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We get lots of weird looks driving west on I-70 with five kayaks on the roof of my truck. Many of the other vehicles have skis and snowboards and are headed to one of the many world class ski resorts Colorado is famous for. But this New Years Day we are headed to Shoshone, a class III section of the Colorado River. Yes, it’s cold – really cold! Today the thermometer on my truck reads 17 degrees. But for this group, it’s a wonderful day we have all been looking forward to since the rivers started to shrink with the onset of fall and the receding Colorado snowpack. Much how the winter solstice brings excitement of longer days and an approaching summer, New Years Day paddling on Shoshone brings an equal excitement that our rivers will soon be renewed and flowing full again this spring.

A dedicated group of paddlers from all over the state of Colorado make the drive through cold, snow and black ice to the Colorado River each New Years Day to enjoy ringing in the new year by being on the river together. It takes a crazy, obsessed, and dedicated paddler to spend the day kayaking in temperatures well below freezing. For many in this group this is the one time each winter that we all get to paddle together. Many of our regular river friends are skiing, watching football or doing what ever it is that normal people do on New Years Day. This is my 5th year to paddle on NYD on Shoshone and the temperatures have ranged from 7 to the mid 40s. We have had as few as 10 of us show up, but in recent years it has been gaining popularity, and this year we had over 40 paddlers. I really can’t think of anything else I’d rather do to start my year. It’s not the low water, or the temps, or even the paddling alone that keeps me coming back year after year, but rather the amazing energy, excitement and anticipation for the upcoming year of kayaking. On this first day of 2013 we had all sorts of characters turn out. I think the youngest must have been the Kellogg Show. With Dally Kellogg being the youngest, accompanied by Kenny, Kady, Brody and Grady with their father Dan. I love seeing families on the river but especially on NYD. The oldest award might go to Butler Cox at 74. While he did not paddle, he helped a ton with shuttles and I hope he will join us in the water in 2014.

At the takeout, Marty and Sonia Cronin of Jackson Kayak had their amazing van with a bottomless pot of chili, hot dogs and hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy. I saw many warming their hands around a hot cup telling stories of the day and planning river trips for this spring. I like to call this “The First Day of the Next Paddling Season” and am so grateful everyone came out to make this day wonderful!

See you on the river soon in 2013,
Peter Holcombe