Monday, June 17, 2013

A {Secret} Weekend Getaway on the Chama

Andrew and I were lucky enough to pull a permit on the Chama River this weekend. I look forward to rafting season all year, and this was a great way to kick it off.

We usually pool our permits for the summer with other friends and go on trips with large groups, including the beloved Princeton trip, but this one we kept a secret. We’ve been looking forward to this weekend for months.


We took a trip with just the two of us a couple of years ago when we first got our boat, and it was wonderful. We knew that we wanted to make it an annual tradition. Permits are given out through a lottery system, and there are only six private permits given per weekend in the summer. Each person is allowed to send in one application for a permit so the competition is stiff.

We were disappointed to not pull any of our own permits last year so we only did group trips. We were pretty lucky this year to pull one for just the two of us. Going with big groups can be a lot of fun, and we always have a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones. But a weekend alone floating down the river is pretty unbeatable. The only thing that would have made it better would is if the dog girls had come along. We’ve tried to take them on day runs and they hate, hate, hate being on the raft. It’s better for everyone if they stay home so off we went just the two of us.

View from the hot springs
On our first night, we sat in the hot springs after the sun had gone over the canyon wall and drank ice cold fancy Champagne out of our blue, metal camping cups. We walked back through the muddy marsh to our campsite after dark and ate pulled pork sandwiches, fruit salad and dark chocolate. I had wanted to buy a lantern before we went but decided we didn’t really need to buy anything new so Andrew fashioned a lantern out of a headlamp and gatorade bottle. We sat on the bank and ate our dinner, admired the clear night and bright stars and listened to the river flowing by. It was a perfect night.

We tried out our new tent for the first time. It felt so spacious compared to our last one.

We put on the river early enough each day that we had hours after we set-up our camp to sit on the bank and read, write and talk about the future.

I like the guide for recommended use

We drank Modelos (especials since we were on the River) and boxed wine. If anyone has a better recommendation for boxed wine, please let me know. There weren’t many options at our grocery store.

Without the dog girls around to chase them off, I did a lot of lizard stalking and admiring.

Lizzie tracks at the campsite

Andrew plunged into the COLD river, and I painfully crept in a few inches at a time often letting out yelps and screams the deeper I went. Andrew thought it was pretty funny, but I've never been able to just rush in the cold water with one fell swoop. The water that is running down the Chama is released from the bottom of El Vado Dam so it is always cold. Although it was chilly, it was very refreshing and a good way to wake up from afternoon naps. Afternoon naps!?! Yes!!

Because I know you want to see another photo of my feet by the water. I can't help myself!

The water was flowing at 700 cfs, which is about a third less than we would like it to be, but we were thankful to be away from smoky Santa Fe. It always feels so good and refreshing to be on the water.


Rafting requires a lot of gear. It is by the far the most extensive and expensive hobby we have. I’m always surprised at just how much stuff you need for rafting, but with just the two of us, it’s a lot simpler at the put-in and take-outs. We were off the river in an hour yesterday despite the fact that there were eight other boats at the take-out. We have a good system and are organized and tidy so it’s a lot faster than with a big group. Although, as frustrating as the take-out can be, this has been a good lesson I’ve learned from rafting - to slow down and relax and all the work will get done. No amount of rushing is going to make the put-in or take-out go faster. It’s always chaotic. It just is, and I’ve learned that it’s a lot more enjoyable if I move slower and even take a break or two to sit down in the shade and have a beer.

Take out at Big Eddy

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