I got the call from Nick Hinds sometime on Tuesday evening. “Can you get the day off tomorrow?”
“Of course I can. What’s up.”
“A second or possibly second and a half descent...”
“I think I know what that means,” I interjected.
“Yeah, but I think the water level is lower than it was on the “half” descent. Something about high water,
wood and multiple swims, but don’t worry the level looks perfect… Dombey has it all scoped out.”
I left for Steamboat at 7am the next morning. I was just going to go along on this one. I didn’t even
break out the Gazateer; didn’t even glance at a topo. Not my usual M.O. All I knew was that the run was
either the Little Snake, or in the Little Snake drainage, and that there was something about King Solomon,
or maybe that was all just a Gillmanesque decoy. Who knew? All I knew is that I was driving over Cameron Pass
with my creek boat loaded, looking for some adventure.
I met the Steamboat crew at the Paddler Magazine offices at about 10am and we took our time organizing.
By the time we drove out of there, set shuttle and strapped our gear on at the put-in it was nearly one
o’clock. Nice alpine start for a second and a half descent, but hey, we had some first hand beta that Nick
had scribbled on six or seven post-it notes a couple of hours earlier.
The creek meandered and then meandered some more, with low gradient and of course, wood. Our beta had warned
of this, but told of a gorge not too far downstream, marked by a hiking bridge at the entrance. We trudged on
and the gradient eventually picked up as we finally entered a gorge like section. We estimated we had gone about
four miles before the gradient really began, there was no bridge, and there was no clean ten footer into a nice pool;
all contrary to our beta. But hey, screw the beta.
|Nick Hinds after the first horizon line
A couple of fun little rapids and a few more frustrating wood portages later we came to a descent size horizon line.
I got out for a look at what proved to be a cool little rapid, with what, at higher flow, "could" have been a ten foot
boof. O.K., so I guess we’re on the right track now boys, right?
A few more good moves later and another wood portage or two led to a gorged out horizon line that looked very
promising. Dombey got out of his boat for a look see and we waited patiently for a few moments. Nick got restless
and decided to have a look for himself. Everything looked good to go that he could see, but the rapid raged around
the corner out of sight. He also said it didn’t look like you could scout from the next eddy.
|Evan part 3 of the lead-in to King Sol's Balls
Kevin Fisher and I waited for another little bit while Nick climbed up the ridge. Nick got to a good vantage point,
took one look, and gave the, “you need a visual on this one,” hand signal. We hopped out and climbed up for a look.
Finally some real action, I thought. Whoa, then I saw the landing of the twenty footer exiting the five part rapid.
Most of the flow went directly, and I don’t mean landed in a pool first and then headed into, I mean the water
falling off the lip landed directly on an undercut wall. Huh.
After exchanging a few words with Dombey, followed by some cynical laughter, I come to find that we have just
possibly done a first descent… of the wrong creek! Dombey had scouted this drop before and we were officially on
King Solomon’s Creek and NOT on the Middle Fork of the Little Snake, our intended run. “Cool, so you’re going to
probe it then, right?” I said.
|Kevin Dombey about to stomp King Sol's Balls
Dombey stepped up and cleaned it. Fisher and my runs were slightly less inspirational, as we both narrowly avoided
the wall. Dombey fittingly named this rapid King Sol’s Balls. Nick decided to walk it, except the portage around
the entire gorge was such a proverbial “bitch,” that he decided to let his boat run it, sans captain. Not the
brightest idea I’ve ever heard, but I knew that it would be fun to watch. Apparently, after Nick pushed it out
of the top eddy and into the current, it immediately capsized in the multiple lead-in drops, filled with water and
then subbed through the waterfall. We didn’t even see it come through from the bottom, but we heard it,
and when it resurfaced there was some very obvious damage. We laughed at him and continued on downstream to the confluence with the MF Little Snake.
|Kevin Fisher going dangerously close to the wall at King Sol's Balls
After the confluence there is one more big drop, a fifteen foot slide that, at this flow, ends in a monster hole.
I scouted this one and sent everyone through successfully. Then I went back to my boat and proceeded to loose a
handle on my paddle in the somewhat stout lead-in to the falls. I regained control, but I didn’t really have
the desired left to right momentum necessary to clear the ugly left side of the hole and I went deep. I resurfaced
upside down for a thrashing and nearly got sucked out of my boat. I wiggled my way back into my thigh braces
and hip pads and then rolled up thinking I was finally out of the hole. To my utter disappointment I was
caught on the wrong side of a serious boil line/eddy fence.
|Kevin Fisher charging the Little Snake Slide
After a few valiant attempts at crossing the boil to the safety of my now disconcertingly faced crew, I resigned
to climbing the cliff and roping my boat up solo. This was one of those times when I was very happy to have held on.
A swim on the left side of this falls would have been extremely dangerous, especially when the rest of your
team is on the right side of the drop. I would recommend cleaning this drop on the right.
|Hinds' damaged goods
From the Little Snake Slide to the take-out is a quick easy float, but you must carry your boat a couple hundred
yards up a steep embankment to reach your truck. Overall this run is a great adventure. The boating is not
incredible, but you will find a few good drops and two intense ones. The wood portaging is cumbersome and
sometimes dangerous, but if you’ve done everything else in the Steamboat area (I haven’t) and if you’re up for
some adventure, then give King Sol’s Balls a go. Warning: this is not a classic and none of us will probably be
back, at least until our memories of the paddle in fade out a bit.
Directions: Take RD 129, North off of Hwy 40, and North of Steamboat towards the Upper Elk. Continue on RD 129 past
the Elk, past Steamboat Lake and all the way down to Bedrock Creek. There is an unmarked road that leads to the MF
Little Snake just passed Bedrock Creek. Park at the end of this road and walk down the steep trail to mark the
take-out eddy. To get to the put-in drive back South on RD 129 to FR 503 and go left. Put on at the bridge where
FR 503 crosses King Solomon’s. A better access route might be to hike down Box Creek to King Solomon’s off of RD
129. This would alleviate a lot of the paddle in B.S. and might put you right above the best parts of the run.
I’m not sure about the access issues surrounding this short hike because the property lines are unclear in that
area. Be heads up and stealth if you choose to explore this route, as it has not been tested to my knowledge and
as most Routt County locals carry firearms at all times.