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Rafting the Numbers

posted Jul 10, 2018, 5:14 PM by Justin P   [ updated Aug 17, 2018, 2:51 PM ]
Wednesday was Independence Day and to celebrate, we headed to the Numbers on Arkansas River.  I mistakenly thought our trip started at 8, but when we arrived at Performance Tours, I was reminded it wasn't until 9.  So to kill some time, we headed to McPhelemy Park back in town.  A little festival was starting and though most of the booths weren't yet set up, we walked around to check it out for a little while.  A trail on the other side of the park led along the artificial lake on Cottonwood Creek with a small waterfall at the dam.


After a bit, we headed back to Performance Tour and met up with our guide Curtis.  We got our stuff together and then boarded the van to head out to the Numbers put-in at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.  Curtis went over safety and other information on the drive.  We carried the raft down to the put-in and set off.  The Numbers, as the name implies, are a series of seven numbered Class IV rapids on the upper section of Arkansas River.


The only section above, Pine Creek, is a lot of Class V and few outfitters go up there due to risk.  In quick succession, the Numbers weren't named, like just about every other runnable rapid, because they were too close together.  And sure enough, we got to 1 right off the bat.  The water level was a little low due to the ongoing drought at about 600 cfs.  This actually made the rapids appear bigger and more powerful.


In between the Numbers were the Fractions, smaller Class II and III rapids.  There was one relatively flat spot where Curtis offered to let us swim, but the water was so cold, no one took him up.  It took about an hour and a half to complete the rapids and when we got out, Rocket our van driver was waiting to pick us up.  We headed back to town and since it was early, Sandy and I headed off to find a waterfall.  Heading south of Buena Vista, we drove to the Browns Creek Trailhead (#1429) in San Isabel National Forest.  Browns Creek Trail (#1429) leads about 3 miles to Browns Creek Falls and and then continues another 3 to the lake, but we were only going as far as the falls.  Hiking in we talked to a couple heading back from the lake who said the hike past the falls wasn't worth it.  The trail was moderately steep at the beginning but leveled off.  A couple open spots in the trees provided nice views of the valley.


Near the end, the trail crossed through an open meadow with wonderful views of the mountains.


Soon, we made it to the beautiful waterfall.  I first went down to the base, but it was difficult to see the upper portion.


A little further up, I could see most of the waterfall, but still not a great view of the upper section, which was the most scenic.


At the base of the upper section, the lower drops were not visible, but it was beautiful nonetheless.


I climbed around on the rocks to get pictures and then we had a snack.  For most of the time, we had the falls to ourselves, then other people began to show up, so we made our way back.  Hiking back down, we went slowly to check out the wildflowers.  Colorado blue columbine near the waterfall were especially pretty.


Along Browns Creek, a number of prairie bluebells were blooming.


We spotted a single mariposa lily.


Yellow stonecrop was blooming in small patches.


Beardlip penstemon had pretty little red flowers with candy stripes on the lower lip.


Although much of the hike is forested, a few breaks in the trees provided lovely views.


Soon we made it back to the car.  Driving out of the forest, as the trees thinned, we could see smoke from the wildfires in the distance.


We headed back into Buena Vista and had dinner at House Rock Kitchen.  After dinner, we stopped at Deerhammer Distillery and tried some of their whiskey.  But we had a very early morning, so headed back to the hotel and started packing up.