Eclipse Adventure by Ross Bernards

Last fall my wife Lauren, our roommate Peter, and myself ventured to Hanksville, Utah to witness the annular solar eclipse so I could photograph the cosmic wonder. It was a truly magical experience, even though I didn’t capture it the way I had hoped. I knew I had to try again with the total eclipse in Texas this spring, especially since the next total eclipse wouldn’t happen for another 20 years in the USA! Besides, we are always looking for an excuse for an adventurous road-trip.  


Driving down to Texas also gave us an additional opportunity to get some river time in our Nirvanas in places we weren’t familiar with. We would be going through New Mexico enroute to the eclipse path in South Central Texas. There were two rivers we wanted to paddle before the moon passed in front of the sun: a section of the Rio Grande in New Mexico and the blue green waters of the Devils River in Texas. 


We arrived at the cliffs above the Rio Grande just before sunset on the first night of our trip. We had a full ahead of us, 3 miles of hiking and 7 miles of paddling, so we hit the hay early. The next day, we woke up to 30-degree temps which caused a slower morning as we wanted the sun to get a little higher before getting on the river.  Once we had our coffee and the temps rose with the sun, we loaded our boats into our packs and started the hike down to the river.  


Peter and I inflated the rafts and waved goodbye to Lauren who would meet us 5 miles down the river at the John Dunn Bridge, then we would all 3 float the last 2 miles down to Manby Hot Springs. The flow in the river was low but quick. We had to be alert to avoid the rocks that lurked just below the surface and in the zig-zagging rapids. The nice thing about our Nirvana’s is how tough they are, when we would go over one of the rocks and get a good booty bump from below we knew our boats were still fine.  


Once we met up with Lauren, the three of us paddled the last 2 miles down to the hot springs. Who doesn’t love a float that ends at one of nature’s hot tubs! We had the place to ourselves for an hour or two while we sat, soaked, laughed, and enjoyed the beautiful pools inside the canyon along the Rio Grande. As the sun sank behind the canyon walls, we started the 2-mile hike back to the car, arriving back in the dark. Adventure One in the books.  


After a couple days of driving and hiding from 50 MPH winds we made it to the Devils River in Texas where the pristine blue green waters cut through the white limestone desert landscape. With the sun overhead, the waters’ blue green hues became even more vibrant than we could have imagined. We ended up spending about 6 hours on this short stretch of river. The water was moving at a snail’s pace which made paddling back and forth, exploring every nook and cranny a breeze. 

We swam around to beat the heat, did our best lizard impersonations laying out on the rocks to warm up after a dip in the water, and just soaked up every minute in this little desert oasis. As we sat in our boats on the river and the sun started to set, the animals which had been quiet all day started singing their evening songs. It was a beautiful symphony of frogs, birds, and bugs all sending off another wonderful day. I couldn’t help but smile as our excuse of adventure was definitely paying off.    


The forecast the morning of the eclipse was 50/50 on whether or not clouds would obscure it. We didn’t let that deter us and knew all we could do was put ourselves in its path and hope for the best. In the end, at the last second, a cloud bank rolled in and covered the eclipse right at the point of totality. Sure, it was disappointing but it won’t dampen our memories of the trip. The eclipse was an excuse to explore. Paddling down rivers that hadn’t even been on our radar before. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the last few years: take any excuse you can to go travel and adventure. You have no idea where the journey will lead. 



April 09, 2024 — Tristan Burnham