We have had a busy few months here at Los Rios River Runners, Memorial Day weekend has come and gone already and now it is June. Where is the summer going?!? We know that we have been gone from the blog for about a year and we are sorry about that, but we are back now and hoping to keep up.
Anyways, we did 4 overnight trips over Memorial Day weekend and all of them were amazing!! One of the groups wanted to share their overnight journey with you and sent us the article below. If you have questions please feel free to ask us.
Thanks and Enjoy!!
The Ultimate Man-Shower: 3 Day Overnight Rio Grande Rafting Trip
Children are a blessing in so many ways. While I could bore you to death with all of those ways, I’m going to spare you most of them and focus on one of greatest yet little known blessings children provide, particularly for men: The Man-Shower. Now of course, us guys are all too familiar with the typical baby shower where we sit around and feign enthusiasm as our wives open up gift wrapped packages of diapers and Bumbo chairs, but let’s be honest, no card carrying man is ever all that excited about the baby shower.
The Man-Shower is the balancing of those scales, where we call upon our closest male brothers-in-arms and gather to celebrate the welcoming of new life on the planet by being one with nature, beating our chests and sharing a libation or two.
So in February of this year, when I came to find out that 3 of my closest friends along with myself were all incredibly fortunate to be expecting babies within the year, my first thought was “How Awesome!!” My second thought was “MAN SHOWER!!!!!” And not just any man shower would do here, but something that was worthy of such a monumental time in our lives. So after some back and forth and reading lots of reviews for various outdoor trips and excursions that our wives would actually let us go on, we settled on the 3 Day Rio Grande Overnight River Rafting Trip with Los Rios River Runners because of the great reviews they have on TripAdvisor and close proximity to me and 10 really good friends (we are all from Austin, Dallas, Houston and Las Cruces, NM).
As our trip got closer, no one in our group of 11 really had any idea what to expect of this trip so really everyone just went off the pre-trip packing list as to what to pack. That and we agreed to bring a little bit of alcohol (ok, ‘little bit’ is a relative term). About a week from our trip date, which was scheduled Memorial Day Weekend, Jo from Los Rios called us to inquire about basic details like how many tents we needed, how much beer we were bringing and she helped us coordinate other minute details of our trip like how many guys would be in each tent, etc.. Anticipation was running high for “The 11” as we began to refer to ourselves on multiple group text messaging threads.
We essentially had two groups of guys coming on the trip; 6 (including myself) driving up from Austin, TX in a rented 15 passenger van and then the remaining 5 who flew/drove to Albuquerque and then made the 2.5 hour trek to Taos together. Being that our Austin group drove through the night, we arrived at Los Rios a little tired and slightly sleep deprived. However, as soon as hopped out of the van and saw all our rafting equipment and the preparations being made for our trip, a collective shot of adrenaline started to energize us all. As we tried on our wetsuits, we all started to look at each other with that ‘THIS is really happening!’ face.
We loaded up our gear into the wet packs they provided, our beer into their massive coolers and hopped into their van, driven by Scotty, to get to our point of entry for the start of the trip. After about an hour or so we arrive at a campground near the Rio Grande called Little Arsenic campgrounds. From there we hike about 30 minutes or so down to a little picnic area where we meet our guides, Oz, Baryza, and Bradley, three men we would get to know much better in the next three days. This was also the first time we were all introduced to the concept of having our meals prepared for us on the trip. Now, I knew the trip included all our food but we were all a little surprised to arrive at the bottom of the hike and have our whole spread laid out when we arrived. I guess it’s because there’s something both surprising and awesome about being in the middle of nowhere, seemingly far from civilization yet having the luxury/comfort of someone preparing a meal for you. Lunch included some appetizers of chips and hummus and fresh fruit along with a whole spread to make deli quality sandwiches along with some soft drinks, gatorade and cookies. It was a much needed meal prior to getting on the river.
