Slow Boat With China

How does this sound? A three-day float down the Rio Grande through a majestic Big Bend river canyon with periodic stops for gourmet camp cuisine: eggs Benedict in the morning; meats, cheeses, and pâtés on the riverbank at lunch; and in the evening, a hearty feast, courtesy of a professional chef, on china-and-linen-topped portable tables. And you don’t have to work for any of it. This tasty scenario is the result of a 17-year partnership between West Texas river outfitter Far Flung Adventures and San Antonio chef François Maeder. “We call it the ‘float and bloat trip,'” says Valynda Henington, who, with her husband, Greg, owns the 27-year-old rafting company. The leisurely pace allows for plenty of time over twenty-odd miles to take in the scenery, birdwatch, swim, and hike, as well as eat. And though hot dogs would be haute cuisine after a day on the water, how about mushroom-stuffed quail, Gulf shrimp en brochette, and rack of lamb? That’s just some of the culinary cargo (along with plenty of wine) hauled in by Maeder, owner of Crumpets restaurant. With more than 150 of these trips under his belt, he has become an expert in the art of outback improv (“We forgot the mushrooms!”). So pack your sleeping bag and your appetite. Your hosts will provide (almost) everything else. (Fall trips scheduled for October 1­3 and 22­24 and November 12­14; $700 per person; call 800-359-4138 or go to