We got to the car about 12:15, loaded up and assumed our spot in the line of cars that was trying to get out. After about 30 minutes of sitting in the same spot (hadn't moved 5ft) Sarah got out to see what the problem was. An enormous line of cars had formed behind us as there was only one way out of the fairgrounds (and with 7,000 cyclists all finishing up about now there were lots of people wanting to go home).
Sarah had been up and back several times and basically said there were about 15 different parking areas funneling into one line, but since our line was furthest back it wasn't moving. We had literally moved 15ft in about 1.5 hours. We're now getting frantic and paranoid as we're already too late to make it to Westminster to meet up with the other rafting crew, but can maybe make it if we cut across straight to Idaho Springs.
In what can only be divine intervention, Sarah was running around the fairgrounds looking for a back way out. At the same time, I had flagged down a worker in a golf cart and asked what was going on. He told me there was a back way out but he needed to get a gate open. Sarah came back to the car and said she thought we could get out the back, so we started making our way towards the back. In the process we had to explain, beg and plead with all the other stopped cars that we thought we had a way out, if they could just let us by maybe we could all get out right then. We must have been pretty convincing in our desperate state as we managed to get about 10 cars to back up and follow us. As we pulled to the back, we see the worker that I had flagged down opening the gate that Sarah had found.
We get out of the fairgrounds and worked our way north as quickly as possible, hit I-25 and off we went. We cut across 470 to I-70 and before we knew it we were in Idaho Springs, and with 20 minutes to spare. What a relief....
On to the rafting...
We were all a bit skeptical about how intense the rafting on Clear Creek would be, considering some of the life altering scary rafting we've done in the past. The trip was listed as "continuous Class III & IV rapids" so we figured at this point in the year with the high water levels we'd give it a shot. It was close to home and reasonably priced, so even if it wasn't uber impressive it still beat a mundane Sunday at the mall.
The 5 in our group got put in a raft with 2 other college girls from Wisconsin, who were interning in Denver for the summer. Jill & I were up front, with Sarah and Kim behind us and Scott and the two Wisconsin girls behind them. We had all gotten very hot standing around in the sun outfitted in wetsuits, water jackets with lifevest on top of them so hitting the water was a very welcome thing, or so we thought.
The water was frigid, even with the wetsuits. I heard the guides say the water was in the 45-50 deg range, but it was sure a wakeup call. As we started down the river, it was evident early that the high water would make for a fun, and fast trip down the river. We started out in some rolling dips, but being in the front of the raft Jill & I were taking the brunt of the punishment from the cold water insurges.
As we quickly traveled down river, the cold water shots to the face became pretty routine as adrenaline built as the rapids got bigger and bigger. I've always felt the class ratings on rapids to be very subjective. I've done 4 trips now with rapids from Class II to Class V+, and this trip was probably just slightly less difficult than the rafting we did in Denali National Park on the Nenanna River. Nonetheless, we did have some fairly large drops in quick succession that kept us on our toes.
The penultimate rapid of the day, Outer Limits, proved to be quite a rush. It was a fairly short rapid, but it consisted of a narrow chute that dropped about 5ft into a large crashing wave, then did several other slightly smaller drops and waves in rapid succession.
After The Outer Limits, the rapids calmed and as adrenaline wore off and the sun set, we all started getting rather cold. We made it back shortly, dried off and headed out to an Idaho Springs staple Tommyknocker's Brewery for some spirts and much needed food.
All in all a huge Sunday and a great weekend in all. I feel so much more alive when I can piece together an epic weekend like this one. Now I just have to make it through another week of the desk job so I can afford to do it all again next weekend.