With our bellies full, we got our safety instructions from Oz, who took about 15 minutes or so to instruct us on the danger of the rapids, the basic instructions we would receive from our guides as well as the protocol to follow should one of us fall in the water. We then broke our group of 11 into 3 boat crews of 4, 4 and lastly the 3 biggest guys (which I fell into). We threw on our helmets, PFDs (personal flotation devices), and aqua socks (which they provide) and were on our way. Baryza (pronounced BAR-zah) quickly gave us some commands we would need to become very familiar with: Forward Paddle, Back Paddle, Spin Right, Spin Left, Hold On, and Highside.
As you might imagine with 11 dudes, some of whom have known each other 20+ years, we are pretty damn competitive so it comes as no surprise it took about 5 minutes for us all to begin to try and outperform each other down the river. That however took a backseat to the immense beauty of the river and all of the nature and ambiance surrounding it. Couple that with the clear blue skies and 65 degree weather and things were getting started quite nicely.
The first major rapid (Class 3+) was a fairly technical (technical meaning requiring a number of maneuvers) section Baryza called La Junta. Our boat was ‘the sweeper’ of the group meaning that we always went last. Confident as can be, we started to go down La Junta. Despite having received instructions from the guides on how to follow commands it was eye opening to actually get those in the line of fire, so to speak. The sense of urgency and tone in Baryza’s (and in all the guide’s) voice was something I was not prepared for. Wouldn’t you know it, our boat had a guy fall out of the boat on that very first rapid, about 20 minutes into our trip. It was a little bit scary but overall it never felt like our guides didn’t have it under control. Baryza blew his whistle, the two other guides ahead of us quickly parked their boats and got on land to seemingly get a better vantage point of our the guy who fell off our boat. We got to him, pulled him in and gave him a good ribbing.
After La Junta, there were a few other rapids but none as challenging as La Junta. Between rapids, there’s quite a bit of chill time, where you don’t paddle. You just sit there and take in nature and enjoy the sights and sounds. Baryza knew a ton about seemingly every aspect of the river, the trees surrounding it, the flowers growing in it’s banks and the wildlife inhabiting the cliffs. We saw a beaver swimming around, some big horn sheep, quite a few squirrels and some petroglyphs on rocks. We stopped at a bridge about mid afternoon where we met up with a man we all called ‘Captain Ron’ who loaded up a huge oar boat with all the supplies that we had packed into the wet bags. Captain Ron was impressive as we saw him navigate all the rapids we did, only with all of our luggage, food and sleeping equipment in tow. As we continued on, the cold water began to compound with a lack of sun and as we entered the area of the river where the cliffs were high, and we were all pretty uncomfortable. Thankfully, we stopped for a few minutes at some hot springs and took a quick dip to warm up before restarting our trip down the river.
Finally, after a long day of being on the river we reached our first night’s campground, a small strip (about 200 yards) of riverfront terrain just within eyesight of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There was this huge feeling of accomplishment we all had getting out of our boats, and looking at our home for the night. It was an almost euphoric emotion pulling into our camp that night that I’ll never forget. We were high fiving and fist bumping just out of the pure glee of getting down the river and camping in such a remote yet gorgeous spot. We quickly pulled our luggage out of the wet bags, set up our tents and sleeping bags, and changed into our dry clothes. As Oz, Baryza and Captain Ron began preparing our meals, we sat around in folding chairs and cracked open some much needed beer. Oz and Baryza both made it really clear that this first night was one where wanted to take it easy because of the degree of difficulty of Day 2’s rapids which included multiple class 4’s. Dinner on night 1 consisted of an appetizer of chips and salsa and freshly made guacamole and the main course was beef and fish tacos, rice and beans and some fresh grilled squash, mushrooms and peppers that were just out of this world.
For dessert, they made some pound cake with fresh blackberries on it which was really good as well. Again, I can’t stress enough how strangely awesome it was to be seemingly so far from civilization yet have such an incredible meal being cooked for you. Like most people, we all were so used to camping and making our own food when doing so, we almost felt bad having other people cook for us while we kicked our feet up, but the Los Rios guys were as hospitable and gracious as can be and never made us feel resented or burdensome. I really can’t say enough about how comfortable they made all of us feel.
