ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Ah, Labor Day. The day on which we celebrate not laboring, by doing stuff like this:

a cold one

We wangled an invite on a Rio Chama trip for Labor Day weekend; the plan was to meet on Saturday, rig our boats, and do the car shuttle, then put in early Sunday which was the first day that no permit is required for the 31-mile section below El Vado dam. As this is a scenic and not too difficult stretch, it's quite popular, and we anticipated a lot of river traffic. Our group comprised eight people on six mostly small boats: Britt and I on our cataraftlets, three duckies (inflatable kayaks), and one large cataraft. We set up all but the big raft on the bank the afternoon before, so in the morning we were more or less ready to go.

The first several miles of the Chama is quite swift, but there are no real rapids, which is nice for getting re-accustomed to one's boat, and perhaps to one's boating partner. We still had one minor mishap, though; Melinda and Brock, paddling a tandem ducky, hit a sleeper (a rock lurking just below the surface) and dumped. Fortunately, the rest of us were ready to scoop up both people and gear.

Shortly afterward we stopped at a hot spring. If Leslie and Paul, who had both done this trip many times before, hadn't known where to stop, I never would have guessed that this anonymous grassy flat hid a hot pool. Perfect temperature, but a little muddy on the bottom.

This first day had only a few small rapids, a couple of class II's and one that was marked class III on the map but which seemed trivial to me, actually easier than the first II. Mostly we just floated through a quiet canyon, healthy ponderosa and juniper interspersed with sandstone walls. We saw fewer other boats than we'd expected, and only a couple of fishermen; for the most part it was just us and the birds, squawking above our heads.

typical scenery wall

The only flaw in the day was the weather. It had been mostly overcast all day, and the blue-sky intervals had been steadily decreasing as the clouds built. Periodically we heard thunder in the distance. As it got darker, we got more serious about finding a camp for the night; just after we pulled into what turned out to be a fine spot, the skies broke loose with rain and hail. Britt and I had brought a large rain/sun fly, and we set it up over the kitchen area as everyone else scrambled to get their tents up.

dark skies

Dinner was potluck, and as usual everybody brought way too much food. We ended up finishing it all for lunch the next day!

The next morning was chilly, but the sky was blue. We started out in a beautiful canyon, which soon entered private land, including that of a monastery. I can't imagine a nicer place to contemplate the Infinite! Then the canyon widened, and, oddly, the rapids began. Usually rapids are associated with side canyons where rock has tumbled into the river, but the more open terrain didn't seem to have side canyons as such. Instead the rapids came at sharp bends in the river. In this type of rapid, the river does its best to smash you into the wall; your task, naturally, is to not get wall-smashed, and to avoid any rocks that might be lurking below. Although several of them were rated as class III I thought they were all more fun than scary. Maybe I'm just getting more proficient!

duckies in a row taking turns

It was in this section that the river started getting busy, not just with rapids and riffles but with boats. We caught up to some parties, and others caught up with us; pretty soon, it seemed as though we were part of a continuous parade of brightly-colored watercraft, duckies and kayaks, canoes and rafts.

Going into Screaming Left Rapid we passed a mostly-swamped canoe at the river's edge, both people in it frantically bailing but quickly losing ground. As I set up for the rapid I saw Melinda and Brock, in the middle of our group for safety, hit the wall and fall out, but they were rapidly hidden from my view by the terrain and the boats between us. Then it was my turn. Piece of cake; point at the wall, a couple of hard strokes on the oars, and I was through. I looked for swimmers - there, over on the shore, someone waving a paddle at me. I got closer and realized it wasn't anyone from our group; a young kayaker who had apparently been ahead of us had also taken a swim in the rapid. That's okay - I'm an equal-opportunity rescuer. I rowed close enough for him to jump over to me, and he clung to the cooler on the back of my boat as I brought him downstream to the rest of his party (and his boat). (Melinda and Brock had been scooped up by Paul and Don on the big cataraft, and their gear rescued by our other ducky-paddlers, so everything was okay.)

A couple more bends around the river, and there was the take-out! Which was a crowded, crazy zoo since it seemed as though every group got there at once. But our small boats were easy to pull out of the way and unpack quickly, and soon we were loaded up and on the road back to Colorado. Goodbye, Rio Chama! Now that I've met you, I hope to see you again!

takeout zoo
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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

March 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

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