STAND ON THE RIO GRANDE

SUP Magazine - - Frontside - — SAM MAULDIN

LESSONS ARE LEARNED THE HARD WAY WHEN PART OF YOUR PLAN IS MAK­ING IT UP AS YOU GO. Be­fore our “Stand On the Rio Grande” ex­pe­di­tion through Big Bend Na­tional Park, the flow dropped dra­mat­i­cally in the months lead­ing up to the trip, leav­ing us with a flow of only 15 CFS. Cuss­ing, laugh­ing and drag­ging our boards over dry riverbed for nearly 20 of the 100 miles we cov­ered, fully loaded with gear for a week in 100-de­gree weather, we learned some things. Like, we had too much gear and that peo­ple are hi­lar­i­ous when deliri­ous and ex­hausted. Af­ter los­ing sev­eral sets of fins each, we de­cided to run with­out them. Six guys zig-zag­ging down the river, seem­ingly out of con­trol while try­ing to act like pros had to be a funny sight, es­pe­cially when the de­mon fish (al­li­ga­tor gar) jumped on our boards and scared us half to death. Con­sid­er­ing the rest of Texas was un­der­wa­ter at that time due to flood­ing, we were ac­tu­ally pray­ing for a flash flood and came pre­pared with PFDS, hel­mets and throw-lines.

We went through a lot in seven days: a near death while rock climb­ing, run­ning out of drink­ing wa­ter, a bro­ken foot, se­vere sick­ness, scorch­ing heat dur­ing the day and near-freez­ing temps at night, get­ting lost and even over-shoot­ing our take­out by two miles at 3 in the morn­ing and, last but not least, wak­ing up camped next to a Mex­i­can town we hadn’t seen the night be­fore. The con­fused looks from the lo­cal who dis­cov­ered us in the morn­ing is some­thing I’ll never stop laugh­ing about.

Yes, it was phys­i­cally bru­tal, but it’s one of my fa­vorite trips to date. We ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing no one else had while stand­ing on—or walk­ing through—wa­ter. We pad­dled through 1,500-foot tall canyons, washed our sins in magi- cal hot springs and night-pad­dled with stars re­flect­ing off the calm wa­ter so brightly that the hori­zon dis­ap­peared and we were just a bunch of river as­tro­nauts ex­plor­ing a new uni­verse.

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