The Test Run

With a 5 day river trip coming up in a month down on the mighty Pecos River, we decided to get out and test out some gear and check the weight. We only brought what we are taking for paddling and camping, so this was a good time to figure what we can leave behind, or what we’re missing. Our annual “Dude’s Trip” my son and I have every November had to be rescheduled to earlier in the year because of school, so this will be our new trip time for a few years. We decided to ask my best friend and his son to join us for this adventure. We figured our father/son trip should include another father/son this time, and the schedule worked out for everyone. I’ve done a lot of these trips, so I was pretty much set with my gear, but my buddy and his son haven’t done a lot of extended river camping from canoes or kayaks before, although they are no stranger to camping, fishing, and the great outdoors. So we needed this time to figure weight, gear, placement, etc.

Our plan is to drop in at highbridge on the Pecos with our final destination being Painted Canyon 16 miles upstream. Our first camp is 10 miles from the drop in with the next few in some prime fishing areas along the last 6 miles before Painted. At least that’s the plan. Our only drawback was my buddy doesn’t have kayaks up to the challenge. So instead of buying 2 that are, he said, “what about my canoe?” Yeah, that would work. It’s going to be a booger the first 9 miles before it turns from the wide Lake Amistad part to the actual fast moving river, but doable. Then he threw something else in…

“I have a 2hp Yamaha motor my dad gave me. What if we hook that up, tie on the kayaks and get down there in half the time?”
Hmmmm. Interesting. I’ve done this before back in ’06 with a canoe and motor, and it was pretty dang nice. It would free up an entire day of paddling in the wind and leave us with many, many more hours to fish and explore. Plus, we could utilize our entire time there instead of leaving early for the paddle back. And that wind tunnel on the way back would be a breeze. (pardon the pun).
“I like the idea” I said. “Let’s take it out and give it a test run. If we can get 4-5mph fully loaded with yaks also fully loaded in tow, then I think it’s a great idea. After mile 9 though, that motor will be at our feet and useless the next 7 miles of river because of shallows and rapids, but saving 4 hours of paddling would be nice. And this is a fishing and camping trip, not just a kayak trip. The thought of a tow from a mothership might make the purists will cry, but my body won’t at the end of the day.”

So the plan was taken from an idea, to an active venture. We went to OC Fisher in San Angelo on Saturday to give it a go.

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We didn’t get out there until around 5pm, thanks to work, and unloaded everything. My yaks were already set for a weeks trip, so all we did was move them in the water and hook up the ropes. It took a little time to get everything situated in the canoe, and of course we brought too much junk, but that’s what this was about…getting things figured out before we leave.

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We got on the water and cranked up the motor and began our beastly wavy train.

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We stopped at an island about a mile away and reassessed how the short test run went.

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We had a 15mph wind blowing at our back and we held a constant 5.8-6.0mph cruising speed. Sweet. We stood there for a minute and watched the waves coming in. A few white caps and constant wind, but nothing too crazy for our trip back. We had a few cautionary plans in case of any mishaps. We shoved off and headed straight into it. It was going to be a wet ride. We were low enough in the water to break through all the waves with no issues, minus me getting soaked on the bow. But with 99 degree temps, I was ok with that.

We got back to the other side and headed to where our camp was just down from the ramp. We again assessed the wet ride back and held a constant 5.5mph. Not bad at all. Now it was time to fish a little and get camp going. It was too far to lug all the gear from where we were, so we opted to go back, load up and drive there.

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The sun was starting to go down by the time we got there. We unloaded and started getting set up.




I was set up and ready to go very quickly, and as usual, grabbed the camera and wandered off for some photos of the sunset.




It was hot, but we had a good breeze still going through, so it was tolerable.

Our camp.



Once it got dark, we headed to the camp kitchen to whip us up a batch of delightful and tasty freeze-dried goodness. That was sarcasm, by the way. The plan was only bringing what we will on the trip. Well, there was talk early on that we might bring a small yeti cooler to hold some meats and lunch stuff for the first few days on the water, so Kyle had a stash of meat with him. I said that sounds good to me as long as we can afford the weight and shave off some pounds elsewhere. So instead of Mountain House freeze dried slop, we feasted on Sausage Gumbo, backstrap, and ground axis until we rolled away from the table.


We sat around a few hours discussing different aspects of the day, and what needs to be done before we leave on the trip. There will be changes in things brought and consolidation for multiple items. 4 machetes is 3 too many. We’re on the Pecos, not the Amazon. We laughed about a lot of things and headed to bed around 1am. It was a great trip with great results. Only thing missing was my buddy’s son, Austin, who lives out of town and couldn’t join us for the test run, but we made sure he was there in spirit.

I’m getting more and more anxious about our trip and have been counting the days. It will be quite an adventure of fishing, yakking, camping, and exploring as two father/son teams hit the Pecos, one more time.

Thanks for coming along,

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He's a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at

2 thoughts on “The Test Run

  • July 7, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks, Scott, for another great tale. Looking forward to your upcoming Pecos adventure.


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