Wetting while the water’s good
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY – Each spring, seasoned guides and rafting hopefuls turn out to various training academies run by river outfitters, soaking their bones in frigid water, fighting off palm callouses and attempting to absorb all they can about whitewater hydrodynamics.
Some training camps run a dozen days, some as long as 18, and all cover basics like first aid and knots, as well as advanced matters of swiftwater rescue and little things like how to cook lunch for guests.
For first-year guides, it’s information overload. For experienced paddlers, it’s a matter of shaking off the rust.
Veteran guides say there’s always something to learn, and with this year’s river flows, there’s plenty: Because of low water levels last year, guides couldn’t run many sections of river that are quickly picking up steam this year.
“Last year, we didn’t run the Blue, no Clear Creek, and we pulled out of the Numbers (a section on the Arkansas River) in June,” said Campy Campton, owner of KODI Rafting.
Experience – having knowledgeable trainers to pass on tips about currents, rocks and blind drops – is invaluable in training guides. Last year, many of those who would have been interested in learning and those who could have been training moved on to deeper waters.
Campton said his mid-tenure employees with one or two years’ experience were the ones who didn’t return this year, leaving his crew divided between first-timers and the old guard.
“You need to see the river a handful of times,” Campton said. “The hardest thing to teach a new guide is how to use hydrodynamics to get down the river. A lot of it comes with practice. You have to let them go through it and then ask them about what they just did.”
Campton took his guide staff to Clear Creek Tuesday for a rock-maneuvering ride in 290 cubic feet per second. For guide Ty Bagley, with seven years’ experience rafting in the Rocky Mountains, it was the first time down the Interstate 70 corridor in a boat.
“It’s pretty exciting because the water’s going to be so good this year,” Bagley said. “With something new like this, you have to go in with an open slate. You try not to be anxious, but you can’t be lackadaisical. The first thing to try to memorize are all the dangerous spots and hazards.”
The expectation over water levels brought guide Jake Wand back to the business this summer. Wand rafted four years, then decided to take an opportunity buying into a share of Summit Motor Sports.
“The water wasn’t that good last year, and I had the business,” Wand said. “But this is a great time, so why not?”
Guide Erin Dinkel said her three years haven’t taught her everything, and this summer stands to provide more lessons. Last summer, she said, was an entirely different study.
“It doesn’t matter how many years you have in. It’s the time on the river,” Dinkel said. “The training is really important. It’s powerful, and it’s humbling.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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