Return to the Pecos – 1. Decisions

Gartman Pecos River Flood Pic 9

Photo by Scott Gartman

The alarm goes off at 6:00 AM, but I’m already awake, and I’m pretty sure my wife Luisa is too. I hit the snooze button, and it’s pouring rain outside; it has been for the last several hours, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s an occasional roll of thunder, accompanied by flashes of lightning. I can’t believe our luck, or karma, or whatever it is. The rain is so heavy the walls in my bedroom are vibrating, and I worry it’s going to wake Luisa (even though deep down, I know she’s already awake, and I’m pretty sure she’s thinking about the rain and my trip).

Of all the days for this storm to hit, why did it have to be today, on the morning of our return to the Pecos River? I lay there for a minute, tired from tossing and turning all night. When I finally fell asleep, it was to the sound of the rain and to thoughts of the river.

Over the proceeding couple of days, the trip’s weather forecast got progressively worse. We now have 30 percent chance of thunderstorms pretty much every one of the upcoming eight days, except for Thursday of course, which promises 80 percent chance of thunderstorms. I keep going back to the fact that I can always cancel the trip, or at least postpone it. Dan and I spoke about that a couple of times, and with each succeeding day I felt the burden of the decision getting heavier. I now feel the pressure building in the back of my neck even as I lie there thinking about it. What should I do?

The alarm goes off again, and I quickly hit the snooze button once more. Robert will be here shortly, and it suddenly occurs to me that we’ll be loading the ‘yaks and equipment onto Robert’s trailer in a pouring rain.  Insult to injury. Mother Nature at her worst, as if daring us to go to the river. She’s already run us off the Pecos once (and taken our kayaks and gear for good measure). Now she’s putting on a show, messing with our heads, or at least mine. Maybe she’s trying to warn us.

Thunder explodes again and it startles me. As the loud growl recedes, it’s punctuated by the beat of heavy rain, and Luisa suddenly speaks. Through the sound of rain I make out something about me being stupid if we actually go to the river in this weather. She tells me again that we should cancel the trip. I don’t respond to her because I don’t have a good answer. Instead, I lay there in the darkness and curse at the rain under my breath. Again I start questioning myself, wondering if I am making the right decision. I finally mumble something to Luisa about this being a north Texas storm and that the river is probably sitting under blue skies. I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince her or me.

The truth is I’m not sure what to do. This trip has been in the making for a long time, and from the beginning I was confident we could do it safely, as long as the weather cooperated. So of course, that meant we got thunderstorms. If it was just Dan and I, the decision to postpone a week would be an easy one, but the other two paddlers complicate things. One paddler has non-refundable tickets to fly to California the following week, and the other paddler just started a new job. We spent a lot of time and energy finding these two guys and preparing for this trip. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them so close to the trip.

I am also worried that one of the two paddlers will attempt to do the river alone should we cancel. This weighs heavily on my mind. If the weather pans out as predicted, I don’t want to be responsible for him being alone on the river. If the bad weather doesn’t materialize, then he’ll likely have a great trip, and I would feel even worse, a bad case of what Robert Field calls FOMO, fear of missing out.

The rain continues with no sign of letting up. I look at the alarm clock and know that Robert will be arriving soon. I sit up in bed and rub the back of my neck, sore from the restless night. I hope I am making the right decision. I feel like I am, but there is a nagging doubt that has set up camp in my head, trying to convince me to cancel the trip. It’ll be fine, I tell myself; and after all, what could the river  throw at us that Dan and I haven’t already seen?

The truth is that pop-up storms are pretty common on the Pecos this time of year, and they rarely make the river rise. I’ve also spoken to Emilio recently, our shuttle driver, and he’s assured me the weather on the Pecos looks worse than it is, and that even with as much rain as they’ve had this year, the river has yet to rise. That will have to be good enough.

The alarm goes off again, only this time I shut it off and get out of bed with a hundred thoughts racing through my mind. I start getting dressed as the rain pours and again it occurs to me that it’s going to be a wet morning. I head to the kitchen to make some badly needed coffee and start thinking about the best way to load the boats for the long drive south.

To be continued…

Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish

Note: To read the next five parts of this story, click here:

Return to the Pecos – 2. The Crew (CLICK HERE)

Return to the Pecos – 3. Onto the River (CLICK HERE)

Return to the Pecos – 4. Water (CLICK HERE)

Return to the Pecos – 5. The Storm (CLICK HERE)

Return to the Pecos – 6. The Reckoning (CLICK HERE)

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