Tuesday, June 13, 2006

So You Want To Raft?


RIO GRANDE GORGE, TAOS, NM- I fell out the damn kayak! I spoke too soon and took a gulp of Rio Grande water. Cisqo did everything he could to keep from laughing.

After a 1 mile hike down a steep & rocky trail, we made it to the "middle box" of the Rio Grande gorge. The red kayaks were still, waiting for nuebies to saddle down. I sat in my funyak, unafraid and confident that my canoeing in years past would see me through. My coordination sucked. Cisqo, our tour guide, aggressively paddles downstream to catch me and angrily spews: "This is the worst start I've ever seen, stop and think!" Oh wow. Thank goodness I have tough skin. I ignored him and took my time in figuring out how the paddles and gravity work together. I took off and left white bubbles behind. As if I were driving on an open parking lot layered with powdery snow, I kept spinning in circles. I finally embraced the environment we were in and went forward, at least for a good 3/4 mile. And then, right as I get comfortable with the idea of sitting in a tight rubber boat for another 6 miles, I get stuck on a sleeper. A sleeper? Yes, a large rock that sits right underneath the water's surface, barely visible. I sat atop, lost momentum, current still pushing, and flip. I went under. Well, actually, I spared my mouth that gulp I mentioned above. My animal instinct triggered and I grabbed the upside down boat and started treading like a determined canine. That lasted about 2 minutes until the force of the water was inevitably about to tear me apart from the boat. So, as I would do, I jumped on top of the boat, now on all fours! Cisqo, still trying not to laugh, actually compliments me with "that's the best approach to falling I've ever seen". That doesn't help that I'm still on top of an upside down kayak, and no paddle. I jump in his kayak (a miracle I didn't fall out during transfer) and stabilize myself in order to flip my boat right-side up. I finally made it back into my own.

Ahh...the grace in which I did all that, without falling again, grants me a gimmee on the grade 3 rapid, 2 miles ahead! Next time!

The Rio Grande gorge in Taos, N.M. is forgiving and no one better than uber patient Cisqo to invite people like me. The 4-hour trek in the "middle box" inspired me. Old petroglyphs still depicted on boulders, of the ancient Indians which first occupied this land, told an incredible story. The depth of our placement among lava rocks and purple lilies lent me an afternoon of peace, reflection, and obviously a challenge in agility & coordination!

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