Single day perfection?
Which is the best kayak run in the country? As a creeking aficionado, names like the Clarks Fork Box of the Yellowstone, Upper Cherry Creek, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Perth River come to mind. Other big water trips like the Grand Canyon of the Colorado or Middle Fork of the Salmon definitely rank on the list. But for me, the entire list involves multiple days on the water and nights in the wilderness. So my thought today over a cold beer while playing with my kayak outfitting remains, which is the best single day run in the country? It would have to have a perfect combination of these characters:
1. Wilderness - this is why mind blowing runs like the North Fork of the Payette will never top my list. I need wild animals and minimal people with epic vistas. 2. Quantity of rapids - Bailey Canyon on the North Fork of the South Platte is out. 3. Quality of rapids - Sorry Upper South Boulder Creek, but you are basically golden boofs found in a choss pile of rocks. Minimal portages also counts in this category. 4. Full Day Length - The Green River Narrows has all of the above laid out in short coarse format. The Raven Fork of the Oconaluftee drops 1,000+ feet in 2.6 miles. 5. Fun Factor - insanely subjective category that includes glory boofs, photogenic character, relatively limited danger score, and utterly variable things such as boating partners, weather and my own personal sense of zen. Hence, everyone has their own set of favorite runs likely different from mine.
doublet to lighting it up
Up until last month if asked about the best single day run, I could easily fire off a single run: the Big South Fork of the Cache La Poudre. It is a multitude of clean challenging oversized drops laid over 12 miles of crystal Wild and Scenic water that has nary a portage, but a multitude of moose, elk, trout and raptors roaming high alpine meadows. The Big Steezy, no question.
Leif Emberton stomps Cool World at ridiculous flow while National Geographic Adventures of the Year stood by in amazement.
Yours truly bringing pink back, double.
Mr. Steezy McStafford glory boofing perfectly slideways
Don't get me wrong. West Prong, Vallecito, Robe Canyon, USB, Kokatai, Chirripo Pacifico and the Crystal Gorge among a lot of other runs will all blow your mind. But the Steez just has the quan. Then a curious thing happened.... it rained, on a Saturday, over the Linville River and a crew turned up after many inquires. One of them you 'rado boaters may recognize:
Scotty Peaches, who once went GA to CSU but currently considers medicines in Augusta.
Our other member some people may remember from a kayaking video (or 20) sometime in the recent past:
The LVM smoothness, Toby MacDermott
The first legitimate challenge is getting into the gorge. Options include a lengthy mellow float or 45 minutes straight downhill charging:
But the rewards are clear even before reaching the get-in.
Enjoying a moment of sunshine before the chaos ensues
The Linville has a ridiculous number of rapids and an overnight session is definitely a possibility for an unwary or over zealous group. There certainly are more portages on the Linville that the Big South, but some of them lead to impressive places:
Toby demonstrates Cave Falls
One of those completely original drops
This is called the Bob Ross gorge and I suppose it is because he'd paint a happy little tree on top of a happy little gorge that contained a happy little boof session overlooked by a happy enormous table mountain.
So the Linville has plenty of rapids, a deep committed wilderness gorge feeling, and a multitude of glory boofs. It also has a significant hike in and out, supremely dangerous sieve drops and a fair number of portages. Just as I started to sense the Linville might be one of the uber-classics, the river really kicked it up a notch.
Peering in
The Cathedral Gorge is one of those committed, tight, dangerous, adrenaline fests that just keeps calling me back over and over again. It truly kicks the Linville into the creme de la creme of kayak days.
The Ducky feeling minute but basking in South East glory
The hike out keeps you honest. No overweight off the couch boaters allowed. The Green does not qualify you. Vallecito is a warm-up. 1,100 feet of vertical in 1.2 miles.
Good friends know how to provide good rally motivation! Col Cold PBR represent!
Better than the Big South? It's got gobs more rapids. It's more scenic, deeper in the woods and more committed. It has some beautiful drops and some classics unlike anything else. A superb guide and bluebird spring day combined with smooth lines to create the perfect vibe. The dual hike is a blessing and a suffer-fest. There's more portages and more danger, but less mank. In the end, it's hard sayin' not knowin'. I guess I'll just have to keep on going in 'till I'm sure....

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