Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tubing the Poudre

I'm in Frankfurt, Germany right now, in transit to Hungary, and so I have the chance to write. Rosemary and the kids went to Hungary 10 days or so before me, so Balázs and I had the house to ourselves for that time. As much as I love my wife and kids, and hated being separated from them, Balázs and I got in some much needed bonding time, and it was good.

At the end of May I tore my rotator cuff in a mountain biking accident. I've been doing physical therapy for it, and making progress, so the first thing that Balázs and I did was go mountain biking. He's not as into it as I am, which wasn't bad in this case, because it helped me keep a slower pace. I've been going up to the north slope of Heil Valley Ranch outside of Lyons, one of the best, well-rounded, enjoyable, yet still challenging trails I've found. The bottom part is a lot of fast single-track, which goes up a small canyon, and as you get higher you come to an old homestead with two abandoned cars, which look to be from the 1940's, and above that is a lot of rock climbing through a forest. I only fell once, and thankfully didn't hurt my shoulder again, but all the bouncing on the way down did make it tired.

The day after that was the Fourth of July, so we called Isaac and asked if he wanted to do something fun. My idea was to climb Mount Toll in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, but it seems I was alone in wanting to climb a mountain. Balázs and Isaac wanted something a bit more relaxed, so we went up to Cheyenne, Wyoming to buy fireworks that you can't get in Colorado. One of the hardest things about being in Cheyenne was finding anything downtown that was open! We finally found a coffee shop and got some local advice on where to buy fireworks, so we went. Talk about a true American experience... For about $30 we bought fireworks that were grand enough to put on a better show than most small towns in Colorado.

We headed back to Colorado and started talking about what to do next, when the idea of tubing came up. We knew that people often tube on the St Vrain river in Lyons, so we called around to see if anyone we knew would lend us some tubes. Then, as we drove past Fort Collins we got an idea - why don't we tube the Cache la Poudre river in Fort Collins?! It is after all, Colorado's only designated "wild scenic river". I had been to Fort Collins a number of times before, but only downtown, I had never been up in Poudre canyon...

We drove down College Blvd until we saw some people with tubes, asked them where they bought them - Walgreens on College, so we bought some as well for $12 each. Not bad, except the guy filled them up with so much air that Balázs' tube blew up when we took it outside into the heat!

Here's a tip: don't fill your tube up too full of air!

So, after talking to a few people we heard about a place called Picnic Rock. So we got an idea: since we only had one car, we would park our car, and hitch hike to Picnic Rock, and tube back to our car. We parked our car at Legacy Park, just north of Old Town in downtown FC, walked out to Jax on College, and eventually succeeded in getting someone with a truck to let us sit in the back and give us a ride up into the canyon.

Since none of us had ever been in Poudre Canyon before, we didn't realize how far it was from the city of Fort Collins and where we had parked our car. As we sat in the back of the truck, we noticed that we kept going further and further, and we still weren't there, and we understood that the farther away we go, is how far we have to tube. Turns out Picnic Rock is about 15 miles from where we parked...

How long does it take to tube 15 miles? Well, that depends. Most of the time I would say we were traveling 3-4 miles per hour, but there were many obstacles, namely dams, that slowed us down. About 7 later, we got to the city of Fort Collins. The river was fun and fast until we got through the town of Laporte, but after that it got painfully slow because of all the dams before FC. When the sun went down and the river was so slow, we ended up walking the last mile back to our car.

The rapids in the river were fun, we each flipped over a few times, took hits from branches to the face, Balázs hurt his foot, and in the slow sections, all the pushing for speed did a number on my aching shoulder.

But here are my recommendations for anyone going tubing on the Poudre:

  • Don't overfill your tube with air. It doesn't need to be firm to hold you and float. The last thing you want is to have a tube pop on you when that's your only means of transportation. Isaac's tube also burst when we got to the river. If not for the kindness of a fellow tuber, who gave us her tube since she was nearly done for the day, we would have been stranded!
  • Park your car in Laporte, at Lions Park. That's a good 4-5 hr float from Picnic Rock, and the water moves pretty fast until then. After Laporte the water slows down a lot and it's no longer fun. From Laporte you can either hitchhike up, or if you have another car you can drop one in Laporte and drive the other one up to Picnic Rock.

It was a trek, but I would totally do it again. However, I think before I do another marathon tubing, I'm going to check out the St Vrain in Lyons. Hopefully they don't have any dams there!


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