Disappearing Rio Grande

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Why Follow the Rio Grande

by Colin McDonald | Feb. 11, 2015

The Rio Grande is disappearing. Demand for water is growing as snow packs shrink, rain patterns shift and average temperatures rise faster than they ever have in the past 11,000 years.

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The Writing on the Bow, Day 40

Some of the artwork and quotes by Jenna, Colin’s fiance. Photo by: Erich Schlegel

On the first training run I took in preparation for this expedition, I went out on the flood-swollen Boulder Creek in Boulder, Colorado. I got flipped under a pedestrian bridge and lost a new paddle. I spent the afternoon looking for the kayak and then pulling it out of a logjam.

Upon returning home, I asked my fiancée, Jenna, if she would write my name and phone number on the remaining gear.  She has much better penmanship than I do.

Once she had the permanent marker in her hand, she saw the open canvas of the kayak’s deck. She asked if she could add a few more notes to the boat. She wanted a craft project and I clearly needed some safety reminders.

I saw the look in her eye and knew there was no stopping her. I got out of the way.

I’ve been happily reading the results ever since.  There are reminders to reapply sunscreen and respect the elements, all 26 postures for a Bikram Yoga session, the date of every full moon from June to January, a big peace symbol and five inspirational quotes.  Biggest of all is a note across the bow: “Life is a beautiful adventure.”

Erich and I are headed to Austin to take a break from the river.  He and I both need some rest and Jenna and I have a wedding to plan.

There is talk of hand writing the invitations.

Jenna’s selected quotes:

“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

― Nelson Mandela

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

― Robin Williams

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”

― A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

― Buddha

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou


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To report on and understand the haphazard irrigation system the Rio Grande has become and the changes it is going through, Colin decided the best approach would be to travel the length of the Rio Grande by foot and small boat.

He knew it would give him a unique perspective on a river that few understand. It did require many long days of moving slowly and camping on muddy riverbanks, but Colin likes that sort of thing.

The benefit was it provided access to people who wanted to share their stories and experiences with the Rio Grande. Via Facebook and chance encounters, Colin made instant friends who opened their homes. They provided help from loaning their trucks to their cell phone contact lists to help tell the story of the Rio Grande.

The trip would not have been possible without their help, along with the dedicated assistance of David Lozano, Jason Jones and Daniel Dibona, who drove thousands of miles to get people and boats in place.


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