Crystal River Headwaters Action!
First two photos by Ben Carter, all other photos shot by Colter Beereboom!

This story is a two weekend extravaganza!

Weekend 1:

It's 9:15 Thursday night, I just got off work, and I'm headed to Ben Carter's house because we have no idea what to do this weekend. I pull up, we grab beers, and we go to the computer to check flows. The original plan was to head to Crested Butte for some OBJ laps, but the flows were tanking. I tell Ben of this mythical place they call North Fork of the Crystal. I had been there the year before and my mind was blown. The North Fork is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and my favorite place in the world. In our crew the whole drainage has been dubbed the Enchanted Forest. Ben is little skeptical, but with his wife being out of town he is definitely in for an adventure. I convince Ben that his Tundra will get some unnecessary beating, and that we should just take Ol' Nelly!

Rigged to Flip!

Now contrary to popular belief not only is Ol' Nelly great on the off road it's highway capabilities are unbelievable. This machine can travel up any mountain pass at speeds exceeding 25 MPH. Morning rolls around and we load up the Jeep with 4 boats (2 creekers and 2 playboats), plenty of gear, shovels for snow, and a large dog named Odie.

We're off. We drive down highway 24 and head towards Buena Vista. We stop at good ol' CKS to see an old friend and then dart towards Independence Pass. As we were doing a little sight seeing we come upon a nice local cliff jumping pull out. We jump into the deep mini gorge and then head into Aspen. We stop at Cemetary Road and decide we have to run Slaughterhouse. Great run and you can always depend on locals to give you a ride back to the top. After Slaughterhouse we finally make it to Marble, Colorado. The sun is setting and we're headed up Lead King Basin! We cross the creek and everything is going good until a wrong turn turns everything that was going good into a class 5+ road. We went up Sheep Mountain. This road was covered with snow, wood, and mud. We make it up a respectable amount of this road thinking that this is the way to the NF, but we finally come upon a log in the road that is unmovable. We camp out on the road.

The morning sun comes and we decide to turn around and head out hoping to make it to the NF through the town of Crystal. On our way down Sheep Mountain I realize that I had made a wrong turn and we did a lot of work for no good reason. Our spirits are now high due to the fact that we believe that we're going to finally make it to the Enchanted Forest! We get there and we scout for wood. Everything looks good to go and we have another crew willing to set safety for us! As Ben and I gear up, Pablo Von Huene shows up out of nowhere ready to put on with us. Pablo goes first and we see him disappear around the entrance rock backwards. I look at Ben and say, "Well I guess I'd better go." The first slide goes great, but Pablo is no where to be found. I line up the second slide and boof. I land on my right edge and get throttled. I set up to roll and get completely rejected by the log in the eddy. At this point, I have no doubt where I am. I pop my knees out and reach for something to grab. I can see the tree I'm up against but I can not get my hands on top of it. My kayak hits me in the head and I go under again reaching and climbing up. Finally my head comes up and I'm grabbing onto something stable. My kayak is squeezing me between it and the tree and I'm starting to assess how dangerous the situation is. A rope goes over head and lands next to me, but I have no idea on how to use it. I take a deep breath and try to climb on top of the tree. This is when I realize my skirt is caught. I quickly leave one hand on a solid limb and go under with my face and other hand and get my skirt unhooked. By this time Pablo is out on the tree with me and I climb on top. Glad to be ok. The boat extraction and paddle extraction is easy and the only gear lost was a drain plug.

High water NF is no joke when there is a log in the eddy on the right. If there was no log the drop would be relatively inconsequential. Ben ran the last two drops solo, and Pablo and I waited to be safety on the log for the next crew. The next crew does great with no hang ups. I get out and run a redemption lap in which I ran Icing backwards, but stomp the rest of my lines. Ben and Pablo are happy with one full lap. After a few beers and some food Ben and I lap the bottom 8 footer a couple times for some practice. The next morning we lap the bottom 8 footer 3 more times and are satisfied with the weekend of high water North Fork. The hot springs at mile marker 55 just after Meat Grinder going north is a great place to eat lunch.

Weekend 2:

Chris Mack and I load gear around 12:30 on Friday and take off in Ol' Nellers again with plans for Crystal Mill Falls, the North Fork, and the South Fork Punch Bowls. We have an exciting drive getting there in the hot sun with no AC. It's dusk and the light is dwindling fast as we pull up to Crystal Mill Falls. As we gear up the rest of our crew pulls up. I get two laps in on the falls and Mack gets one, and we decide it's time to head towards the NF. When we get there it's completely dark. We light up the fire and party down in my favorite place in the world. We slowly wake up the next morning and start to get excited about the creek. We make some food and go for a walk to pick our lines. Colter Beereboom and I gear up and get in the first laps of the day. At lower water the creek is just as much fun, but much less stressful. Every one is firing up the creek all day providing great footage for the video.

Mat Helm on Icing

Mack on the Double Drop
Myself on the 8 footer

We make a huge bonfire and Justin takes his dirt bike to provide some beta on the Punch Bowls water level. Justin claims that the Punch Bowls are running on the high side. We get some sleep dream of the Punch Bowls. The next morning we load up and head towards the ominous Devils Punch Bowls.

I think the rapid under the snow bridge goes.

As soon as we get there, I decide that I'm ready for this drop. I put on my helmet and elbow pads and start walking up the hill. As soon as we had safety set, Justin helped me launch into the biggest drop I've run so far.

The Line:
  • Balance boat on sketchy rock and snap your skirt on
  • Have trustworthy friend slide your boat into position
  • Say a prayer or whatever
  • Tell your friend you're ready to send it
  • Slide
  • Hip check a rock
  • Slide
  • Lay a stompy boof
  • Regain composure
  • Line up the second drop moving left to right
  • Lay a few strokes
  • Fist Pump
Second up was Justin. He decides to pencil the first one. He lines it up and styles. Textbook! Josh Heise steps up and boofs! He works it out and styles! Jon Rezabek decides he wants to fire it up and has a roll at the bottom of both drops, but couldn't be happier. We leave the SF happy as could be.
Myself laying the funk

Justing Plugging the top

Justin firing up the goods

Heise in the Top

Josh Heise
Another short stop at Crystal Mill, and the weekend of kayaking is coming to an end. Until next time Enchanted Forest, until next time!

Josh Heise Styling the Mill

Wilkerson Pass
Photo: Chase Nobles

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