and the San Juan.