We awoke early this morning as we were heading out to raft the Rio Grande River south of Taos (see photo at left). As everyone in town had promised, the rainy, cool evening gave way to a beautiful, sunny, yet cool morning. Bundled up with fleeces, but in our quick-drying shorts (i.e., bathing suits and gym pants) we shivered our way to the little town of Pilar to meet with our guide from Far Flung Adventures.
Claire has a classmate named Pilar, so we began by taking 12 different photographs around the “Pilar Yacht Club” (actually, a little hole in the wall – see photo below) so they could post a Where in the World is Pilar? album for her Facebook page. Then we met up with Hank, Bill, and Erica – the three Far Flung Adventures guides.
After a quick safety lecture, we joined up with Hank – a late 50s river guide, metal artist and all-round outdoors guy who was perfect for the four of us. With Andrew and Claire in the front, Candice and I in the middle (i.e., the “safest” seats), and Hank in the rear we pushed off into the river for a wonderful two hour ride.
While the river was up from the recent rains, it was still relatively low and the rapids were just about right since three of us were first-time whitewater rafters. One of the other boats got stuck going through one set of rapids, but all-in-all it was a pretty tame although somewhat wet ride for the four of us. We all had a great time checking out the gorge, paddling through the rapids, and listening to Hank’s tall tales of 28 years in the river-guide business. His funniest tale was when we came to the rapids where they take your picture. He told of the time when he was taking a group of old ladies off a tour bus (Hank’s description) and they called him cranky because he wouldn’t let them smoke. He said by the time they got to the rapids for the picture (near the end of the run), “These ladies had all decided that they didn’t care what I said and the photo showed a couple of them lighting up while I was yelling ‘paddle forward.’ Their attitude was ‘our husbands are all dead and buried, we’re having fun spending their money, and we don’t care what you tell us to do.'” We all got a good laugh out of that and other stories about his dog, Monster, wearing a helmet while going through a Class 5 rapid in the front of the boat.
At the end of the run we took a picture with Andrew, Claire, and Hank; said our good-byes; changed into dry clothes, and headed to Santa Fe on the “high road.” This was a beautiful drive through the mountains between Taos and Santa Fe. There were fantastic views of the landscape (too bad Andrew and Claire were sound asleep through most of it), and a couple of 18th century mission churches along the way. We stopped and took pictures at the 1760 church at Las Trampas (see photo below).
We arrived in Santa Fe and after checking in at La Fonda, another Historic Hotel of America, we walked through the historic district for a tasty lunch at Cafe Pasqual – a great Santa Fe dining spot that my colleague Dolores introduced me to a couple of years ago when the National Trust was in New Mexico. Claire declared that, “Everything tasted so good she didn’t know what to eat” as she was tasting from everyone’s plate. Yet another great culinary experience that we’ll remember from this trip.
We spent the afternoon visiting the shops. (Unfortunately, one of the FINEST guitar stores in America – High Desert Guitars – is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays as I was hoping to spend an hour or more playing some of the most unique guitars designed and built by America’s top luthiers. My former colleague Emily Espenshade can testify that I’ll drag anyone who is willing to a great guitar shop and then make them wait for hours while I sit and play guitar after guitar, as she went with me on my first visit to High Desert Guitars.) One by one we all ended up back at La Fonda to rest up – either for dinner or for watching the Olympics.
Our trip is almost over. Tomorrow we return to Albuquerque and fly home. I’ll try and make one more post as I think about some of the random experiences that meant a lot to us. But we’ve all agreed that this has been a terrific introduction to the west for Andrew and Claire. Thanks to Jim, Janet, Dick, Mary Ann, Jerry, Judy, Bob, Dolores…and perhaps others I’ve forgotten…for all the great suggestions for our itinerary. It has been wonderful.
More to come…