Big Bend Rafting on the Rio Grande
Breakfast was sweet rolls and coffee—even tastier because it was so chilly outside. We gathered together stocking caps, jackets, gloves, and quick-dry clothing and ventured out to the Big Bend River Raft Company. Here we met our other fellow rafters; two couples we had met at the Gage Hotel, Smokey—short for an almost unpronounceable surname of Slavic origin and self-admitted over-packer and Richard, an appellate lawyer with offices in San Francisco and Miami but no socks.
Our gear was packed in dry bags, and we all piled into a passenger van for an hour drive past Lajitas. The air was chilly with frost still on the ground and I wondered how I would fare on a trip on the water. When we arrived at the put-in spot, the guide discussed swimming through the rapids—feet forward to avoid getting them stuck in rocks—a possibility I truly did not want to experience. We were all fitted for lifejackets and I designated the right side as the ‘girls’ bathroom while the ‘boys’ was to the left.
The sun felt good and we weathered the first few rapids without too much difficulty. Unlike canoes which face rapids with the narrowest spot and straight-on, rubber rafts fare best side-ways so that the oars might be employed. We got stuck in a few places, requiring rocking back and forth, shoving of the paddles, and shouts of encouragement.
The canyons are beautiful, so quiet and yet so full of life. We saw a peregrine, lots of sand-pipers, magpies, swallows, finches and turtles. Our companions were fun and we laughed and told tall tales nearly the entire trip.
Lunch was a lovely spread of deli meats, lettuce, tomatoes, cut up apples and oranges plus a small plate of Oreos. The wind was brisk though and we all huddled behind an outcropping of rock. Dark Canyon was ahead so named because of the lack of sunlight at any time of the day.
Several months earlier—as a result of dams giving way under the rain from Hurricanes Dolly, this area experienced a 500 year flood. The river had changed significantly since then with the river cane being beaten down, banks changed into huge gravel sandbars, and trees washed up on the banks. Some of the road from Lajitas to Presidio was under construction as much of it had been undercut from the flood.
The day was over far too soon, although the seat of my pants and shoes were dripping wet from bow-spray. I did take a few short movies but was far too afraid of tumping to take a movie during one of the rapids.
Dinner was at the High Sierra, a wonderfully crisp salad and grilled catfish for me and a chicken fried steak for Glen.
Tomorrow we’re going to see if we can ride motorcycles down Ore Road in the National Park.
Photos and several small video clips are at: