Paddlefest

Today turned out to be a pretty big day, the furthest from home I’ve been in a long time. After years of hoping to photograph the Paddlefest whitewater festival in Buena Vista, I finally made it today. I awoke at 5:00 a.m. and it was foggy and cold so I was tempted to just give it up and go back to bed, but I thought it was now or never and just headed out the door. My gear was all packed from the night before because I knew it would be a tough thing to do in the dark in the morning.

Collegiate Peaks

Collegiate Peaks

Fog and rain greeted most of my drive across the high plateau from Lake George to Hartsel, but a glorious view greeted me as 285 began to descend down into the Arkansas Valley. The massive Collegiate Peaks range came into view and was well worth the pull over at at the scenic overlook for some shots. The deep snow on the high peaks was literally glowing in the early morning light. I lingered and shot several angles and different peaks from various vantage points before continuing down the mountain to the turnoff to Buena Vista

As I pulled into town I spotted just the thing I was looking for at the moment. My early departure didn’t leave me time to drink my usual morning wake up beverage, so when I saw the Brown Dog Coffee Shop I knew it would be a good place to hang out and wait for the whitewater events to start. Love the place and it will now be my favorite coffee shop west of the Continental Divide!

Soon I decided to head on down to the river to find a parking place and scope out the event vantage points. Rain was falling so I was glad that I had brought along my Aquatech rain cover for the camera and a rain poncho. Down by the river tents were being set up with the necessary music and PA gear. I inquired and they told me the main festival was up the trail. Checked that out and decided to head back to the car to wait out the rain and kill the time before the events.

Paddle-Boarders

Paddle-Boarders

9:00 a.m. finally rolled around so I put the rain cover on the camera and headed back down to the river for the first kayak events at the eddy near the tents. As I was shooting the kayakers, I noticed some mountain bikers on the opposite side of the river high on the ridge, so after the first set I found the bridge and crossed over. According to the maps it looked like the Whipple Trail would afford me a good view of the high peaks to the west. True enough, if it weren’t for so many clouds it would have been awesome. On my way back across the bridge I received my good fortune for the day as a group of paddle boarders were headed down a very scenic segment of the river, all lined up in a very cool row! That will be my money shot for the day I am sure!

When I got back to the river I got the opportunity to photograph some rafters and the group of paddle boarders were getting ready to tackle some whitewater. A few more captures and I was ready for the drive home, which turned out to be an adventure in itself. It was snowing on the high plains, which is way more excitement than I need when I am driving my summer car. Fortunately I drove out from under the storm and it turned into rain in the lower elevations.

Finished up the day with some awesome Japanese Teriyaki chicken and am looking forward to processing almost 300 images and writing an article about the festival for the Examiner. The festival was great and I love Buena Vista and the Collegiate Peaks. I seriously need to think about moving over to that side of the Divide!

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