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Old 04-23-2011   #1
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Seattle, Washington
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Don Smith - fallen brother

Don Smith drown yesterday on the North Fork of the Blackwater. He spent a lot of time here in CO paddling and I know at least a few of you knew him also. He took me down the Embudo for my first time almost ten years ago and I'll never forget that perfect NM day. He stirred a few pots in CO, but no one can deny his love of kayaking and zest in life. A few more details are here:
BoaterTalk: BoaterTalk - Tragic day on the north fork of the black water.

See you on the river Blackwater Don,


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Old 04-23-2011   #2
Join Date: Sep 2006
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I remember him showing us down the balckwater and red creek. We had a great time and he always helped out with showing others down. You'll be missed Don.

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Old 04-24-2011   #3
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Eagle, Colorado
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Re: Don Smith to the top of the page since I'm thinking about him... JimWarlick New
Date: Apr 24 2011, 12:57 PM GMT
From: Rockfish

It's all still sinking in, but I keep remembering more and more little adventures with "Blackwater Don." aka Don B. Smith, Esquire; the firestarter, etc.

Lap after lap on the North Fork or the Upper B. Whatever the weather. A little energizer bunny of runs on the B.

Don was with us for some epic runs in WV and Colorado. He was on the Upper Yule Creek first descent, with his buddy Nate Mack.

He followed that up a run on the uber-sick Lower Yule. I'll never forget the imagine of his coming out of Wall Check Rapid. He and his boat ran up on the left-side wall and streaked along that black basalt shelf - high and dry, just off-roading along far from the water - for about 20 feet at mach 1, then landed in the speed-trap hole at the bottom for a quick surf until Josh pulled him out. The image in my mind is of him flying along that rock shelf, long red pony tail streaming behind him in the slipstream.

A long day on North St. Vrain with Don and also Tim Smith. Don swam but cowboyed up w/o a peep.

He helped swing Josh across the creek at SSV after Josh dislocated his shoulder.

A super day on the Embudo at 3' with Joe K, Don, and Doug. None of us knew the run but we ran it all and had an awesome session.

At OBJ, Don was so civilized that he felt the need to use the pit toilets at the campground - even when we were camped on the opposite side of the Slate. If Don had to use the bathroom, he'd swim/wade across the Slate in pitch-black midnight to get to the outhouse.

Vallecito CG: (years before he broke his leg): For once I'd convinced Don to try to actually "camp out" and actually COOK some food, not buy it. He and Doug bought eggs and all that the night before, then laughed at me for stashing my cooler in the truck at night ("afraid of bears?" haha). The next morning Don and Doug found their cooler (left outside) had been totally raped by some racoons. All the eggs were cracked or eaten and the OJ bottle was "slimed." They went looking for a coffee shop, as usual.

High-water on the Top Yough. No one else would put-on except Don. I made the mistake of paddling my S:6 and got stuck in the hole below Swallow Falls. Stuck hard. Long, rough surf. Multiple rolls, cartwheels. When I finally got out somehow Don told me he hadn't been worried - he "knew" I was going to surf out. I had not been nearly so confident myself.

A quick and nasty attempt on the Roaring Fork near Aspen. Don was game.

Don's ubiquitous Subaru, with no racks but somehow he'd drive cross-country with a creekboat and a strider and multiple paddles. And an apple with a couple holes in it. Good to go.

A run on the Source of Boulder Creek at a beefy level, in the rain. I think Tim S was there. I know Todd G was.

The "Savage Indian" creek that drops into the Cheat. (Laurel Creek I think) - Don was so stoked about this gnarly, manky, super-steep portagefestival! I believed his hype (again) and we actually ran some of that trash. He loved it. "You just need a catcher at the bottom."

Red Creek. Nuff said. I think this was a favorite of his for sure.

He was so excited about his new house. Wendy and I hung out with him on his porch. I wonder if he ever got a permit to hunt with his spear and atlatl?

He was a fixture, for sure, and I don't think the B or the Yough will be the same without him. He was a landmark almost as much as the triangle-shaped rock at Z-turn, or the horizon line at Gluteal, or the pillow of Heinzerling.

What a book! I'll stop now.

We'll see him at the takeout.


Lots of Colorado paddling. Figured it should get posted here.
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Old 04-24-2011   #4
Fred Gnarquist
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carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
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Don was a great guy i had the pleasure of paddling with him quite a bit in CO. I remember patching his chin up at the takeout to obj after he accidentally hit himself with his paddle. I am deeply saddened by this loss. Condolences to his family and the paddling community. May his spirit lie at the rivers and guide us down safely.
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Old 04-24-2011   #5
Grand Junction, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 434
My condolences to family and friends for this tragic event.

Judging by the fact that this Don was from the east coast, I'm guessing we're not speaking of Donny Smith of Buena Vista, right?

Again, so sorry that this occurred.
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Old 04-25-2011   #6
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Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 39
So sad to hear. Don was a really great guy who genuinely cared about other's saftey out on the river. He was the best guide I've ever had on the NF Blackwater, he knew that creek like the back of his hand, if it was running you could always count on seeing Don's Suby parked between the spruces at the put in. It's truly tragic how this unfolded. Just last weekend a group of my friends stayed with Don at his new place in Canaan Valley, and they were all were all moved by his generosity and hospitality.
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Old 04-25-2011   #7
Denver, Colorado
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Very sad to hear. Condolences to Don's friends and family.
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Old 04-25-2011   #8
Littleton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 350
That's very unfortunate. This seems to be an increased risk of early-season runs. That's 3 log pin stories I've come across just passively in the past couple months. This is obviously the worst of them, and it's very eye-opening that this happened to such an expert kayaker on a run he can do with his eyes closed. Makes me think twice on what my future paddling will include. When I branch off to eventually become class IV, I might want to only paddle Class IV that has been commercially rafted recently .

My condolences to Don Smith's friends and family.

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