This was our 4th trip down the Pecos for some of us, while 2 of the crew were rookies this time around. Glenn got to bring his son and my canoe partner got to bring his brother (in the kayak). All in all it was a good trip, but tough. The water levels were really up due to recent rain and we started out just after a flood in the area. Normal riffles were turned into class 1 & 2 rapids, and the class 1-4 rapids were all turned up a notch or two as well.
One such rapid just below Shackleford Canyon tumped the most experienced crew, myself and my partner Scott, who have numerous Brazos trips under our belt and 3 trips to either the Pecos or Rio (as a team). It was at this time I took a rock to the shin and opened a wound down to the bone. It took about 6 hours for us to get the bleeding stopped (wasn't a lot of blood, just steady) and with another night's camp and still 20 miles to go, there wasn't much choice but to go on. Needless to say, I was MORE than tentative on all the following rapids.....and really ticked off at myself.
Fishing was good, and the weather was mostly ok, although we did have one cool day with fog until around 2pm.
This was our first trip to visit the Lewis Canyon Petroglyphs. Why? Although we knew they were in the area, we never figured that they were just at the top of the hill. This time we found them.
Participants included myself, Jerry, Scott, Glenn, Jake, and Mark.
Before you go on, you must understand, that on this trip we stay sober and safe during the day. At night though, we do tend to let off a little steam and have a few drinks.....after all, we are on vacation.
Day 1, Fri, Mar 12:
Picked up Scott and his brother Mark from Burleson to head to Odessa to spend the night. Nothing special other than there was a light rain all the way to Odessa. We hit town around 7pm and helped Glenn and his son Jake fix the canoe trailer lights. Spent the evening finalizing supplies.
Day 2, Sat, Mar13:
Got up early, loaded the pickup and headed to the ice store for Glenn's "experiment". The experiment was an arctic cold 48qt cooler that was filled 3/4 of the way full of water, then frozen at the water store. This produced 1 large cube of ice to take down the river. We put a couple of pounds of dry ice on top, closed the lid and sealed it with duct tape. The purpose of this (for those that don't know) is so that after several days on the river you can open the ice chest and have more than enough to keep your beer cool for well over a week, if necessary.
We headed out of town around 10:30 to Iraan where our annual stop at the BBQ place was soon to be had. This is a great BBQ place for those that ever get close. We also stopped by the famous Alley Oop Museum. 'nuff said.
We continued on to Pandale to check the water levels. We had heard about the flooding in the area and were anxious to see for ourselves. From the bridge in Pandale things looked pretty normal.
We continued on to our final destination of the day, the lovely Comstock Inn. The innkeeper, an elderly woman from California, has been running this place for years. Her eccentricity and the lack of accommodations, by not only today's standards, but that of years' ago as well, make this a truly unique and enjoyable place to stay. After check-in, which seemed to take forever and a whirlwind of conversation that ended up in her calling Scott and I "the girls", we headed to the best place to eat within 50 miles, Emilio's. If you ever get in the area, his wife, and his mother's recipe's for Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food are out of this world. This is truly a 'hole in the wall', but again, the food is awesome.
After dinner we returned to the Comstock Inn to sit around and discuss the next morning's events and have a couple of beers. Well, most of us had a couple.....as Scott was last seen to be puking before the night was over. At that moment I knew the trip was on! since Scott is a regular puker on such events.
Day 3 Sun, Mar14:
1st day on the water was met with warm weather and initially overcast skies that receded throughout the day. We were shuttled by Emilio Hinojosa Jr. We started our day with the traditional Hot Damn dixie cup salute. Glenn and Jake (Boat B) had a little trouble early on getting their teamwork down and getting the youngster in the canoe mode (his first trip). After a few small rapids and taking some water on, they gradually found their stroke for the day. Our (Scott and I) surprise for the trip, a couple of water cannons were soon to be found stolen....by Jake. But, before he could get us, their canoe swamped and they realized what great bilge pumps these made. Once the working function of the cannons was found out, all hilarity was gone.
