Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Rio Chama Wild & Scenic River - October 2018

October 5th and 6th, 2018

The weather had finally cooled enough that I wanted to get out for a short camping trip. I thought about places to visit in northern New Mexico and decided I'd try Rio Chama. I'd briefly visited the area in August 2013, but hadn't camped as it was too hot for comfortable camping and storms were moving into the area.

Remember to click on any photo for a larger version.

The weather was ideal on this October day. I called the District Ranger Station in Coyote to confirm the road up along the river and the campgrounds were open (campground open mid-April through late October). It was a lovely drive up through Santa Fe, Española, and Abiquiu via US-84. About 8 miles past the turn-off to Abiquiu Reservoir is Forest Road 151 on the west side of the highway which, after a few well graded miles, comes upon the river.

Rio Chama Wild & Scenic River

The Rio Chama is a very popular river for rafting. There are several landings for rafts to put in or take out. Beside the one no-fee campground, there is a designated dispersed camping area at the southern reach of the river just past the Big Eddy Takeout. A few isolated dispersed sites may be found along the road, but many of the side roads are designated as day use only.

Terrain as one drives in on FR-151

Trail 813 of the Continental Divide Trail cuts though the canyon. At the end of FR-151 is the Monastery of Christ in the Desert that welcomes visitors. I didn't visit them this trip. The monks operate an on-site brewery but it is not open to visitors (Yelp reports their Tap Room in downtown Albuquerque has closed.)

I've been thinking of ways to better convey to my readers the expanse and beauty of many of the areas I visit. I'd tried taking short videos on previous trips and they were much too shaky hand-held and I never had the patience to set up a tripod. I bought an Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal designed to hold phone cameras steady. It worked well in my backyard and thought to use this trip to try it out in the field.

I drove up the river road stopping to take videos using my iPhone and the gimbal stabilizer. Though simple and effective as a stabilizer, the gimbal isn't magic and, when I looked at the videos once home, I was disappointed in the results. For some reason I felt the natural motion in the shots was not enough and insisted on wide, sweeping pans. The camera was steady, but the erratic rate of panning pretty much ruined the scenes. Not all was lost, however, as I was able to take a couple screen captures to generate the two photos below.

Rio Chama along the southern reach of FR-151

View of the river downstream from the same point as the photo above

I found a great campsite at the Rio Chama Campground right next to the river. There were a number of other campers this evening, but the sites are well distributed away from each other. I spoke briefly with two ladies in a pop-up camper and enjoyed attempting a conversation with a young couple from France who were in the next site - their English, though rudimentary, was much better than my French.

Snug in my campsite. River is just through the trees

View of the Rio Chama from my campsite

October 6th

The next morning I drove down river stopping to check out a couple of the day-use areas and generally admire the beautiful New Mexico canyon.

Northeast side of the canyon

Rio Chama looking northwesterly

I also took more video with my phone, but I achieved better results using my Mavic 2 Pro, than the handheld stabilizer, perhaps as I'd practiced more with the UAV. I was able to create a video that I hope will give you an idea of the beauty of the canyon and river. And, yes, my video editing skills need development, too. I recommend watching on YouTube in full-screen.

Before leaving the river area I did drive through the designated dispersed camping area. The road was not in very good condition, but there were a few riverside campsites that were quite scenic.

View to the east as I approach US-84

Echo Amphitheater Picnic Area & Campground

Once back on US-84 I turned left as I knew Echo Amphitheater was just a mile or so away. When I was a kid we used to stop and picnic there when driving north to camp. The site is administered by Carson National Forest. There is a day-use fee and also a nice, but small, pay campground that is open year round. The so-called amphitheater is a hemispherical formation in a similar type of sandstone as is found in Utah arches.

I took some aerial video and the result is not too bad. It does a fair job of showing the immediate area. I recommend watching on YouTube in full-screen.

From there I headed home, stopping for lunch in Española. It was a very short trip, but enjoyable. I got to practice with my new video tools and hopefully I can learn from the experience so I will be able to better illustrate my future travels.

Thanks for stopping by.