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.Read more
Today, I walked through a painting.
Matt Morris, a friend and architect in San Antonio, did a watercolor of the Rio Grande to help promote this project. The painting is based on a satellite image of the river valley between Rincon and Radium Springs.
In the watercolor you can see the bright green fields of alfalfa, corn and chiles, the yellow hay fields and the rows of pecans. Between them is the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande. Beyond the fields are all the subtle hues of the Chihuahuan Desert.
I saw that today from the ground. I made the mistake of walking too far on cut and blistered feet, but the scenery and schedule made me want to keep going and find out what was coming up. Then I ran out of water. Erich came by to check on me and give me water. He then took my pack and I stumbeld the last two miles into the campground via the railroad tracks. It was a 20-mile day that should have ended at 15.
The highlight was meeting Javier Ramirez and Geronimo Mendoza, who were weeding a field of chiles.
Ramirez, 73, was the senior of the two and appointed himself spokesman. He has worked chile fields for more than 30 years and was quick to show us what he could do with a machete. Basically, he could kill any weed he liked and then dash the steel blade into the ground with a flourish.
He explained the green chiles were for the local grocery stores, the yellow ones were for salsa and the red ones would be dried. Despite what the tourists in Santa Fe may say, the dried chiles are for eating, not decoration.
He and Ramirez would keep working a 30-acre field, for an owner they only know by his first name, until the first frost killed the plants. That could be as late as December.
“The Americans don’t like the hot stuff,” Ramirez said of the chiles. “But we like the ones that give flame.”
We are now a little more than 70 miles from the border with Mexico. As I left, Ramirez joked that I would have to watch out for the U.S. Border Protection agents.
It is not in Morris' painting, but along all the major north/south roads are border check points. The white trucks with the green stripe are everywhere.
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As they travel, Colin and Erich are taking water samples for the following periodic water quality tests. In partnership with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s Texas Stream Team Program at Texas State University, the results will be added to a public database it helps maintain for research and monitoring water quality.
While making his way to the Gulf of Mexico, Colin will be periodically activating a device that uses satellite technology to share his current location. Use this map to see where he traveled on this day.
|Time of Check-In (CST)
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.