Overall score :4.5/5 (but they don't have half stars)
We did an overnight river trip with far flung between Christmas and New Years. An unusual cold front hit the area as we arrived pulling the temperatures down to 20-30 degrees at night and 60-70 during the day.
Our trip had 11 people and 3 river guides plus one driver who did not come on the river. The trip was $325 per person to kayak on The Rio Grande .
This was the most surprising for me. I always get hungry so I packed some tuna pouches, granola, and nuts. I only needed some of it during the initial drive. The rest of the time there was more food than I could eat.
Before dinner there was pepper jack cheese and a jalapeño cream cheese with crackers (appetizer). Dinner was filet mignon, green beans, mash potatoes, salad. All of it was freshly cooked on equipment they brought out with them and cooked at the camp site. If you tell them ahead if time, they can bring fish (tilapia) or something else if you are a vegetarian for example. Several bottles of Red and white (mondavi) wine were available. Dessert (yes dessert) was chocolate brownies with chocolate chunks (not made on the spot but I think they may have been home made too. It didn't taste like a supermarket brownie)
For lunch on the first day we had whole wheat bread, cold cuts (ham and turkey), lettuce, tomato, onions, delicious salsa (tasted home made), two kinds of pickles, sliced apples, oranges. Peanut butter and jelly was also available - I had a cold cut sandwich followed by a pb sandwich. There were also tostido chips which went well with the salsa.
A tasty breakfast was waiting when I awoke. Scrambled eggs, tortilla, sausage patties, chorizo, refried beans, all freshly made for us. Hot chocolate, tea, coffee, hot cider (all was instant I believe) and water were available.
Lunch (day 2)
On the second day, we had a lunch with sliced up chicken, tomatoes, onions, salsa, green wraps. Carrots, hummus, chips, sliced apples and oranges. Fruit punch and lemonade mix were always available at each stop.
We rented a sleeping bag and mat. The may was very stick- much thicker than the typical mat that I've see (maybe 1.5 inches thick). They provided tents and tarps. Everyone sets up their own tent. Due to falling into the freezing water, I was pretty cold all next except when I was around the fire. I realized when I was packing the tent that there are vents on the top that we left open, which I think would have made it a bit warmer inside. I had trouble getting warm in the tent and therefore had trouble sleeping.
They are excellent and the head guide has lots of experience and training (first aid, river guiding etc). They checked on us often after we tipped out boat and were prepared with lots of extra clothes. They prepared and cooked all the food, and tied down most of packs in the boat. In one case the walked the boats through a difficult pass because it wasn't worth the risk and there wasn't much sun in the morning.
The trip: We had to go to Temple Canyon because the water was too low in Santa Elena which is much closer. The van ride to the put in point was about 1.5 hours. On the way out it was 2.5 hours, about an hour of it on a really bumpy road in Big Bend National Park.
I deducted half a star (to 4.5/5) because:
1) the office should have been a little more proactive with the cold weather and given us a couple suggestions on how better to prepare. They could offer (for sale or rent) big rubber rain boots like the guides wore. There are a couple times when you need to put your feet in the water and it was really cold when we went. They only offer regular water shoes but you feet will be completely wet. Unless they dry completely by the morning (the sun was not directly over the camp when we got there and the fire didn't dry them) you will have wet cold shoes to put your feet in the next day. Of course its unlikely to be this cold- they said this was one of the coldest.
2) given the really cold weather, the office could have suggested to bring a blanket or perhaps offered a warmer sleeping bag.
3) I'm no expert in putting a tent together. It would have been helpful if the guides double checked it a little closer. It looked right but I didn't notice the two vents on each side of the wind shield (it goes over the tent). I think it would have been warmer in the tent had this been clothes. Anyway, they did offer clothes several times and give me warm sweats and sweater which was fantastic.
Overall this is a great crew and I would go out with them again. There's a lot of equipment to haul around and lots of things they prepare for you.
Check the weather, but since you have to book this ahead of time and you can't really cancel, you will have to make sure you have enough things to keep warm. And bring some small biking type of gloves as ski gloves may be uncomfortable or overkill for rowing.
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