Ear to the ground:

“I made sure it isn’t polyester. It’s acrylic!”
– Satisfied mother on heeding her daughter’s request for clothing gifts made of more natural materials

Gore-y details

It was all forward last weekend as Durango's all-female whitewater raft team, the Animas Amazons, put their new raft, "Blue Thunder," to the test at the notorious Gore Canyon Race. Made up of Bre Rocksund, Rachel Day, Cody Goss, Jenn Clayton, Mia Carrasco-Songer and Kelly Bulkley, the Amazons attacked one of the meatiest stretches of whitewater this side of the Continental Divide. A remote 10-mile stretch of Class IV-V along the upper Colorado, near Kremmling, Gore contains no fewer than nine rapids that leave mortal boaters shaking in their booties, including the gut-wrenching Kirscbaum's, Tunnel and Gore.

The six-woman team was one of only two all-female teams to compete, with Salida's Red Ladies , (who recently traveled to New Zealand to compete in the World Championships) rounding out the field. According to Bulkley, it was more about camaraderie than competition, as both teams kept an eye out for each other rather than trying to be the first to cross the finish line. "It wasn't about a win or lose, but mere survival," she said.

In both heats, the Amazons styled the first half dozen rapids, nary stopping to scout.

"I have to say some of my favorite parts were looking over the drops right before we dropped in. I had never run Gore Canyon and the only rapids we scouted were Gore and Kirschbaum's, so I was running the rest blind," Carrasco-Songer recounted. "Coming up to the lip of those drops and looking down, down, down, into a pile a angry whitewater is exhilarating."

Alas, the exhilaration quickly turned to exasperation as Blue Thunder – a custom raft gifted to the team by sponsor Jack's Plastic Welding – found trouble in Tunnel, an 11-foot class V waterfall at mile 7. During both heats, the raft flipped in Tunnel, sending several Amazons on a harrowing swim, with Toilet Bowl and Kirshbaum's directly downstream. And is often the case in such situations, chaos ensued.

"At one point we were perched on a rock in Gore, Bre and Cody had been swept downstream, Rachel and I were on the rock, and Kelly and Jenn were with the boat in the water unable to pull themselves over the side due to the intense current," Carrasco-Songer recounted.

But the ladies never lost their cool. "I remember Kelly looking at me and calmly saying 'Mia, I am not going to be able to hold on any longer.' I pulled her over but never did she freak out," Carrasco-Songer said.

Despite the fact that Clayton had the unfortunate fate of swimming Kirshbaum's – and two others swam Gore before the Tunnel disaster – all were pumped by the time they reached Pumphouse.

"Swimming Gore was surprisingly not that bad, and I bruise easily. I've had worse on the Piedra." said Goss

And there's a good chance they will be back next year.

"Gore was incredible! A year ago I didn't think I would be brave enough to run it. I really trust our team, though. I trust all of us to be able to deal with whatever happens because it never goes the way you think it will," Carrasco-Songer said. "It was so much fun. We had a blast."

And while the ladies are giving themselves high-fives, they also give props to Jack's for making it all possible. "I want to give a big thank you to the Jack's Plastic Welding crew for building us a custom race boat," said Goss.


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows