New Mexico is a fickle place for a kayaker, but when the rivers are running it's a surprisingly good place to be a kayaker. One of its gems is the Rio Embudo, a steep creek with it's headwaters in the Truchas Mountains south of Taos. If there is one kayaker who embodies the Embudo, its Atom Crawford. Atom grew up along the banks of the Embudo. His parents were garlic farmers and his Dad is a renowned author.
Atom Crawford, circa 2001
I met Atom during my first year in college in Olympia, Washington. A few years older, and a much more accomplished boater, he took me under his wing and for two years we literally lived, breathed, and ate kayaking. Atom would tell me tales of the Embudo, and the river quickly achieved mythical status in my mind.
After junior year I spent the summer in New Mexico with Atom, living on the banks of the Embudo on a piece of land his parents owned. We guided rafts on the Rio Grande and kayaked as much as we could, although not on the Embudo, it had stopped running by the time school had finished. It was a beautiful summer, full of sunsets and thunderstorms, sleeping and living under tarps down by the river.
Atom Crawford and Jalynda McKay at our Camp in Dixon, NM
Guiding the Governor of NM, Gary Johnson (orange boat), Down the Rio Grande.
Where We Spent the Bulk of Our Summer, Upper Box of the Rio Grande
In August, after a freak thunderstorm, the Embudo came up to a barely runnable level. I didn't mind the rocks in order the finally run the river, but the it wasn't quite what I'd been hoping for.
Entrance to Cheesegrater, 2001
Kitchen and Wild Mushrooms Gathered after a Backpacking Trip in the Truchas.
It wasn't until 2008 that I finally had a chance to paddle the Embudo during the spring runoff. I wasn't disappointed. Atom had moved back to Dixon, and bought a nice piece of land along the river, hosting a downriver race when the conditions allowed. I've never won the race, but I'm proud to have competed twice. It is one of the most grueling races out there.
I caught the Embudo at its peak this spring, over two short days on a whirlwind trip from Denver. I'll let the photos do the talking for a bit.
Cloud Near Cerro, NM.
Will Rawlstron. Cheesegrater.
Rolf Kelly. MJ.
Some Lines Were Better Than Others
Brian Bank. MJ.
Oliver Deshler. MJ.
Its Hard to See On the Embudo
Rolf. Entrance to MJ.
The Embudo increases in difficulty throughout the run, culminating in the longest set of sustained rapids near the end, the "slots of fun."
Rolf in the Entrance to the Slots of Fun
Will and Rolf
Tom Janney Makes the Crucial Move over the Sticky Hole Above the Crux
Will Rawlstron Enters the Final Slot
Will. Slots of Fun.
Tom Janney in the Final Rapid, Taco Garden.
What You Do in NM After Kayaking
Field Ready For Green Chile Planting on Atom's Farm. Takeout for the Embudo is the Large Cottonwood Tree.
Lots of Paddling Relics Around the Farm
After kayaking a few of us joined Atom for a quick hike around in the hills behind his house. It was a beautiful spring evening in the desert.
Rio Embudo's Exit from the Lower Canyon
Dixon, New Mexico
Trucha's Mountains, Headwaters of the Embudo