Riding the Rio Grande, Day Five (in Photos)

It's our fifth day on the road. Today we plan to ride for four hours from our campsite on Cebolla Mesa to reach a canoe/raft launch site on the Rio Grande southwest of the town of Espanola. We're putting our boats in there to start our float through the Whiterock Canyon stretch of the river, which my pre-trip scouting says should be a beautiful stretch of water flowing through Pueblo lands, past the Los Alamos National Labaratory and Bandalier National Monument, before dumping into the upper stretches of Cochiti Reservoir, a big impoundment northwest of the city of Albuquerque. According to the rafting guides i talked to before the trip, the fishing is supposed to be good in this stretch of water, and it's one that very few people float, so it shouldn't have any pressure. The photo above shows the first half of the float (between my index and middle fingers), which is what we plan to cover today.
Packing up the truck in the morning. We organized everything and packed it all up in our dry bags so that we could quickly load our gear into the boats once we reach the river.
Here's a shot of the view from the western rim of the canyon. We crossed the river here over the John Dunne Bridge, then had to ride up a hairy series of switchbacks to reach this spot.
We stopped and bought a couple of these chiles from a roadside stand on the way to the put-in.
Launching the boats at the put-in. Dad crashed his bike in the deep sand near the river just as we pulled up to the water. He's banged up but seems more-or-less ok.
The water is chocolate brown. Pretty hard to imagine we'll catch any fish in this stuff ...
... but we keep trying anyway.

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The floating, though, is a great change from riding motorcycles. Much quieter, of course, and it's nice to allow our pace to be dictated by the river for a change. We cast, and cast, with no luck, and also hit a few easy-but-fun rapids until eventually stopping at ...
... a pretty nasty-looking rapid called Ancho Falls.
By the time we reach the falls the sun is getting pretty low in the sky, and since we'll have to unload our boats anyway to run the rapids safely we decide to camp above them for the evening. We pitch our tents, and I cook up a much-needed meal of quesadillas. We're all pretty tired, beat up from the sun, the road, and the rapids.
Dad is especially worn out.
Still, despite the hardships we're all having fun, enjoying the challenges and burning the sights into our minds so we can draw on them after the trip, when we're back behind our desks and dreaming of more adventures. It's easy to keep your spirits up when you've got stars like these to gaze at before you fall asleep.

Last fall, Field & Stream Online Editor Nate Matthews and his father, Bruce, spent 15 days fishing the Rio Grande River from its headwaters in Colorado's Continental Divide all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. These excerpts from their journals tell the story of their 2500-mile motorcycle ride along the historic river, taken during momentous times in the lives of both father and son. Photographer/vidographer Tim Romano documented the excursion. Look for the print feature in June 2011.