Editor’s note: This is the second installment in the Summit Explorer series profiling individuals whose intrepid, enthusiastic, adrenaline-charged character defines life in the mountains for so many in our community.
For a couple who live in Summit County and own a rafting company, Christy and Christian “Campy” Campton appropriately started their relationship with a 480-mile, 52-day hike along the Colorado Trail.
“It was kind of like our first big date,” Christy said.
Hiking the trail in summer didn’t keep them from experiencing plenty of rainy days — 39 to be exact, unusual for that time of year— damp days leading to damp nights in a small tent. Their budding relationship survived, however, and 12 years later is still going strong.
Strong enough, in fact, that they not only live together but work together as well. They own KODI Rafting and the Rivers Clothing Co. in Frisco. Campy also offers Swift Water Rescue and Recovery classes to anyone from private boaters to river guides and search and rescue teams.
Born for the water
For Campy, rivers just run in the blood. His grandfather started kayaking the Arkansas River in 1954. Campy’s father and uncle soon followed in his watery footsteps.
Campy grew up in Buena Vista and at age 13 could be found out on the river in his own kayak, alongside his dad. He enjoyed it so much that, for his eighth-grade graduation present, his parents set up a four-day self-contained kayak trip down the San Juan River.
As soon as he turned 18, Campy trained to become a rafting guide.
“As soon as I was old enough to guide, I got into guiding and haven’t stopped,” he said.
After becoming a commercial guide, Campy worked seven seasons at a family friend’s company before deciding to test the waters outside the state boundary. He made his way to both East and West coasts, spending a summer on the Gauley River in West Virginia, then making it over to California, first south and then north, followed by a stint in Tahoe before returning to Colorado.
While he still enjoys kayaks, he thinks that rafting is still his favorite river activity.
“You can carry more gear, and you can take your dog on your raft,” he said, indicating the couple’s golden retriever Maizey at his feet. Christy fixed him with a look and raised her hand. “And your wife,” he added hastily.
From 0 to 9,200 feet
Originally from the San Fernando Valley in southern California, Christy briefly attended college in San Diego before deciding she wanted something different. So she and a friend embarked on a road trip to Colorado, rented a place in Leadville and spent a winter working at Copper Mountain.
“It snowed every day and it was amazing,” Christy said. “You don’t have seasons like this in California. I just fell in love with it.”
It didn’t take long for Christy to transfer to the University of Colorado and figure out even more ways to spend time in the mountains. After college she moved to Summit County, first to Copper and then Frisco, “and then I never left,” she said, smiling.
Together as a team
Christy and Campy first met in Buena Vista. Campy was managing a rafting company and Christy’s friend was a rookie guide under him. Christy would come down for the weekends, go camping, hang out with the group, which included her friend and Campy. They started as casual acquaintances, but as time passed, they grew closer. A little later, Campy moved to Tahoe, and when Christy had to go there for work she called him when she got to town and, “that was it,” she said with a smile.
It’s been 13 years since the two decided they wanted to live in Frisco and went looking for a rafting business to buy. On a whim, they called upon KODI Rafting and learned that yes, in fact, the owner was looking to sell. It was perfect.
“Frisco’s home. We wanted to be here,” Christy said.
Campy nodded in agreement. “It’s hard to beat.”
Seeking adventure at home and abroad
As much fun as they have in Summit County, the pair has made sure to venture outside its boundaries to seek further whitewater adventure. For Campy’s 40th birthday this year, for example, they took a trip to the Futaleufu River in Chile, considered by many to be one of the top whitewater destinations in the world. The year before that, they boated the White Nile River in Uganda. When asked where he might like to go next, Campy named the Zambezi River in southern Africa.
“It’s like the Grand Canyon. … It’s the pinnacle of all rivers here in the United States. Futaleufu is the pinnacle of South America … and then the Zambezi is the one river that you hear about in Africa,” he said with a grin. “It’s game-on.”
Both Campy and Christy are quick to point out that while trips to international rivers are fun, they still have a great time on all that Colorado has to offer.
“Arkansas is probably my favorite (river),” Campy said, “but it’s my home river, it’s what I learned on.”
Christy claimed the Blue River as her favorite. “It’s so fun, so splashy. It’s short, close to home; it just doesn’t run enough.”
When it comes down to it, whether in Colorado or Chile, Campy and Christy like just being out on the water.
“It’s pretty peaceful when you’re sitting in a raft in the middle of the canyon,” Christy said. “Nobody can call you or email you.”
Campy’s feelings come from years with a paddle in hand.
“No river’s the same, no rapids (are) the same,” he said. “It’s … always something new, always something different.”
The key to your enjoyment, he said, is in your connection to the river.
“It’s challenging, every time you go up, the river’s going to win every time. You just have to respect (it). You’re there to enjoy the river and the river will take care of you.”
“As soon as I was old enough to guide, I got into guiding and haven’t stopped,