Pecos River Journal – The Search

LSC Pecos River The Search 7If you subscribe to the fact that there are five stages of grief people go through– denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance—then by the time Dan and I went back down to the Pecos River in the last week of August, I guess you could say I was still in denial. It’d been almost two full months since a flood took our kayaks and equipment, and with so much time having passed, you would think that I’d have been over it and well on my way to buying a replacement kayak.

Truth be told, though, I had a hard time doing that. First of all, I didn’t have an extra grand lying around needing to be spent; and I was actually in the hole for more than just my kayak. Second, in the deep recesses of my mind, I was still clinging to the hope—slim though it might have been—that the boats would be found and returned to us. And as if to reaffirm my refusal to let go, fifty days after the flood, two bass fishermen found and returned the Pelican case containing Dan’s cameras. They’d been fishing, coincidentally, about fifty miles downriver from our last campsite, on Lake Amistad, when they found the cameras. Never say never.

Even before Dan’s cameras were found, the thought of going back to the river was always on our minds and the more time that passed, the more it got under our skin, like an incessant itch that could only be scratched by getting back down to the Pecos. We got it into our heads that the kayaks might still be down there, specifically in an 8-mile stretch of the river between Lewis Canyon (just below our last campsite) and the Pecos weir. This wasn’t just wishful thinking. I spoke to the last person who actually saw our kayaks, a man from Ozona who was with a group of campers about a mile downriver from us that morning. He told me that he’d seen the kayaks floating past their flooded campsite, the three of them, still tethered at the bow (just as I ‘d tied them), spinning their way down the raging river. Perhaps the conjoined kayaks got snagged in one of the thousands of trees lining that section of river.

Gartman Pic 6While down there, we could also search Lake Amistad where presumably our kayaks and equipment might also be found. This, of course, would mean the kayaks didn’t get snagged in the trees after all, and that they somehow managed to make their way past several bends in the river, some of them guarded by boulders the size of small apartment buildings, before finding their way to the 60,000 acre impoundment. Was finding our kayaks and equipment a long shot? Yes. Would going back down for one last search be a tough slog? Maybe. But like I said, I was in denial.

The plan was for Dan and I to go back down to the Pecos to look for our lost kayaks, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the search. First, we needed to paddle the stretch of river where we suspected our kayaks to be, and since we no longer had kayaks, we’d be forced to paddle our canoe. The problem was that neither Dan nor I had ever tandem paddled a canoe, much less paddle one down a remote stretch of river, filled with canoe killing rapids. During the ill-fated trip, we’d just learned how to negotiate rapids in our sit-on-top kayaks, but this time we’d be running them in the canoe, and that weighed on my mind. A few weeks before the return, Dan and I spent a morning paddling the old, faded Coleman down a 7-mile stretch of the Brazos and we did develop some semblance of a paddling rhythm, and though it wasn’t much practice, it would have to do.

Pecos River Journal - The Search - RiverThe other, more worrisome, problem was access to the river. We needed to be able to put in somewhere near Lewis Canyon, below our last campsite, and much more importantly, we needed a way to get off the river about eight miles below that, near the Pecos weir, otherwise we’d be forced to paddle twenty miles to the next public take-out at the Hwy 90 boat ramp—this was not an option for us, having lost all our camping gear in the flood and lacking the necessities for an overnight trip on a remote river. If we expected to get off the river at the weir, we needed to find the ranch owner of the land near the weir and secure their permission to access the planned put-in and the take-out locations.

The remaining problems were more personal in nature, like having to burn more vacation time and spend hundreds of dollars for gas, food and lodging –money I should probably be using to replace my lost equipment.

Then of course, there was my wife, who was tired of our river adventure, and a probably little scared of the Pecos. If we went back down for a search, she let it be known, it would be against her wishes.

In the end, I ignored our concerns and decided to go…and since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Dan decided to come along.

To be continued…

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

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