Float, Fish, Climb
Got an itch to try kayaking, white water rafting, fly fishing or rock climbing but don't have the slightest idea how to get started? Well, your friendly neighborhood Alibi has done a good bit of the work for you. We decided to ask some experts at nearby outdooring stores the best way for novices to get started. Here's what they had to say.
New Wave Rafting
'Tis the season for whitewater rafting! The water is higher and faster than it's been in a long, long time. The two most popular New Mexico rafting trips are the Taos Box and Rio Grande Racecourse. Steve, owner of New Wave Rafting, says "anyone adventuresome and who has proper use of their body's faculty can do either of these trips." The Taos Box has class IV and V rapids, and is the more challenging and exciting of the two. The price of this trip is $88 on weekdays and $100 on the weekend. The Rio Grande Racecourse has class III and IV rapids, and more moderate waters. It costs $43 to $47 for a half-day trip and $84 for a full day.
The equipment needed to raft is: a raft (duh!), paddles, life jackets, wetsuits and rain gear. All of this is provided by New Wave Rafting and is included in the price of the trip. It's recommended that rafters bring sport sandals, a synthetic jacket, hat and sunglasses.
"Rafting is about as much fun as you can have in northern New Mexico on a hot summer day," Steve says, "and you don't have to be a tremendous athlete to do it. Take advantage of the great conditions this year. Don't let the grass grow under your toes."
Mountains and Rivers
One of the best ways to take advantage of this year's record water levels in New Mexico is to go kayaking. According to Scott, resident expert at Mountains and Rivers, there are two different kinds of kayaking. Whitewater kayaking uses boats less than six feet long on fast moving water, whereas tour kayaking uses 12- to 15-foot boats on calmer rivers and lakes.
To get started, you will need a boat, paddle and a life jacket. Count on having a helmet for whitewater. Mountains and Rivers only carries touring equipment but can special order whitewater gear. A touring kayak starts at $600 to buy, but can be rented at REI for $55 the first day and $20 each additional day, or $40 the first day and $10 each additional day for REI members. One of the only retailers in the state for whitewater gear is Taos Mountain Outfitters in Taos.
The Adobe Whitewater Club (www.adobeww.org) is a useful resource that offers informal classes at Los Altos pool where you can practice rolls and even cartwheels. The $15 annual membership fee is worth it just for the opportunity to meet fellow kayakers. Lessons are also available through Wolf Whitewater (www.wolfwhitewater.com, 505-262-1099) where a beginning kayaking class includes four 2.5-hour pool sessions and a full weekend on the Rio Grande at Pilar for $300. Another cool thing to check out is the demo Mountains and Rivers is sponsoring on May 28 at Cochiti Lake. It's a chance for the public to try tour boating for free. Contact Mountains and Rivers for more details.
Scott says the best places in New Mexico to tour are Heron Lake and El Vato Lake, which are both "no wake" lakes. For whitewater kayaking, he recommends the Racecourse and the State Park section between the Racecourse and Taos Box on the Rio Grande. Scott encourages novices to try kayaking. He enjoys the amount of creative thinking it takes due to the fact that the river is constantly changing. "Whitewater kayaking," he says, "is the most spontaneous involvement you can have in a natural medium."
Los Pinos Fly Shop
Although New Mexico is one of the driest states in the union, it's home to some world-class fly fishing. With the excellent river conditions this year, there's no better time to give it a go. Bob's Los Pinos Fly Shop offers an array of classes for all levels of experience. The Basic Fly Fishing School is $190, which will get you out on the river in no time. Also available are fly tying classes, fly rod building classes, casting schools and private lessons.
To get started, you need a rod, reel and line. This can be rented for $15 per day or purchased as a package for $199 for a decent set. In the spring, fall and winter, you will need waders and wading boots, which can be rented for $15 per day. Bob also recommends wearing a brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses. A fishing license is required and available through the Game and Fish Department for $23.50 annually, or call your local sporting goods shop for more information on where to purchase one in Albuquerque.
Bob's top choice for fly fishing in New Mexico is the Rio de Los Pinos, the namesake of his shop. It winds down from Colorado, crossing the north-central border of New Mexico before traveling back into Colorado. He also recommends the Rio Peñasco on Mulcock Ranch, near Mayhill and Roswell. Another excellent destination is the San Juan River near Navajo Dam in the Four Corners, famous for its enormous trout.
Bob appreciates fly fishing because it's a quiet, relaxing activity that relieves stress. He also enjoys the challenge of taking fish on artificial flies. "It used to be a gentleman's sport, only for the rich," says Bob, "but now that affordable equipment is available, the average, everyday Joe can enjoy fly fishing, too."
Stone Age Climbing Gym
One classic way for an adrenaline junky to get a fix is rock climbing. The Stone Age Climbing Gym is a great place to grab hold. They have some extreme climbing walls up to 25 feet high and 5.13+ difficulty rating. They also have several bouldering caves.
Joe, personal trainer at Stone Age, says his gym offers climbing instruction for all experience levels. The "Intro to Gym Climbing" class covers safe climbing practices, belay technique, top roping, rope tying and proper use of a climbing harness. This prerequisite for more advanced courses is available on a walk-in basis and usually has a student-to-teacher ratio of 3 to 1. The cost of the class is $39.95.
Another class to check out is "Beyond the Basics" that gets you into outdoor rock climbing on a local crag. Here you will learn knots, anchor concepts, fundamental gear placement, rappelling and prusiking over the course of two days at the price of $99.95. Personal training is also available.
A day pass to Stone Age will cost you $12.50, unless you come before 3 p.m. Monday to Friday when it only costs $10. A monthly pass runs $55, but if you sign a six-month agreement, it is only $42.50 per month.
So, what kind of gear do you need to get into climbing? A harness, climbing shoes, belay device, rope, locking carabineers, chalk bag and chalk are mandatory. Stone Age provides all in the price of a pass, except for the harness and shoes. These can be rented for $7 per day. If you are interested in purchasing an entry-level package, REI offers a good one for $89.95, which includes: harness, belay device, locking carabineers, chalk bag and chalk. Climbing shoes can be purchased separately for $60 to $130.
Joe recommends some cool places to climb outside of the gym. He says in Datil there are "fun crags, good access, nice camping, and it's especially great when not crowded." He also enjoys climbing Dungeon near Los Alamos, Whiterocks, El Rito near Española, Palomas Peak in the Sandias and around the Socorro Area.
Joe encourages people to get into climbing and advocates the benefits of strength, coordination and balance development. For Joe, the challenge of climbing is a metaphor for life on many levels. He finds that, for most, climbing is instinctual and feels that people have a natural ability left over from our hunter-gatherer days when survival required scaling rocks and mountains to find food.