Doing The Yampa Last weekend
Ok, so we didn't run it in boats but we did hike a section on Friday and had a great time. The river is frozen over in places and running on the surface in others. I had been looking at some pictures of Warm Springs rapid and got to wondering about what it looks like without water in it and mentioned to a couple of other buzzards about how it would be a fun hike to go see it.I figured since they didn't have much snow out there at Dinosaur, you could probably still drive into Echo Park.
I didn't think my friends would take me up on it, so I could just sit at home where it's warm and dream about it instead. But after a couple of phone calls, the die had been cast and the adventure was underway.
We had been told that the road in from Harpers corner drive was closed for the year so we took the Yampa Bench road in from Elk Springs. Damn! That is a long dirt road when it's snow packed at 15-20 miles an hour, but we finally rolled into Echo Park about noon.
There was very little snow in Echo Park since it gets a good amount of sunshine during the day, but as soon as we hiked around the bend at the confluence we in the shadows 90% of the time and subsequently had a lot more ice and snow to deal with. The 6-8 inches of snow in the canyon had a hard crust on top so we were post-holing through much of the hike. sometimes you would find good sheet ice where the snow had blown away and it made for easier hiking. Some of the ice along the shoreline however was formed when the river was a little higher, then the water receded back, leaving a 1/2 inch layer of ice over a 6' air gap under it. Pretty unnerving when your foot would break through those, even when you knew it was going to happen.
Because of the river meandering back and forth between river right and left against sheer walls, we were required to make a few crossings along the way, but fortunately there were many sections with thick ice all the way across which made this possible.
The canyon is absolutely spectacular in the winter. Very quiet and peaceful, and yet, a little menacing too.
Even though it was only 10 miles round trip we used every bit of daylight getting back to the car as it took more time than we estimated dealing with the conditions.
It was the kind of trip where the conditions would all have to line up to make it doable like it was this year. If we don't get some more snow this year however, we could probably do it all over again this fall, since there wont be a drop of water in the river anyway.
Overall it was a pretty great river trip, especially considering we weren't even in a boat.