Monday, March 8, 2010

the great rift


After way too many postponements, much gnashing of teeth, incomprehensible muttering and pacing about la casa de Roughrider over the past month, the entire familia was understandably relieved I was finally able to get it done Sunday.

Taos Box, The Gorge, Rio Grande Rift.  Many names, yet all evoke images of wilderness, of rugged isolation, of startling beauty from those that have ventured down into its depths.  Sunday marked a return to prospect for those infamous cuttbows that migrate up into the Lower Red during winter, holding over until spring runoff.  Schweet.

On the drive up, Taos offered a quick refueling stop in the form of my new favoritest java joint discovery, Altitude Coffee.  Or is it Elevation Coffee?  Anyone?  Whichever, name aside, they brew a damn fine cup o joe. They're situated about a mile shy of the turnoff to Arroyo Seco, look for them on the westside as you head north outta town.

Soon enuf, found myself negotiating the dirt road heading out to the rim of the Gorge,  dirt, I should mention, in name only.  The morning's frostiness had the mud frozen solid, the rather alarming ruts from yesterday's traffic frozen in time.  I took but a moment to shrug off any projections of what the road conditions might be like on the way out, the 'road' all thawed and gooey, fully resplendent in all its adobe glory.  What me, worry?  

Turn around?  Dude.  Seriously, the rim's right there, the nearest paved access is like another 40 min away, I'm sure it'll be fine.  Besides, whomever made those canyon ruts yesterday looks to have made it out allright, in so far as I don't see them hub deep, locked in the frozen crust overnight.  I just might have to lock in the 4WD, don't sweat it.  Wonder how those cutts are doing?

Such is the diminished thought process of an angler three months removed from his last quality time on the water, sound familiar out there?  Gonna catch me up one day, you'll read it here first (if not via your local paper!) ;-)

Geared up, eying the morning's descent, I breathed a sigh of relief, as it looks like I remembered to pack everything, thank goodness.  Can't be anything much worse than making the 800' descent, only to find you've left your reel or somesuch critical piece of gear on the passenger seat back topside.  Enuf to make a grown man cry.  Not that I know anything 'bout that first hand mind you, but I've heard things... ;-)

The drop down into the Rift always gets the blood racing a bit.  Anticipation of the day's fishing, the heart pumping beauty, and raw exhilaration that comes with the realization of today's (managed) risk all combine into the singular awareness you better be on your A Game today, bub.  800 feet down in its remote canyon, littered with basalt boulders, each slick as snot, nary a soul or cell tower for miles, the Gorge remains one of New Mexico's greatest and best wild places.  Absolutely not a place to get injured, if you catch my drift. 

The descent remained as sheer as I remembered, ice still sheeting much of the northern exposures.  In the softer spots I am able to make out tracks of those canyon denizens that preceded me- deer, coyote for the most part, some other clawed little dude of undetermined origin.  Coupla different boot tracks also, yesterday if I'm a judge, bummer that.  I noticed the boots appeared faint on the (frozen) downhill, all slickery on the return, hmmmm.  No worries, mate, wonder how those cutts are doin?

I lose sight of the Rio for a good bit as I hit the big bench, surrounded now by pinon, scrub oak, and ponderosas of all things.  Typically I'm humming along, soaking in the sights of the improbable forest in the middle of high desert country, when I first hear the Rio's growing roar, getting close!  Turn that same corner, time after time, and I'm once again staggered by the dazzling contrast:  black basalt boulder fields bracketing a shimmering green ribbon flecked with angry white swirls, all capped with a stunning cobalt sky.  Whoa!

Just a hop, skip, jump further down the trail, I've reached the juncture of the Lower Red and the Rio, the renowned La Junta, and I'm finally eyeballing today's venue.
next up, The Great Rift part II.


  1. That first pic is sweet--reminds me of several places we fish in southwest Idaho, those excellent rifts.

    Yeah, I've heard about those fishers who forget important stuff at home. Sheeeesh, losers. (Please don't go back through my blog trolling for posts mentioning such incidents, you'll never find one .)

    That looks like my kind of place to fish. I mean, right up my alley. Wow! I'm ready baby, let's get to Part II already.

  2. howdy pardner! (can't shake TX darnitall!) Any signs of spring up there? Keep reading bout all that skwala fishing, making me jealous.

    RE: rift fishing- we were struck by similarities between our high desert areas and ID and southeast OR from our trip last summer. Deschutes seemed overly familiar, yet I've never laid eyes on that river before.

    RE: part II, started that gig, need to finish & get it out there.