After dinner and a couple of hours of storytelling/laughing/drinking around the campfire, we called it a night and went to bed. It was such a cool feeling to lay down in my tent and just let the sounds of the Rio Grande, which was literally 20 feet away, put me to sleep.
Though some of our guys got up earlier, I woke about around 8am the next morning and was happy to find a fresh pot of hot coffee waiting for me. The night was cold as I had anticipated, but I was still cold when I woke up. For whatever reason it took me 2 cups of of coffee to get my core temperature warm. About 30 minutes later the guys served breakfast which was french toast, hashbrown, and sausage. French toast, seriously? Now it felt like our guides were just showing off. I don’t even get french toast at home. Everything was delish as usual and we took our time eating and just hanging out around the camp. We packed all of our gear and tents up and by 11 am we were back on the water. We had to wait a few minutes for another group of Los Rios’s to catch up with us. It wasn’t too bad waiting though as Baryza had us practice traveling up stream by paddling from eddy to eddy (an eddy, I learned from Baryza, was essentially this little pocket of swirling or reverse current water in the river that the main current created when it flows past).
After we were joined by 8 other rafts filled with other Los Rios patrons, we began to make our way down river once again. I quickly realized that Day 2, which enters the Taos Box, was noticeably more difficult than Day 1. The aggression of the rapids, the amount of maneuvering and the sense of urgency and seriousness of our guides was all increased by about 30% from Day 1 to Day 2. Having played team sports my whole life, I loved the intensity of it all. It really felt like you had to work in unison with your team to get through each and every rapid. After a few exciting rapids we broke for lunch along with the other 9 boats. This lunch was similar to the previous day with a nice selection of lunch meats and sandwich toppings along with chips and salsa. We did however get one little welcome addition to the lunch menu on Day 2 that was sadly absent on Day 1: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. A personal weakness of mine.
After a quick lunch, we were back on the river, taking on rapid after rapid. It was more entertaining doing the rapids with 9 other boats because there was always someone in front and in back of you that you could watch and they would watch you as well. It made for good theater. There were so many rapids in The Box, that they quite frankly began to blend together. The one that stood out the most without question though was Rock Garden. Baryza had been hyping us up all day about Rock Garden and the maneuvering that was necessary to stay out of any hairy situations so my adrenaline was amped up for it. I think our whole boat was. Rock Garden is unique in that you have to paddle really fast into it to hit your ‘line’ (your line being the the path you would like to follow to get through the rapid) but then once you hit your line, you have to essentially slam the brakes to avoid flipping your boat on a rock. Think of it like Frogger, where you have to hurry your frog on to a log that’s moving laterally while you wait for the opportune time to once again launch forward. The braking is done by a very aggressive backpedal that, at least when we executed it, accompanied by Baryza’s primal scream to “BACKPEDAL!!!” felt very dramatic, like we were Kevin Bacon and John C. Reily and Baryza was Meryl Streep, except unlike in “The River Wild”, our Meryl Streep wasn’t trying to kill us.
But I digress. Rock Garden was a blast, I don’t have any other rafting experience to use as a point of reference but it felt like we executed our various maneuvers with precision and skill - or at least Baryza was nice enough to let us think so.
We winded down our Day 2 with a variety of runs and then pulled into our camping area for our second night. This time our campground was more typical of the state parks I’ve camped at in years past with enclosed toilets and designated camping areas with fire pits. It was beautiful and nice, but just seeing that we had some neighbors about 100 yards from us made me really appreciate how special the primitive campsite from the night before was.
With our most difficult day of rafting behind us, all of us guys were in the mood to celebrate and celebrate we did. We cracked open some beer, played some jams on our bluetooth speakers and made a campfire. Around 7ish Baryza came by with some appetizers; hummus and a veggie plate with ranch. About 45 minutes later dinner was served: Steak, mashed potatoes and corn followed by peach cobbler. It was exquisite. Also, by now if you haven’t noticed, I’m done feeling guilty about eating so well when I’m camping. It is THE way to camp. We get to mingle a bit with some of the other overnight groups before making our way back to our camp and putting a significant dent in our large ice chest. We hit the hay after a fantastic night of eating, drinking and laughing around our campfire, this night a little bit later than the previous.
