For many years, my wife has taken short trips with her sorority pledge class sisters to fun destinations around the U.S. It has been a wonderful way for these ladies to stay connected. A core group of 5 or 6 have been consistent in making these get-aways happen for probably 25 plus years, on an almost annual basis.
I had my chance to take just such a trip over the Memorial Day weekend. I am just now posting about it, as pictures are just now coming to life. What a trip it was. Five of us, all college fraternity brothers, with other common linkages such as former roommates, and former swim team members, took off on an exciting white water rafting adventure on the Rio Grande River in northern New Mexico.
Our first night was spent in Taos, which is where we connected with our river guide. Early Saturday morning, be headed about 30 miles north of Taos to begin our trip on the river. We hiked down a steep canyon for about 40 minutes, through wind and a brief snow shower. Our rafts and other equipment were taken down on the backs of mules. Donning wetsuits and rain gear, we set off on a hair raising white water extravaganza.
We hit our first rapids within about 10 minutes of our launch. And the rest of day one was both exhilarating and exhausting as we fought the incredible power of the river to keep ourselves in the raft and the raft right side up. On this first day, one of our brothers was pitched from the raft in the midst of a horrific set of rapids known as Dead Texan Hole. Fortunately, the one to get thrown out was both a former collegiate swimmer and, perhaps more importantly, is from Oklahoma, while the rest of us ARE from Texas. Obviously, a catastrophe was narrowly avoided by this fortunate selection of who wound up in the water.
We spent Saturday night on the banks of the Rio Grande. After a wonderful dinner prepared by our guides, it was off to our tents and sleeping bags. It was a delightful night, but very cold. The only sounds piecing the still night were the faint sound of the last set of rapids we floated before eddying out for the night, and the gentle purring of at least two of my fraternity brothers whose snoring sounded a bit like an idling chain saw. Frost covered everything Sunday morning, but we warmed quickly under a spotless blue sky.
Day Two of these overnight raft trips is normally a quiet day, with many fewer rapids and a day to relax and enjoy the scenery. Not so this year, as the Rio Grande is running at levels not seen in many years. A bunch of river guides who usually head to the Grand Canyon this time of year for more water are staying put in New Mexico. Rapids that are usually rated 2’s and 3’s, are now 4+, with 5 being the highest rating that commercial river runners can legally navigate, according to New Mexico law. So, with this in mind, we approached our second day with lots of excitement but some apprehension.
As we neared the end of our trip, the most extreme set of rapids awaited us. You could hear the roar of the water several hundred yards up stream and you could see the churning waters and mist swirling above the tempest ahead. As we approached we could see an oar boat in front of us trying to figure out how to navigate what lay ahead. They obviously picked the wrong line, as they capsized right in the middle of Souse Hole. We were next! We hit it hard and wet, but a good line. Nevertheless, a deep hole followed by a sudden unexpected shift to the left as we emerged tossed yours truly from the raft, where I had an opportunity to demonstrate my collegiate swimming skills, albeit for a very brief time before being yanked back into the raft by my brothers. Here are just a few shots that do not even begin to approximate the sheer exhilaration of the 40 some-odd miles of Rio Grande that we floated.
Sunday evening, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner on the old plaza in downtown Taos. It was a great opportunity to debrief and to ponder our next adventure. Lord willing, there WILL be another!