Below: Matt Beauchamp, Rio Minas Viejas, photo by Adam Goshorn
From my house in Mentone, Alabama it is almost exactly a 27-hour drive to the take-out for the Cascadas Micos section of the Rio Valles in San Luis PotosiMexico. For the eighth time in the last nine years, friends trickled into my house the night before departure so we could wake up early and start the drive the following morning. In additional to myself, this year’s crew included friend and coworker Evan Alfano; another friend and repeat from last year’s crew, Matt Beauchamp; and my fiancé at the time (who is now my wife) Shannon MacMichael. This would be Evan’s first trip to Mexico, Shannon’s and Matt’s second, and my eighth.
Below: Packing the truck in Alabama, photos by Evan Alfano
The drive from Alabama to the Mexican border went as smooth as possible with us arriving in BrownsvilleTexas right on schedule at 3:00 AM. After a stop at the most evil of all big-box stores for a couple last minute items and a quick bite to eat we cruised through the paperwork at the border in record time. Leaving the border and heading onto the mostly deserted streets of MatamorosMexico, I was anxious to get through out of the city and out of the whole border zone as quickly as possible. I don’t remember what distracted me, but I momentary looked away from the road and looked back up in time to realize I had just run a stoplight… right in front of a parked police car, the only other vehicle on the street.
Below: Adam Goshorn, Micos put-in, photo by Evan Alfano
It wasn’t the first time I have been pulled over in Mexico, but it was the first time when I knew I had clearly done something wrong and it was 100% my fault… no denying it. Traffic stops in Mexico are supposed to result in the police taking your license and holding it until you go to the police station (usually the next day), pay your fine, and get your license back. From what I have been told, the official fines are fairly low for locals and often marked up for gringos, not to mention having to get a hotel for the night and loose a day of your trip to resolve the ticket. The reality for police in many locations seems to be that when they pull over a gringo, they know its payday and few tickets are actually issued.
Below: Traffic Jam, photo by Evan Alfano
Below: Ants at the Micos take-out, photo by Evan Alfano
The “fine” they ask for seems to always start at $300 USD, but comes down the longer you can draw out the process, claiming to not understand what they are asking for and insisting you do not have cash. In 2012 a traffic stop in Tampico for a completely invented traffic violation resulted in a pair of police asking us for $300, but eventually coming down to $70. This year we weren’t as successful in bringing down the price, and eventually forked over $150 to be on our way. It was a much pricier bribe than normal, but at least it was for an actual offence. Not to mention that we didn’t have to get a hotel, go to the police station, and most importantly to us… we didn’t loose a day of boating. Welcome to Mexico!
Below: Matt Beauchamp, Rio Minas Viejas put-in, photo by Evan Alfano
Below: Footbridge at the Rio Minas Viejas put-in, photo by Evan Alfano
We completed the rest of the drive without any other issues, arriving early afternoon at the Aldea Huasteca campground at the takeout for the Cascadas Micos section of the Rio Valles. After quickly setting up our tents, we locked our shuttle bike to a tree and drove up to the put-in, excited to shake off the 27-hour drive on the classic travertine drops of the Cascadas Micos. Despite being road weary, a great water level and the shear beauty of the place raised everyone’s spirits. After paddling back to camp, Matt headed off on the bike to retrieve the truck while the rest of us changed clothes and finished setting up camp. We finished of the day by heading back into Cd. Valles to get dinner at my favorite restaurant, Rincon Huesteca, then returning to camp and collapsing into our sleeping bags after being on the move for around 35 hours straight.
Below: Adam Goshorn, Rio Minas Viejas put-in, photo by Shannon MacMichael
The next day we decided to head to the Rio Minas Viejas, a tributary of the Rio Valles about 45 minutes north of our campsite at the Cascadas Micos. Joey Jarell, Polo Solis, and I ran the Rio Minas Viejas in November of 2007, thinking it might be a first descent (see video HERE). We found out later that a crew led by Spencer Lawley had run it back in 2001. However, as far as we know, our 2007 descent was still only the second ever descent and the first to be well documented. Fueled by the pictures and video from our 2007 descent, in the years since the run has become something of a classic for those lucky enough to be in the area during high water events. The Rio Minas Viejas is one of the most beautiful and unique rivers I’ve ever paddled anywhere, but it is almost always too low. Despite rarely having a good water level, the best drops on the run are quite channelized so if you can tolerate the wider, shallow sections of the run, it can still be worth it, even at a less than ideal level.
