Thursday, June 12, 2008

Down the Rio

So, last weekend was our tenth whitewater trip in the last eleven years. We headed down the Taos Box with these guys, going in at the Little Arsenic Trail and taking out at the Taos Junction Bridge. This is a good year for water in the Southwest, a dry spring offset by a good winter and cool temperatures that spread out the runoff.

Going in at the BLM trail mentioned above means you get to run the La Junta Rapid, where the Red River has dumped a few thousand years' worth of debris into the Rio Grande, almost first off. It is a fun, splashy Class IV with a couple of moves you have to make. John, our guide, directed us through it with aplomb.

The first time down this canyon, the river was running around 2200 cfs, as opposed to the 3200 this year. The higher flow flattened out some of the drops in this pool/drop river, but made the standing waves all the higher. Good fun! The NM Dept. of Game and Fish has reintroduced bighorn sheep to the canyon and we were graced with an ewe standing riverside. A clout shot with a decent camera, the little disposable waterproof model we carried was not up to the task, sadly. We'll just have to remember that, and the Golden Eagle landing on its nest, and the unused peregrine nest, and crashing through the six-foot standing waves.

We had camped out the night before the trip, finding one of what must be the last non-fee Forest Service campgrounds (picnic tables & a pit toilet) available in the southwest. Miraculously, we also had it all to ourselves. Bacon wrapped nilgai fillets, some good red wine and a big green salad led to a nice slumber next to the thrashing creek. Normally, the creek would chuckle, but it was at about 2x regular flow with runoff, though clear and fishable. Small, though, so it doesn't roar absent a flood, which hasn't happened this year. Nice to sleep by running water in any event. On the trip with the rafting company, Far Flung, we slept by the river the next night, too.

Morning rising was nearly mandated by a couple of busy canyon wrens right up the slope.

The next day was mostly rapids and passed all to quickly. With only three of us in the boat besides the guide, we were able to bop all over the river at the price of a bit of deep digging on the paddles.

Here's guide John, having turned the boat around for a bit of paddle and a look-see in a more quiet stretch:

All great fun and just the taste of white water we were looking for!

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