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Adventure Magazine

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Red Rock West
The Plan: Raft New Mexico's Rio Chama, then scale Pedernal peak
The Payoff: Paintings come to life—with you in the landscape

Photo: New Mexican landscape
Painted Desert: O'Keeffe found her muse in wild New Mexico

One of New Mexico's best rafting trips—the three-day journey down the Rio Chama—begins atop a high plateau, in dense forest. The Chama is smooth but swift, and as you're swept downstream, the scenery begins to change. High pines give way to low sage. Mountain slopes yield to sandstone canyons. The rock is multicolored—yellow and red, purple and grey. Farther downstream, the country opens up to low, elephant-back hills, and the river spills between them in several Class II and III rapids. The setting is unmistakable—you're floating through the landscape of Georgia O'Keeffe.

Just east of the Chama, 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Santa Fe, stands Ghost Ranch, where O'Keeffe lived in an adobe house from the mid-1930s until her death in 1986. Out her window was the inspiration for some of her career-defining works: "Cliffs Beyond Abiquiu," "Cedar Tree With Lavender Hills," and others. In the distance is a sloping, flat-topped summit called Pedernal. O'Keeffe said that God told her if she painted it frequently enough, he would make the mountain hers. For experienced scramblers, the four-mile (6.4-kilometer) unmaintained route to the top is fairly easy to follow.

Contact: Far Flung Adventures runs the Rio Chama ($450 for the three-day trip; 800 359 2627; www.farflung.com).

For 12 legendary adventures you can do right now, pick up the April issue.

From the print edition, April 2004

The American Icons
- Floating Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Rock West
The Indie Traveler's Handbook

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April 2004

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