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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Adventures in Kayaking...

Let me start by stating that I'm by no means an expert on the subject of kayaking. However, I've had a couple of negative experiences on rivers prior to this. One of them being on the Delaware Water Gap involving a Canoe that tipped and caused a hell of a debacle that ended in physical injuries, a tow trip from PA to NJ on Memorial Day weekend and a breakup. Need I say more? I've also done floating down the river, but there isn't any real work involved in that activity. You just tie some tubes together and float down the river while drinking some beer from the cooler that's tied next to you. I don't want to admit that I was naive enough to think that kayaking wouldn't be a lot of work, but when all was said and done I definitely considered myself upgraded from 'wuss' to 'warrior' status. The man that owns this place was a little chatty over the phone when I was booking my spot for this trip, but I figured he was just trying to be thorough. He asked that we arrive 30 minutes before our 9am take-off. By the time we arrived, there was a young dude cleaning off the kayaks we'd be using for our adventure so it was cool to be able to check out where our behinds would be parked for the 2 and a half hour paddle. Then, the owner came out and proceeded to bore the crap out of my and my two friends with endless banter about how we should be careful to avoid 'branches' in the river, and how we'll see these 'large metal structures' and we need to avoid them too (thanks, for that, but I think it's pretty intuitive to avoid things that are visibly jutting out of the water. We then watched a 20 minute video on everything he pretty much just spent 20 min. telling us. He even made us watch the parts on canoeing and white water rafting (why? I don't know). To top that off, he brought up his Google Map presentation and showed us where we'd be most likely to encounter these super threatening tree branches and metal structures. Ok, fine. We're ready now. We take off in the van and drive past all of the private land owned by several Indian tribes. The spot for take off was in the middle of nowhere and by that time (already past 9:30), we were ready to go! But WAIT, there's more.
The dude then proceeded to draw some diagrams in the dirt with the corner of the oar explaining how not to directly hit the branch or/and the metal structure. Finally, we take off and we're on our way out onto the waters of the Rio Grande. Or lack thereof. What I mean is that NM has been in a drought as of late so instead of floating a little with the current and then paddling we were forced to paddle furiously the whole way if we didn't want to move at 3 miles per hour. This was fine...at first.
I wound up drifting one way and my friends drifted another. As I was going through this marsh, I could hear my friend yell that they'd meet me on the other side of the little island. Great, I thought, that shouldn't be far! Instead, it was about 30-40 minutes of hell because I wound up stuck in spots with no water and the boat was way too heavy to carry anywhere. This means that I had to use all of my energy to push myself back to any spot where the water was higher than my ankle (which was hard to find).
By the time I floated out to the other side, my friends were parked and waiting for me on some rocks and I must say, I was never happier to see them. We still had about another hour of paddling to do and we started to wonder where and when we'd see the people form the Paddling place to pick us up...
After another hour of paddling, we realized we must have missed the take out point and were pretty much screwed. My friend called the owner who told her that we 'should have never went that far! Didn't we see the take-off point that was so not clearly marked?? NOPE. DO YOU REALLY THINK WE'D BE CALLING YOU FROM YOUR DAMN KAYAK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIO IF WE DID?? Then he says that he's not sure if he'd be able to send anyone to pick us up. This part really infuriated me because the last thing you want to worry about after this kind of trip was finding a place to park your kayak and not having a ride out of there. He told us to continue swimming until we saw the Alameda bridge, he'd try to get someone out there by the time we made it there, which would be a while since it was miles and
miles away. Really, there was no bridge in sight. This is the point of the story where I want to stress that if this guy had talked MORE about where and when we'd be picked up, and less about the branches we may or may not see in the river, we probably wouldn't have gotten lost and it would have been a perfect trip.
Instead, we wound up paddling 21 miles and cried when we realized we had no freakin idea where the bridge even was. When we finally did make it and dragged our heavy ass canoes up the dirt trail, two dude came about 10 minutes later to pick us up. They told us that this had 'happened before' and that the owner needs to stress where the take off point is. Yes, that would have been nice. He then told us they charge people double to do the trip that we just took so we actually made out like bandits! Go figure. I told him that I actually would have paid them double if they'd only been there to pick us up when they were supposed to.
This was definitely an adventure, one that I most likely won't be taking again in the near future, or until I regain feeling in my arms again. Honestly, when I do this again, I will gladly pay to rent a kayak for the $40 this 'trip' cost me. It would be easier because I wouldn't have to endure the sound of the owner rudely chatting away about things that aren't of importance for my trip. The best part about the whole experience was getting to share it with two kick ass women that paddled their asses off just like I did on a beautiful day with serene surroundings and beautiful Mother Nature providing all the kick ass scenery.