We made camp around 4pm at Ledge Camp, got our gear out, cooked some fajitas and rice, and then began passing out the ever-cherries and margaritas. Or maybe that's the wrong order...we made camp, THEN passed out the ever-cherries and margaritas, then began getting our gear out and cooked. Too many cherries led to a headlamp being shined in other's faces every few seconds....I'm sure it wasn't me...hah!
Day 4, Mon, Mar15:
2nd day on water was also met with warm weather. After eating some spicy breakfast tacos made of many secret ingredients we embarked upon the day. Several small rapids awaited us, but most were navigable. It was on this day that the increased water flow (over 300cfs) was more noticeable. Many of the riffles were high rolling waves...fun, but scary. Boat B still struggled somewhat, but we could see improvements each day each day on the water. (I don't mention the kayak much since Mark made all rapids and chutes look like the lazy river at Wet-N-Wild).
That night we slept at a camp we had not slept before. Mark cooked some beef stew that turned out to be pretty good and we opened up the pre-mixed Pina Colada's. If you've never had these on the river, they are awesome. Since most of our daytime meals consist of nuts and jerky, the sweetness is a reward at the end of a hard day. We topped these off with small shots of Everclear from the cherries. Bad mistake..at least for me.(see next day).
After about 2 hours of sleep, a strong storm blew in. Glenn's air mattress didn't make it, as it slid into a cactus from the water flow through our campsite. After the storm we all got up, re-stoked the fire, and attempted to dry off a few things.
Day 5, Tue, Mar16:
3rd on the water started out cold and overcast. With much of our gear (that was out) wet, we started the day off by drying things by the fire. Glenn made some b-fast burritos that we all ate 1 and only 1. Why? Son, Jake, knocked the pan off the stove, onto the ground, and into the ground water that was standing in the cracks of the limestone. But, luckily we had had enough at that point, and I, myself was not feeling too hungry anyway. After a couple of hours, my Ever-cherries & Pina Colada's caught up with me and I purged into the river. This is a remarkable event since I do not drink much when I drink, and I believe the last time I got sick was about 5 years ago in Cancun (another story).
The day was a blur for me, except that I was cold for much of it. We started catching bass just before Harkell Canyon and by the time we left there, we had a really good stringer to carry until dinner the following night. That night we camped just downriver of Harkell Canyon and just upriver of the 1st bend to the left (on the right). Glenn brought some homemade tamales that really hit the spot. Due to my aforementioned illness, I hit the bed at dark and attempted sleep. That's when Jake decided it was time to be funny and keep coming in the tent. Due to the ribbing and South Park quotes I had been throwing at him, it was his turn to return the favor. As much as I needed the sleep, I couldn't help but laugh at the never ending barrage of South Park-isms.
Day 6, Wed, Mar17:
4th day on the water started out a little dreary, but quickly burned off. Day 4 on the water for us is what I call Rodeo Day since there is a stretch of what seems like one rapid after another. This is also the day we pass Lewis Canyon Rapid and Waterfall Rapid. With the water as high as it was, I was NOT looking forward to these at all. We shot the rapids and Boat B continued to get better with each one.
We visited the Petroglyphs on top of Lewis Canyon....pretty awesome. Afterward we headed to the rapid. We humped our canoes as far right as possible until we were looking at a 30 foot straight away to the end of the falls. Anyone that has ever seen this (especially at high water) can attest that it looks pretty formidable, but at least the water flow is straight. Scott and I decided we had a better chance jumping in the canoe and going for it than to attempt to walk down through the flutes (the flutes are deep). So we hopped in, went, and kicked butt!. We waited at the end for the others. Mark took his kayak with relative ease. Boat B didn't have such luck; they hit something near the bottom that turned their descent from straight to cockeyed. When they hit the bottom of the falls, they tumped. No injuries, but took a lot of water on. Mark's kayak proved to be very useful here since he could quickly gather up the 3-4 things that weren't tied down.
