A group of ladies organized by Elizabeth Wallen, of Columbus, Ohio, bought out our June 1-3 Rio Chama Wilderness trip. By all accounts, they had a fabulous time! NWR staff included NWR President Kathy Miller, who says that she “wanted to start a rafting company so that the river trip would never end”.
I didn’t know beforehand that yesterday (4/23/2012) would be my first commercial river outing of the season. I thought my day would consist of a CPR/First Aid refresher, and probably little else. My boss, Kathy Miller, was poised for taking a group down the Racecourse with fellow guide Mike Boren. At the last minute a call comes in on Kathy’s emergency responder radio, that there is a brush fire in Dixon. Mrs. Miller’s other hat is that of a fire-fighter, and she is being summoned. And I was next in line for the assignment.
It was a stellar day to be out on the river – in the 70’s with those big willowy clouds that are not only a delight to look at but also supply a moment of shade. We met our guests at the County Line – two psychoanalysts and three film industry accountants. The party of three are in funyaks with Mike, and the two others with myself in the raft.
A predictable experience for those of us who spend a lot of time on the water is encountering the “weekend warrior” – an under-equipped and/or under-skilled private boater, in trouble. It happened again yesterday. We ere just above the Narrows, half-way through the section I call the “Mile of Smiles”. Mike was pulled over where he and guests were admiring some river-sculpted boulders, and I saw that he was signaling me. “Is he telling us to rescue someone?”, one of my ladies says, with a noticeably elevated pitch to her voice. I reply: “Yes, ma’am. Are you ready girls?”, and off we go. When we arrive, the warriors are carrying their boats up the steep bank to the highway. We confer with a fellow guide who had arrived on the scene before us. He tells me that all is good, then smiles as he suppresses a chuckle, recounting that the evacuees had sit-on-top hard kayaks from Wal-Mart. No wonder they got in trouble.
Not too far downstream we come upon what guides call ”river booty”, in this case zip lock bags that have floated to the shoreline. Not knowing what the bags may contain, I experience a bit of trepidation as I climb over a boulder to reach the eddy that holds these precious packages of someone else’s stuff. SCORE!! A Nikon D-90, a purple iPhone, an ostrich skin wallet that holds more plastic than the Taos landfill and a package of green Dentyne gum. I take a moment to consider these items, first the camera. I’m saying to myself: “Dude! This is an expensive tool. What were you thinking putting it in a zip lock? Don’t you know they make waterproof cases for these things?”; the iPhone, I just have to say this was tugging at my heart strings, being my favorite color, but why bring it on the river? There’s no reception in the canyon, and, again, water and electronics don’t mix; the wallet, well, bring it if you must; and the chewing gum? I head back to the raft, thinking that I may have won the lottery … but probably not. Chances are the poor sap will be waiting at the take-out hoping to see his belongings once again.
I appropriate a piece of gum and we continue. At the take-out, sure enough, we find the forlorn traveler. He looks at me sheepishly and inquires after his belongings. I hand the stuff over, while apologizing for taking a piece of his gum. He says that he has learned his lesson – that he should have had straps for his stuff. “No sir”, I reply, “the lesson to be learned is that next time you should go with an experienced outfitter”.
New Wave owners Kathy and Steve Miller are hard at work teaching skiing at Taos Ski Valley. While much of the country is (at this writing) devoid of snow, we have excellent conditions at Taos SV. We had a busy Holiday season, as skiers came from areas lacking in snow. Just prior to the onset of the busy season, Kathy and Steve vacationed in Hawaii with their children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Operations Manager Britt Huggins, in the company of guide and girlfriend CJ Robison, rode on his BMW motorcycle all the way to Panama, where they will spend the rest of the winter. Britt will look for work there as a scuba instructor.Guide Ben Rainchild and his girl friend (and guide-hopeful) Heather Mc Reynolds are spending the winter at NWRCo. headquarters in their motor home. They are working as ski instructors at the nearby Sipapu Ski Area.Also spending the winter here, in his travel trailer, is guide Ron Whitney and his pooch Penny. Our friends, the wintering bald eagles, arrived with the first cold weather in Dec.We see them daily on our commute to work or on the property.As the winter continues, we hope that you will join us to “Think Snow”.
The last day of the river season. It has been an interesting season, with unpredictable flows. It started out with low flows and not enough water for the Taos Box . In early May the river was at 400 and then dipped down to 350. We had a wet and cold May, with even some snow – which froze out the fruit for the season but gave us some additional water. So there was a Box season after all, although short. The beginning of the Dog Days of summer marked the end of the Box season. The peak flow was 1200 and that occurred somewhere around the 12th of June. Proving that our prophet (Britt) still has his touch.
Thanks to Kathy we had stellar Saturday night dinners – oh those ribs. Always soothing the wounded egos from the week. A little play at the horse shoe pit helped to encourage a friendliness in competition. Steve spent many evenings casting in the Rio Grande, catching smallmouth bass and trout and releasing them back again to the river. Not much different than his days in the office sitting over the keyboard waiting for the tug on his line. Reeling them in and then releasing them to the river. And boy did they enjoy the ride.
We have the photos to prove it. In keeping up with the times, the counsel of elders surrendered to the “social network” and we now have the means to woo the world through visual imagery. They chose Britt for the task and he didn’t let them down. The 2011 season has been visually and virtually documented and released to the world. Reminds me of the velvet underground line “people take pictures of the summer to prove that it really existed.” Which may be the case for those of us that know what we do. But for those that don’t, the vision was given to them and many said, I want to do that – once again affirming that our participation is required and when it comes to the Web, you must be present to win. Which brings me to Kathy – she stepped up to join the Dixon Volunteer Fire department. We are grateful for our local fire department and now proud to say that one of our own is representing us. This incidentally coincided with the fact that collectively we gave up smoking cigarettes. Not a butt was sucked on, inhaled, or stomped on. Now how many river companies can say that. Ultimately the deciding factor was the personal choice to honor the clean air act, inside and out.
