Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You can't get there from here. Impasse on South Boulder Creek.

I can see it on Google Earth. I've been within 100 feet 10 times. I know there are great trout just on the other side of the impasse and maybe even Kokonee, but there just does not seem to be a way to get to the upstream canyon above Gross Reservoir on South Boulder Creek.

The Canyon walls to the north and south are nearly vertical. The railroad has been cut into the south side and loose filler stones, railroad tie scraps, and chunks of granite cascade down the slope to the stream bed. 

Walking along the railroad right of way you eventually come to one of the many tunnels between Denver and Winter Park. Below is the view from the tracks of the gorge opposite the tunnel. 

South Boulder creek at this point is at 7812 ft, the tunnel is at 7931, the south canyon wall rises to 8115, and the north canyon wall rises to 8300 ft. The walls of the canyon at creek level appear to be vertical rock. It is tempting to think that just going through the tunnel for 250 yards would put you beyond the impasse, but besides being illegal and frowned on mightily by the Union Pacific, there are some BIG trains that do the same thing. I stepped 20 feet into the tunnel once and discovered that not only is there no light at the other end because it goes around a curve, and the total darkness is overpowering. For some reason being in a cave with NO LIGHT gave me a primordial fear that froze me on the tracks. There is also a chance that a freight train or the California Zephr may meet you in the middle. I pictured myself calmly laying down next to the tracks, covering my ears and simply waiting for the train to pass. But then I remembered the thunderous sound of 4 diesel locomotives at full power, belching exhaust into the closed confines of the cave, moving at a snails pace and pulling 300 cars of coal on screeching metal on metal wheels straining against the curve of the rails. It could be my lungs and ears would simply burst and I wouldn't get to that nice water on the other side of the impasse.

 So I eliminated the tunnel route even though I'd packed my flashlight. I clambered down to creek level and found that some enterprising climbers had installed a safety rope for me to get through the impasse in the canyon. But wait. They don't have on waders and studded wadding shoes. Can I hang fast to the toe holds in my loose wader boots. Not likely. But at 27.3 cfs, for the first time ever, it looked like I could actually wade through the "Tiger Leaping Gorge" between the rock faces. Not only that, but there have got to be some great trout under those massive rocks.
It worked. In and out, although it was certainly exhausting. I met two young guys with spinning rods and their 5 pups who came in another way. I may disclose this in a future post. Or maybe not. 

Once water temperature got to 42 degrees, just as Clint Packo has suggested, the rainbows decided to partake of the miracle midge I'd tied this morning. This section is truly spectacular Colorado mountain stream.