Hornbecks Creek and Drive Part I

Sunday was Dartmouth’s graduation, so after a late night, Nick and I woke up early and finished loading up for our month long cross country road trip. Our first stop was in Connecticut where we dropped off Jackie, Nick’s dog and A-side backseat driver.

From there our plan was to make the 35 hour drive to Fort Collins, CO in one haul but it would appear there was something else in store for us. Nick called local paddling guru Jeff Sharpe after an hour and a half of driving through the pouring rain to ask for beta on nearby runs, who informed us that the gauges hadn’t budged. We pulled out the guidebook and decided Hornbeck looked too good to pass up, so we went a little out of our way to try to get a visual on the level. Frustrated at a lack of road signs, we ended up looking at three creeks that we thought were Hornbecks before deciding they were too low and to get the hell out of Pennsylvania.

Just as we were headed back to the highway, we saw our first road sign and realized we had finally found put-in road. The run’s only a little over 2 miles with all the good drops in the first mile so we decided to hike up from the bottom and take a look at the last and biggest drop on the run. It looked good to go so we hiked back out and drove to the put-in.

This run flashes and is supposed to be good at 200 cfs so we decided to go for it despite the fact that it looked like it had about as much flow as the AD basement. After barely any sleep and a day of driving, we were putting on a class V run neither of us had ever done at 6pm with no shuttle. At this point we realized we might not make it straight to Fort Collins, but it looked too good so Nick threw a headlamp in his drybag and we seal launched in.

The first drop landed straight on a rock shelf and didn’t look like it had enough water so we portaged, starting to worry the run was too low. After some read and run we came to a mini gorge with a couple pretty big twisting slides.

Nick about to ride the pillow on Twist and Shout

After some more fun ledges we portaged Goliath, a drop that has only been run twice because it has an auto-boof flake onto a rock slab. Next was a second canyon that started out with a fun 15-foot ledge that partially landed on rocks. Following some boogie, we were at the biggest horizon line yet. David’s Falls starts out with a 20 footer that lands on rocks on the left. I ran right which was super chunky yet surprisingly smooth. This flows directly off a diagonal lip that drops onto a steep 40 foot slide with a kicker about a third of the way down.

Preparing for lift-off

I hit the lip where I wanted to be, but got a funny bounce off the kicker. I corkscrewed 90 degrees midair and landed tucked up on my side. The hit was pretty hard because the pool isn’t really aerated but I rolled up fine and we rallied back up to the put in racing daylight. All in all this run was super fun thought it would have gotten a lot cleaner with more water. It was nice having a trail right along the river and we were happy, if a little surprised to make it back to the car before dark. Then it was time to hit the road and make up for lost time.

The “oh shit” moment

We drove straight through the night and made it to Chicago where some brake noises caused us to stop. Turns out all four rotors had to be replaced but thanks to the Lube Pro’s we should be on our way to Colorado and more creeking soon.

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