The August Rio Chama trip was a personal achievement for Karen in that she and the crew Rhino and James pulled off a wilderness trip for members of a rehab center. The hardest challenge was finding guides that could stay sober for 72 hours. Orlando, who is known for his ability to think out of the box, became a Box guide this year. Honorable mention goes out to James who not only built his own plane, but rowed the Box on several occasions. We are especially thrilled that he made a safe landing in both instances. And how can we forget about Ben. Yes, that quiet little warehouse mouse who works his magic and leaves all of us wondering how did this ever get done. We are SO glad you are around.
What else you say? You want more? I can’t go on any longer. The clock is ticking and we are nearly done with the clean up.
In closing I’d like to say that on the surface it may appear that it was just another river season, same ole, same ole. But I choose to look at New Wave as a place where we can discover talents and our dreams come true. A Wilderness Therapist looking for a vehicle, a videographer/photographer, a massage therapist, artist, a father, student, a musician or courageous newbies that seek the happy-go-lucky river guide life. It is the veteran guides that know that running rapids ain’t for sissys. After all, the river is here for everyone, but not everyone is meant for the river.
Thank God for New Wave (or Kathy and Steve).
While on a visit to the Glorieta Baptist Assembly, Nate Gerber (aka “Gerb”), the Youth Pastor of the Island Church, of Padre Island, Texas, brought 32 young folks (and a few adults) to raft the Racecourse Class 3 white water stretch. Here’s shots from their trip. Thanks Gerb! See you next time.
Owners of New Wave Rafting Co Kathy and Steve Miller were joined by Operations Manager Britt Huggins and guide CJ Robison for a dive trip to Bonaire, in January. Gotta love corals reefs and all that undersea life!
It’s practically an annual event – a season-starter trip to Arizona’s fabulous Salt River. The river rises in the White Mountains of Arizona, and runs southwest, eventually to pass through Phoenix. The snowmelt starts early, providing whitewater action to Class 4, and one can expect to see the desert in bloom. The rugged scenery is spectacular.
It never disappoints, and this year’s trip, from April 1 -8, was as good as it gets, albeit the river was pretty crowded. Rafting enthusiasts came from all over to catch this year’s abundant run-off, which was in the 2 – 3000 cfs range for our trip.
Click on a thumbnail photo (above) to see the full (uncropped) photo and make a comment, if you like. Then click on that photo to see an enlarged version.
March 16, 2010, CJ and I were hiking along the river, south of the Taos Junction Bridge, when we came first upon some medium size paw prints in the snow. They looked fresh. It took only another 15 minutes of hiking before we found out who made the tracks.
Couple of more photos from the hike. The first is an inscription or graffiti or what some call, a modern day petroglyph. Now the second photo brings with it controversy. There are those who say “nope, modern graffiti” and there are those who say “yep, Rio Grande Style – 1300 to 1650 AD”. What do you think?
Just a short drive from Taos, ten minutes from New Wave Rafting World Headquarters and about an hour from Santa Fe lies a very nice hike, a visit to the world of mines, a step back in time and a look at some brilliantly colored rock, The Harding Pegmatite Mine. Myself, not being a geologist, will not attempt to describe the mineralogy of the site. I’m leaving that up to those with interest enough to search out information from the link at the end of this post.
It is important that if you plan to visit this historic site you must first acquire permission and sign a release from the University of New Mexico, but all of this can easily be done on line.
For more information on The Harding Mine visit: http://epswww.unm.edu/harding/harding_.htm
Thus begins a winter hike for CJ and myself. A few hundred yards upstream of the Taos Junction Bridge lies the confluence of the Rio Grande River and the Rio Pueblo. It is sometimes fished for trout and sometimes kayaked by those possessing superior paddling skills, but we saw no one on this snowy day. The drive along the Race Course section brought us our first Bald Eagle.
A short distance above the confluence CJ accidentally spotted this bald while watching (through her new Nikon ATB Monarch (waterproof) 10×42 binoculars), a raven feed on what she claimed to be pieces of a rabbit.
Snow and ice covers the rocks of the Rio Pueblo and getting in close allows one to admire the various abstract formations created by both wind and water in freezing temperatures.
One can drive a short distance up the old road that follows the stream to the top of the Taos Plateau and eventually back to Highway 68, but it’s no longer drivable due to a serious rock fall some years ago and now is a hiking trail only.
Constantly on the lookout for more Bald Eagles or perhaps one of the River Otters that were released into the Rio Grande Gorge last winter, we were graced with a herd of Bighorn Sheep grazing below the south facing cliff of the canyon wall. Evidence of past inhabitants can also be found.
Almost to the top of the mesa the Rio Pueblo Canyon takes a more northerly turn and one gets a look at the top of the Taos Plateau. It was nice to see the blue sky.
The blue sky we found on the mesa soon gave way to more clouds and snow flurries with a substantial drop in temperature. On the way down we took only a moment to watch the sheep and reached the truck which had a note from the local BLM Ranger on the windshield. Oops, don’t forget to pay your $3 entrance fee to the Orilla Verde Recreation Area.
With plenty of daylight left we decided a drive was in order. Across the Taos Junction Bridge, up the west Mesa Road, which is now paved, with no speed limit signs (I guess it’s New Mexico’s version of the Autobahn) and to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. So indulge me in a few more photos.
Ok, so now one more Bald Eagle photo taken on the drive out. Along the river, in a lone Ponderosa Pine at the gaging station, sat an immature Bald.
Remember: All these photos, and more, can be found at “www.flickr.com/photos/jorunny/”.