After two years of waiting, and several months of preparation, Dan and I were finally getting back down to the lower Pecos River; our goal to paddle the entire 53-mile route from Pandale to Deadman’s Canyon and then be towed the last seven miles to Highway 90. To say the trip’s been on our minds since the 2014 flood trip is an understatement. I’ve described it to friends an incessant itch that we just couldn’t scratch. We wanted to return sooner but it took a while to rebuild our kayak fleet and buy all new camping equipment. We talked about going back last year, but work, family and a new house conspired to take 2015 from me, so we were forced to wait until now.
The plan was an eight-day paddle and like our ill-fate flood trip, there would be four of us. This time, though, Ryan and Scott, our companions from the flood trip, weren’t coming. Instead we were bringing two new members to the group. The first was Daniel Underbrink, an experienced outdoorsman and one of the founding members of Adventure on Outdoors (Adventure On Outdoors), an organization whose goal is to inspire people to get out and experience the outdoors by providing useful (and unbiased) information on back-country camping, hunting and kayak fishing adventures.
Besides having successfully kayaked the lower Pecos twice in the last two years, Underbrink is also an accomplished stand-up paddleboard (SUP) paddler having recently completed a 100-mile SUP trip down the Guadalupe River with a group of friends. Coincidentally, that trip also ended with a rain storm and subsequent flood, but the groups shrugged off the 15-foot rise on the river and finished the trip. Earlier in the year, he completed a solo SUP trip down the infamous Devils River, not far from the Pecos.
The other new member was Robert Field of YakfishTV (http://www.scout.com/outdoors/kayak-fishing). Shortly after our 2014 trip, Robert contacted me and asked if he could join us when (and if) we ever went back to the Pecos. At the time, he was a new paddler and I didn’t know him well; the lower Pecos forces a heavy reliance on your paddling companions, not the kind of river you take new kayakers to learn the ropes.
Since then, I’ve gotten to know Robert better and not only is he a good fisherman, it appears he’s also a quick study. Last year, he quit his day job as a CPA to become a full time kayak fishing video producer, launching YakfishTV in 2013, where he’s the talent as well as the producer, cameraman, writer, and whatever other job needs doing. Besides being a hard worker, his self-deprecating, average Joe persona works well, resulting in entertaining pieces that are also nicely produced.
He’s also spent a lot of time on the water since then, building experience and continually raising the bar on his fishing adventures. If we had any lingering doubts over Robert’s ability to keep up, they were erased by one particularly grueling canoe trip a few weeks before our return to the Pecos. Robert and three companions paddled two canoes down a hundred mile stretch of the Northern Forest Canoe Trailer in upstate New York. The trip included freezing temps, cold water rapids and energy sapping portages. In other words, the perfect warm up trip for the lower Pecos.
Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that of the four paddlers, I’d be the oldest. My three paddling companions—Dan (my son), Underbrink and Robert– were all in their 30’s and in pretty good shape, something not to be taken lightly on the Pecos. By comparison, I’m 55-years old and was therefore the group’s weakest link. But I had an ace in the hole; I knew exactly what the river would throw at us, both physically and mentally, and that’s a big advantage on the lower Pecos.
Like the last trip, one of our goals was to catch fish—preferably, lots of them. Between our previous two trips to the Pecos, I personally didn’t catch anything other than a couple of dink sandies under the Pecos High Bridge, and it drove me nuts that I paddled significant portions of the river, but never caught a quality fish.
Another goal, especially for Dan, was to make it back to our last campsite from the flood trip. Although I’d already returned to that campsite once before (shortly after the flood), Dan hadn’t been back since that stormy morning two years ago. Even more important than the campsite itself, was the stretch of river that lay beyond it, an eight mile stretch which we never got to paddle because of the flood. That was, after all, the real reason Dan and I had to go back to the Pecos—to finish the trip we started two years ago.
The river is arguably one of the most scenic in the southwest, offering a long list of features that beg to be photographed…from beautifully painted canyons, to gin clear water, from its rock garden rapids, to its abundant wildlife, including a herd of wild horses that called that stretch of river home.
We usually document our trips with Dan’s photos and my write ups afterwards, but this trip was a little different because we were collaborating with Robert to produce a video about our return to the Pecos. In order to do that, we carried lots of cameras. Between the four of us, we had three DSLR cameras, several GoPros and other assorted recording devices. Dan also brought along a drone, which would allow us to capture overhead video of the river and surrounding canyons, and if we were lucky maybe some of the wildlife.
The drone brought with it the burden of carrying it. The large waterproof hard case, big enough to hold the drone itself, a flight controller and six spare batteries. Despite its size, it fit nicely into the tank well of Dan’s kayak, and though it was a little top heavy, Dan found it manageable. Now all he had to do was not crash the drone into a canyon wall or fly it into the river.
To be continued…
Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish
Note: To read the other parts of this story, click here:
Return to the Pecos – 1. Decisions (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)