Section 10: Rio Grande Village to Langtry
The days down here are beginning to blend together. We’re detaching from the world a little; the greenery, the water, the cliffs, are all staking out territory in our subconsciousness. We got lucky with another road today, this one immediately above the river on a perfect limestone shelf. The silky, grey rock layered one stratum on top of another, smooth and flat, ideal for walking on. We easily moved faster than the boaters who were once again battling a headwind. Unlike previous days this one picked up in the morning and would not let up all afternoon forcing our dogged boaters to fight to earn every bit of river.
Two days in a row of straightforward walking felt bizarre, as if we were back to easy but monotonous hiking. That's what we’re talking about - regular snack breaks on the water’s edge, good conversation that naturally veered all over the place, and mindless steps forward. A family of goats scampered down the path ahead, the little ones exploding with feisty enthusiasm. Goats are Tenny’s favorite. (Although Claire and Corey might be converts).
Around lunch our view of the river was blocked by a thin layer of honeysuckle-looking bush that we ducked through to reunite with the boaters. Here the river ran straight preventing a good shoal to pull off on for lunch. We chose to wade in the middle of the river until we found an adequate spot. It was shallow and the cool splash of the waves felt perfect.
Zak switched with Corey after lunch, taking over the evening shift. The road was no more and our trio was at the will of the river habitat. Cane and more cane (imagine!) and briefly, as if the universe knew we needed an intermission from the chaos, a lovely patch of willow trees. The trunks were thick and silky-smooth, allowing us to slide quietly through their vaulted boughs. Immediately after the cane flared back up. While crawling through one particularly sunken patch, we found a cell phone charger, deodorant and some personal items.
Is there any part of the river too remote for human ingenuity?
We focused on a topic that, surprise, surprise is one of our favorites. Walking! Zak is particularly talented at humoring us when we begin our spiels about why it’s the best. It’s not necessarily the actual physicality of walking that's so great. More that it’s always simple, it's not an extreme sport, it doesn't have to play into human ego. What it gives you access to, that’s the special part. It’s a mode of exploration that makes things accessible.
The canyon walls lifted higher and higher as we scampered along their edges. We had reached a gooseneck in the river, a long skinny spit of land that added miles to the boaters journey but was something the hikers could cut off with half a mile of cross country. Time to check in with our crew on the water. Getting back down resulted in several failed cane punches and a nerve racking scramble down a cliff wall. Finally we were reunited. Unfortunately, the ferocious wind had taken its toll on the boaters and we realized we didn’t have enough fuel left in the tank to commit to getting up and around the gooseneck. Time to start looking for camp.
Zak got back on the river to help with the boating and Tenny and Claire continued along the shore.
From behind the cane wall we jumped at the sound of a motor. People? Out here?
Turning the corner we caught a glimpse of the river. A man motored upstream in a small boat, fishing off the side. His car was parked on the road that came in from the north, on the US side. After 2 weeks of isolation, the sight of another person was jarring. Our river journey was coming to an end.
The increased signs of civilization had us all a little jumpy and we pulled up on a steep bank with enough tree cover that we felt hidden from sight. A wide rock ledge made for a particularly excellent cooking spot. Tomorrow is our last full day of river walking!