Below: Matt Beauchamp, Rio Minas Viejas, photo by Adam Goshorn
We cooked breakfast at our campsite and drove to the take-out to assess the water level. It looked low, as it always does, but at this point in the winter it was likely to only get lower every day so we decided that if we were going to run it on this trip, we should go ahead and scrape down before it got any lower. Difficulty wise, the Rio Minas Viejas is above Shannon’s comfort level, so she would be shuttling for Matt, Evan, and I, simplifying logistics for the day. We drove up to the put in, geared up, and spent a little time enjoying the scenery. The put in is one of the bluest of travertine pools I’ve ever seen and is at the base of a 150-foot waterfall, a magical setting indeed.
Below: Adam Goshorn on the “new” drop on the Minas Viejas, photo by Evan Alfano
Shannon filmed us running the first wide, scrapey ledge below the put in and then she headed back to the truck as we headed downstream. For a while the riverbed stayed fairly wide, forcing us to zigzag back and forth trying to pick the best of all the scrapey routes. Eventually, the river narrowed and we arrived at a few small ledges with better flow, followed by a larger horizon line. We hopped out to scout and to my surprise, the two-stage drop that previously signaled the beginning of the steep section was now a single drop followed by a tight slot through an old travertine dam. Apparently the travertine ledge that had previously formed the second tier had broken, transforming the two 8-foot drops into a single 16-foot drop… an improvement in by book!
Below: Evan Alfano entering Double Slide, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Matt Beauchamp finishing Double Slide, photo by Adam Goshorn
We made our way through the rest of the steep part of the first gorge with good flow, but before long we were back to scraping as the river widened when we exited the gorge. In the wider section we had to make a couple of portages around some logs placed by locals to cross the river and again at a fence, but soon the river narrowed and we entered the second and final gorge. Strangely enough, despite the fact that first gorge is all travertine, the second gorge is mostly limestone with only a few travertine features. As if the river is saving up its travertine magic, the final gorge ends with a great finale.
Below: Matt Beauchamp, Rio Minas Viejas Chunderslide, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Evan Alfano, Minas Viejas Chunderslide, photo by Adam Goshorn
The final drop of the Rio Minas Viejas is a bit deceiving when you first arrive at the top. What looks like a river wide travertine ledge is actually a six-foot tall concrete diversion dam that diverts part of the flow into an irrigation canal that exits the river on the right. However, the man made dam has been there so long it has become covered in travertine deposits making it almost appear the same as the many travertine ledges in the first gorge. Who knows what the entrance to the final drop would be like without the presence of the diversion dam, but with the dam, the entrance is unrunable. Luckily, it is possible to pass boats past the dam, slide back into the main flow, and run the final 30-foot slide, my favorite drop on the run.
Below: Matt Beauchamp on the last slide on the Rio Minas Viejas, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Evan Alfano on the last slide on the Rio Minas Viejas, photo by Adam Goshorn
The final slide on the Rio Minas Viejas can be a bit intimidating. It is tall, you have to slide into the flow right above the lip, and it has a tendency to make people corkscrew off a fin of travertine about two thirds of the way down the drop. However, on this day, everyone had good lines and stayed upright, landing at the bottom with big smiles and high fives all around. Even the scrapey paddle out couldn’t dampen our spirits and we arrived at the take-out to find Shannon dozing in the truck parked in the corner of a sugar cane field. We loaded up and headed back into the city of Valles for another awesome dinner before driving back to the Aldea Huesteca campground for the night.
Stay tuned for Part II, when we head to the Rio Frio and Rio Verde with some new friends who we quickly come to know as Team Previa.
Until Next Time…
Below: Matt Beauchamp and Adam Goshorn scouting Double Slide, photo by Evan Alfano
Below: Matt Beauchamp and Evan Alfano above the Chunderslide, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Adam Goshorn and Matt Beauchamp above the final slide, photo by Evan Alfano