By Patty Wilber
We got up in the dark to drive to the Taos Junction Bridge to meet our party (some of the same people we worked trails with over Memorial Day in the Pecos Wilderness) for a day of rafting the Rio Grande through the Taos Box section. We took a day off from equines, because, hey, rafting Taos Box is considered one of the 20 best raft trips in the country, according to Trip Advisor!
People sometimes think I am adrenaline junkie, but I promise I am not. Yes, I did go bungee jumping, but, only one jump and never again (it was terrifying, even though the rest of the family + our daughter-in-law all made four jumps and thought it was exhilerating.). Yes, I do start colts, but I swear I go so slowly that it is usually drama-free!
I was apprehensive about the rafting because a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal talked about the high flows and the numerous flipped rafts in the so-called easier section, just below the reach we were planning to run. I did not want to get up close and personal with the snow melt water.
Dave, one of the guys Jim hiked the Grand Canyon with in March, was our guide. He has run this section of the river a lot and was a professional guide for many years. Not 1700 times over 48 years like another rafter we met claimed, which seems like a bit of hyperbole, but a lot.
Dave set us up with all the gear we needed, including life jackets, wet suits and splash gear (= good rain coats). Despite the fact that it is June, it is darn cold in the canyon if you get wet and are uninsulated! And because we were going to be running Class 4 rapids, we were definitely going to get wet.
Wet suits are supposed to fit pretty snuggly, and they can be hard to put on. I got stuck half way into the first suit I tried, and managed to tear it twice, while trying to pull it on. Fortunately, it was very old, so that was not all my fault! I got another one that I was able to get on.
Then, we loaded up and headed to the river. We have no shots on the water because no one wanted to risk their phones!
Dave gave us a great safety talk and I especially liked Rule #1: Stay in the boat! There were six of us in the raft and we sat on the outer tube which seemed precarious to me at first, but because you can jam a foot under the tube in front of you, there is a grab handle in the middle, and paddling against the pressure of the water pushes you into the boat, it felt surprisingly stable all day, even when the boat was folding around the rough water.
Also, as we went through the rapids, to help us novices stay in the boat, Dave chose the safer lines, except in the Rock Garden, a series of three rapids, where we ended up on a more treacherous course due to our extra exuberant paddling that Dave was not expecting. This drove us off his planned course! On that one, my glasses got washed off my face (but stayed in the boat so I did not lose them), Amber (my boat partner) hogged both the grab handles (not shown on the model boat), and we all flopped around a bit, but we all stayed in! Wow! That was a A LOT of fun.
I think the Rock Garden was my favorite, and because Dave was so matter-of-fact, even when he was giving strong directions, it was fun and not scary!
Another exciting rapid was Powerline. The river disappeared over the horizon, which was a bit disconcerting, but as we got closer we could see it was a 10 foot water fall, which we plunged over! Jim and Richard were in the front of the boat. They got drenched! I thought I had escaped but then some rogue wave shot up and I also got quite wet!
The river was running at about 3800 cubic feet per second. Historical average for this time of year is about 1200 csf, so this is a nice high flow year! Because of the high water, we finished the 16 miles in about 3.5 instead of 5.5 hours.
We all had such a great time that we were almost tempted to drive back up and do it all over again, but we did have dinner reservations for Amber’s birthday, so we headed back to Dave’s to change.
We have been in New Mexico since 1991, and the Taos Box has always been something we’d wanted to do! A most excellent adventure! Huge thanks to Dave for supplying the gear and expertise!
Cancer Treatment Update. As of Thursday I have completed 11 of 20 radiation treatments! I was tired the first week, but have been feeling strong enough to ride FIVE horses in a day, do a trail project in the Pecos Wilderness, and raft the Taos Box, these last two weeks, so that seems ok. Hopefully, the effects will not creep up on me over the last nine days. My white blood cell count did go down a bit since I started, which bummed me out, but that can be a side effect, and the numbers were not that low.
I started the last of the chemo regimes Thursday (Kadcyla, a monoclonal antibody + a chemo agent to directly target any remaining–hopefully there are none–cancer cells anywhere in the body). The three year cancer-free rate is 90%, so that is good. The premedication dose of Benadryl made me a bit drowsy for a good part of the day, but other than that, I don’t expect to know what the effects of this drug are for a day or two. Effects are generally very mild and my next infusion is not until July 6th, so even if there are some, I will have a nice long time to recoup.