Rafting New Mexico

I’ll be honest. I’m not an outdoors person. The last time I went camping I brought a queen-sized air mattress on a frame with me. I also ran electricity to my tent so that I could keep my cellphone charged to order pizza in case my hot dog fell into the campfire. I’m also not particularly adventurous. My idea of a wild time is binge watching episodes of “Breaking Bad.” But I’m trying to change. There are so many outdoor activities that the Land of Enchantment has to offer. And frankly, since “Breaking Bad” is over, I’ve got some time on my hands. So when my friends suggested a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, I agreed to join their outdoor adventure.

Besides, this particular rafting trip seemed fairly safe. Run by Cottam’s Rio Grande Rafting Company, the Racecourse is their most popular option. Compared to Cottam’s other trips, including the Taos Box, which requires a helmet as you travel 16 miles through Class III and IV rapids down the Rio Grande Gorge, the Racecourse seemed like a breeze. It’s a two-to-three-hour guided trip that lets participants experience Class I to III rapids, helmet free. Since our trip was in late July towards the end of the rafting season, I figured the waters would be much calmer than those in the early spring runoff.

Our group met at the designated location site, the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor’s Center in Pilar, NM. We climbed into Cottam’s vans and were driven about 45 seconds down to the rafting launch site. Lathered in sunscreen, fully hydrated, and wearing my provided flotation device, I was feeling pretty good. Then our guides started going over the safety procedures. Like how to ensure you don’t fall out of the raft. Like describing what to do if the raft tipped over. Or if your paddle smacked you in the face and you lost all of your teeth. Okay, maybe I imagined that last one, I’m not 100% sure. As photographers took group pictures, I briefly considered the idea of just buying an 8X11 and telling everyone that I had gone rafting, when in reality I would just wait in the van for my friends. But screw it, I had already paid for the trip and I owed it to myself to try something new. So I went ahead and climbed aboard.

Can you see me up in the blue raft?

Our guide was funny and personable. He pointed out geological sites along the way (really old black rocks versus even older gray rocks is about as much as I comprehended) and shared some history of the area. The scenery was gorgeous and I felt myself relax as we floated down the Rio Grande. My only goal was not to fall out of the raft. It’s not that I’m afraid of water. No, my real fear was not being able to get back into the raft. I had watched a great number of people try to climb back into rafts over the years. And even the most graceful people somehow end up flailing around in the bottom of the raft face first in the crotch of the person that pulled them out.

As we came upon our first rapids, our guide gave us directions on how many times to paddle and in what direction. We worked as a team as we went through the white water. It was exhilarating and fantastic! The rest of the trip included periods of calm water followed by varying levels of rapids. In several locations, our guide encouraged us to get out and swim. While I did not take up this offer, my friends reported that the water was cool and refreshing. The rapids were challenging and wonderful all at once. I was amazed at how quickly the time went by on the river and was disappointed that the trip was over as we floated up to our final destination. Luckily, the chips and cookies Cottam’s provided eased my pain.

You can’t tell, but I’m laughing as we go through some rapids.

So overall, my adventure was immensely satisfying and entertaining. I would highly recommend rafting in New Mexico and Cottam’s Rio Grande Rafting Company. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, that I plan on tackling the Taos Box next year. Just be forewarned. If you find me face first in your crotch as I’m flailing around the bottom of the raft it’s nothing personal. I’m just looking for my next big water adventure.

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