Rollin' On The River
     by Christine Albert

For years, Christine Albert and Chris Gage hosted an annual music rafting trip through the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park between Texas and Mexico.  This is Christine's view of the yearly escape.

     The last thing we do before we leave on our annual river trip through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, is hand over our keys, wallets, watches, day timers, credit cards and cell phones. The hotel where we will stay when we return locks them away in a safe, and we begin the journey that will remind us that there is a deeply satisfying world where all of these things are irrelevant and impotent. There is absolutely nothing to buy with your credit card in the canyon, no digital signal can reach within those walls, and time is measured by the sun, moon, stars and rumbling in our stomachs. For me, the transformation I experience throughout the three days has as much to do with this timelessness and solitude as it does with the incredible beauty that surrounds us.

     Last year we floated the 21 miles down the Rio Grande on a raft, spending much of the time on our backs staring into the Texas sky while our guide did all the work.  This year the water was lower so Far Flung Adventures, the company that organizes these trips, put us all in canoes and turned us into river rats. By the end of the trip, Chris and I had figured out how to just barely maneuver our canoe around the bends and curves in the river and built up our paddling muscles enough to power our way through the still water. The trip was great either way. Having our own boat this year gave us a more hands on experience and the physical work out was invigorating, but rafting last year was restful and our guide, Cynta, shared her knowledge of the river and the geology of the area. Each year will be different, but you can count on one thing...the second weekend in October, we will gather friends and fans and take a trip down the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. We camp for two nights and are on the river for three days. The guides are all individuals, with stories to tell and jokes, insights and wisdom abound.

 

     The food is gourmet. You won't be eating the traditional hot dogs and baked beans you might expect around a campfire. Menus on this trip included steak and salmon one night and chicken and cream sauce over pasta and a bed of spinach the next. There is plenty of red wine and cake baked in a Dutch oven for dessert, with fresh coffee, pancakes and bacon in the morning. Far Flung provides the major camping gear you might need and they give you plenty of guidance about what else to pack.  Anything you might forget will magically appear from the duffel bag of one of the guides!

     It is almost impossible to describe the beauty of Santa Elena Canyon. As the days continue we travel deeper and deeper into the depths of this sanctuary, with the rock walls climbing to heights of 1500 feet. Blue heron are following the canoes, turtles are sunning themselves on rocks, cane waves along the shoreline, an occasional wild horse greets us as it takes a drink from the river.  At camp we usually take a much needed swim, then change into dry clothes and settle in to satisfy the most justified hunger we've known in awhile. After dinner Chris and I sing to the night and the moon and the Milky Way that arches above us.

     After too many late nights in smoky bars and too much worrying about the ins and outs of the business of music, it's easy for me to lose my connection with the voice I had as a child. After only one hour on the river it returns to me and I can't help but sing...for joy, for the moment and hopefully, forever.

Christine Albert,  October 19, 1998

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