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Single Track to Liquid Gold

Carrying Oru Kayak

Words by Matt Kennedy, Photos by Ali Vagnini

I live in a small hippie-hamlet called Nederland, Colorado. Started as a mining town, later in life it’s become a center for jam band music and a free twirling “hippy-redneck” paradise of sorts. Nestled against the eastern side of the Continental Divide, I live to play in my backyard.

This summer started out hot and dry, which was a wild contrast considering the late-season snow that blanketed our hills nearly all the way through the middle of June. The runoff happened fast. Snow melted away almost overnight, a flash of green covered the hills, and in the blink of an eye the dry dust and brown dirt took hold under a cloudless swift swing into Summer. We all know mountain weather can change in the matter of minutes, but I think we frequently forget that the seasons can do just the same.

Storing Oru Kayak

Mountain biking with Oru Kayak

In Colorado, rivers and lakes follow the same steep arc, so to speak. As the cold locks up all the next season’s water in the form of snow, the rivers and reservoirs drain away to anemic levels. Early Spring arrives, snow melts, and what was once a trickle, gives way to a torrent of runoff. The moon-scape like banks of low reservoirs fill to the brim in a matter of days. Within what feels like seconds, the mid-summer sun elevates the ambient air temperature–and boom–it’s hot. Must seek water now.

Us mountain folk are also masters of transformation. We constantly morph from one frivolous recreational endeavor to the next, and not just in response to changing seasons. Frequently we engage in silly ideas like multi-sporting, wherein an absurd amount of activity is crammed into one full day like an oversized shirt tucked into a tight pair jeans. Call it Attention Deficit Recreation Disorder. Is it ski season, desert season, or just Spring? Is it time to shred single-track on a bike, paddle on the water, or is it Summer? It may be over the top, but my answer is always a resounding, screw you responsibility, fuck-off chores, an I-want-my-cake-and-to-eat-it-too YES. It’s all of the above.

Carrying Oru Kayak

Today’s dose of frivolity: bike to the nearest accessible body of water via single-track–why the hell not. Throw the Oru Beach LT on my back, battened down the straps as tight as they’ll go, on goes the helmet, and tear off into the single-track filled woods that is my backyard. I’m racing the sun as it tries to hide behind the western high peaks, pedaling as fast as I can with the kayak sitting surprisingly secure on my back. It’s a tight fit through the dense lodgepole pine trees and low hanging branches, though, after a mile or so I’m forgetting it’s there and enjoying an otherwise perfect evening ride. 

Carrying Oru Kayak

Setting up Oru Kayak

Oru Kayak Beach LT

What is the reward for keeping the rubber side down and not ending up like a flipped turtle on the side of the trail? A pot of liquid gold called Gross Reservoir glazed over by a gorgeous orange sunset glow (and some friends to feed me cold beer and give me ride back up the hill). What a life! 

Kayaking paddle strokes

Oru Kayak Bay ST

Kayaking basics

Despite technically being the “high-desert,” there are opportunities to get out and cool off on the water in Colorado. Find a lake, and figure a way to get there, because the engineers and the dams take care of the hard part. All you have to do, is clip in, clip out, unfold, strap in, and paddle out.

Sunset kayaking