We were a little bit slower getting up on Day 3 as you might imagine, mostly from having exerted ourselves on the river the day before, but partially from celebrating more intensely. As it were, breakfast was highly anticipated and rightfully so. The breakfast menu this am included eggs, sausage, pancakes (with real maple syrup) and of course coffee. Lots of coffee.
As we packed up camp before our final day on the river, there was a little bit of sadness among the group as we all sensed the trip coming to an end but physically speaking, there was some relief because the amount of exertion required on Day 2 had a few of us really sore and tired. That’s why there were no complaints when our guides told us that helmets and wetsuits were optional the third day since the runs were pretty chill. Since I was really cold on Days 1 & 2, I opted to keep my dry gear on to avoid being miserable on what was looking to be an overcast day.
Day 3 was mostly chill with very little rowing until the very end where, wanting one last rush of adrenaline, our crew asked Baryza to maneuver Souse Hole as aggressive as possible. For lunch we stopped and had some really tasty chicken caesar wraps with pringles and soft drinks. Day 3 was just enough to fill our appetites for adventure but also relaxed and chill enough for us to all wind down after 2 days of heavy rowing and pulse pounding rapids. As we wrapped up the trip, some of the other rafters in other groups began to jump in the cold water as a celebration of sorts but no one in our group … we were the only group in the bunch that had just completed the 3 Day trip and our celebration was complete. Oz and Bradley’s teams did however decide to have a little race for 2nd place:
So we scoured all the information that Los Rios provided both on their web site as well as via email but I thought I would share some tips that I would consider when I do this trip next time:
Wear sunblock - I am not prone to sunburn but I got burnt pretty bad despite there being a good amount of shade.
Pics are hard to come by - the website said that they didn’t’ recommend taking cameras on the boat but I’m the kind of person who reads that and see it more as a disclaimer rather than a rule. The reality is, you can take whatever you want on the boat, but when you’re going through anything that would be exciting enough to video, it’s near impossible to take a picture and perform your rowing duties. My recommendation would be to bring a GoPro or some sort of mountable camera that can be easily operated with a remote.
If the water’s cold, wear the gear they provide - being a large group of guys, of course we thought it would be overfill to wear a wet suit, rain gear and the aqua socks they provide but sure enough, every day they were very much needed, particularly when the sun wasn’t shining down into the canyon. It was late May when we went with temperature highs in the low 70’s if that gives you any idea as to what to expect.
Trust you guide - The guides they gave us; Oz, Baryza and Bradley all were very knowledgeable and competent. Oz’s group would not stop talking about how great of a guide he was to the point where it became a little bit of a competition on who’s guide was better between Oz and Baryza (my vote: No disrespect to Oz, I’ll take Baryza but of course I am partial).
Forget any cell phone service - I own a legal marketing company and lawyer directory in Austin and as you can imagine, I am GLUED to my iPhone 95% of the day. I secretly brought my phone, hoping I might get a bar or two from AT&T somewhere along the trip but nope. My phone was reduced to a camera from the day we left Los Rios, to the day we arrived. But you know what, once I came to grips with that, there was a sense of relief from being disconnected for a business day.
To a man, every single guy who went on this trip said the same thing; it was one of the best trips they had ever been on. And this was no easy to please group of guys, among them we had multiple guys have traveled the world from Safari’s in Africa to having lived for years in Spain, Paris and Mexico. It’s no overstatement to say that this trip was an experience like no other and that every single one of ‘The 11’s’ expectations were exceeded by the natural beauty, service, adventure, food and exhilarating fun of the 3 day Rio Grande trip by Los Rios River Runners. If you’re looking for the ultimate trip with some old high school or college buddies, a man shower or any sort of male bonding trip, stop researching and looking for cheap flights to Vegas and book this trip with Los Rios. You’ll be thrilled that you did.