As we awaited the bailing of boat B, we told Mark to go toward the rapid and do a spin. Right when he started, his brother, Scott made a 'tump' comment that proved to be true. Sure enough, Mark went over. Nothing lost but his hat. We laughed.
We continued on and did OUR tump on a chute below Shackleford rapids. (see summary above). We made it to Painted Canyon at nightfall. Luckily with the water up, getting our canoes on top of the shelf was fairly easy..even with the dripping blood.
That night we cooked our fish, fries, and hushpuppies. Mark made some Tang and Rum151 - dubbed "Instant Astronaut". It was much better than it sounded and hit the spot for me.
I didn't' sleep that night for two reasons 1) my leg - every time I turned over it ached, and 2) I kept remembering an article I read that said under high water conditions, portaging on the right (where we were) wasn't possible. Around 5am I told Scott about this, which, in turn, kept him up the remainder of the night as well. Around 6am Scott got up and checked it out. Turns out the article was dead wrong....in fact under high water conditions such as this, the portage was much better.
Day 7, Thu, Mar18:
5th day (and last) on the water - Woke up, cooked eggs, bacon and fried biscuits. We began our portage of our gear as soon as possible and within a couple of hours of waking we were on the water. Before we put in, Mark had the idea for all of us to put our names and the date on a piece of paper, place it inside a bottle, and bury it in Painted Canyon for later extraction.
Scott and I were tentative for most of the day and lined our canoes through some areas we might normally run....funny how a spill and injury will do that sort of thing. I was pretty stiff, but overall, I could move my leg and put weight on it without too much difficulty. The Weir dam was overflowing all across the width of the river, which was the first time I had seen such. We walked our canoes over river left and proceeded on.
When we reached the lake there were several boats and campers. We attempted to negotiate a tow into the boat ramp, but to no avail. Most of the boaters were a__holes. In fact, 3 of them, after declining our $$ offer to tow, took off in their boats and nearly swamped us. Luckily for them we didn't see them again or they might have been fending off a few bullets.
Work was being done on the RR bridge and hot rivets (or something) were falling into the water below. Needless to say we steered clear of that. Our planned campsite on river left was under water, so we stopped 1/4 mile past the bridge on the right and surveyed our situation. With no alternatives for camping between us and the ramp and only 3.5 miles to go we agreed to push on and finish it that day. The rowing was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it was in 2000 when the winds were blowing hard in our face the whole day.
We got off the river around 5:30pm, loaded up, and headed to Del Rio for the evening. Funny thing happened....I checked my messages and somebody's electricity was inadvertently turned off while we were away and his live-in fiance' was none too happy as she couldn't get it turned back on until he contacted the electric company. He, nor she, didn't think it was nearly as funny as the rest of us.
We stayed in the NEW Best Western (there's a point of contention as to whether this has always been the BW or not...but I'm right). (And.....the old BW is now a La Siesta) Our check in took about 30 minutes as the brains behind the counter lacked the English language or any common sense. Also, apparently a black-shirt, khaki pants convention was in town, for many of the residents of the hotel were dressed in this manner....something that did not go unnoticed by Jake and I. Once there we planned our evening in Acuna, called a cab, and made it to Crosby's that night for a few margaritas and dinner.
Afterward we went to the Corona Bar across the street and watch some of the most F'd up, drunk people I've ever seen attempt to dance. This was a riot! Jake and I pointed out the people that we knew would be puking later. With spring break in action and a bike rally during the same week, the crowd was, well, diverse. We came back to our hotel around midnight and some of us hit the bed, while others stayed up and had a few more drinks.
Day 8, Fri, Mar19:
Awoke around 8am and returned to Odessa. We stopped again in Iraan for the BBQ. After reaching Odessa we spent the evening getting things ready for the drive back to Burleson. Our dinner consisted of the spaghetti and meatball dish that was planned for the river, but since we got off a day early, it needed to be eaten.
Day 9, Sat, Mar20:
Mark, Scott and I returned the canoes in Midland then headed home to Burleson. All in all, a good week.
Louis Albach's Pecos River Guide